"Gripping . . . Brannen excels at evoking lost worlds, from the global coral reefs of the Devonian period to the Pangaean crocodilians of the late Triassic . . .As Brannen demonstrates, fossils are useful for more than just fuel: they can teach us how not to die." 
The New Yorker

"Clear-eyed, urgent, and eloquent . . . Brannen offers an important education, making an argument for how better understanding what’s happened can help us determine how to move forward." 
The Boston Globe

"[Brannen] is a companionable guide, as good at breathing life into the fossilized prose of scientific papers as he is at conjuring the Ordovician reign of the nautiloids."
The New York Times  (Editor's Choice)

"Throughout this amazing book, Brannen’s humor, clear explanations, and beautiful, even poetic, prose, are combined with personal anecdotes to make this compelling book a gripping look at the future that awaits us if we do not quickly change our ways."
Forbes (One of the 10 Best Environment, Climate Science and Conservation Books of 2017)

A remarkable journey into the deep past that has much to teach us about the future of our planet."
The Guardian

"A fascinating account of the planetary paroxysms."
The Economist

"A masterful non-fiction debut . . . a page turner . . . mind-bendingly vast . . . bold and lyrical . . . Brannen does it with great elegance and even poetry."
Ars Technica

"An incredible book…incredibly smart, incredibly articulate. This is a book I picked up and could not put down."
Nick Bilton, Vanity Fair

"This is the ultimate whodunnit--a detective story 445 million years in the making, in which an eccentric bunch of characters identifies the culprits behind the greatest catastrophes in history. A book about one apocalypse--much less five--could have been a daunting read, were it not for the wit, lyricism, and clarity that Peter Brannen brings to every page. He is a storyteller at the height of his powers, and he has found a story worth telling." 
—Ed Yong, New York Times bestselling author of I Contain Multitudes

"If readers have time for only one book on the subject, this wonderfully written, well-balanced, and intricately researched (though not too dense) selection is the one to choose." 
Library Journal (starred review)

"[A] surprisingly lyrical investigation of Earth's mass extinctions...Brannen paints vivid pictures of the many doomed players that populated previous scenes in the history of life, he also approaches the science of studying these lost worlds and their endings as the complex and evolving story that it is." 

“Want to know the future? Look to the past, the deep past. That’s one of the many insights you'll glean from reading Brannen's entertaining, engaging, elegant book. The Earth has survived much worse than what people are currently throwing at it in the form of global warming, changes in nature, and even mass death. But that’s not particularly good news for civilization—unless we change our ways fast.”
—David Biello, author of The Unnatural World



Five times in earth's history the majority of animal life has been wiped out in geologically brief catastrophes. With the discovery in 1980 that an asteroid played a role in one of these doomsdays--the death of the dinosaurs--scientists became confident that they had found a killer that might explain each of the mass extinctions. But in the past three decades, as geologists, paleontologists and geochemists have scoured the earth investigating these other Armageddons, they have found little evidence for devastating asteroid impacts in the rocks. Instead they have found the signatures of extreme climate and ocean changes, and--in the worst mass extinction of all time--a global warming worst-case-scenario, driven by huge injections of carbon dioxide spewing from apocalyptic volcanoes. The Ends of the World explores these discoveries and surveys deep time through a combination of interviews with the world's top paleontologists and geologists, as well as road trips to the most important crime scenes in the planet's history. It also illustrates how these five major mass extinctions both gave rise to our modern world while providing a terrifying window into our possible future.