Since its first publication by Wally Broecker more than twenty-five years ago, How to Build a Habitable Planet has established a  reputation as an accessible yet scientifically rigorous introduction to the origin and evolution of Earth, from the Big Bang through the rise of human civilization. This classic account of how our habitable planet was assembled from the stuff of stars introduced readers to planetary science, Earth, and climate science by way of a fascinating narrative. The original edition lacked any discussion of living processes, and was written before the discovery of dark energy and dark matter, hydrothermal vents at ocean ridges, and the full appreciation of the importance of climate change.  Harvard geochemist Charles Langmuir has worked closely with the original author, Wally Broecker, one of the world's leading Earth scientists, to revise and expand the book for a new generation of readers for whom active planetary stewardship is becoming imperative.

     Interweaving physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology, this sweeping account tells Earth's complete story, from the synthesis of chemical elements in stars, to the formation of the Solar System, to the evolution of a habitable climate on Earth, to the origin of life and humankind. The book also addresses the search for other habitable worlds in the Milky Way and contemplates whether Earth will remain habitable as our influence on global climate grows. It concludes by considering the ways in which humankind can sustain Earth's habitability and perhaps even participate in further planetary evolution.

     Like no other book, How to Build a Habitable Planet provides an understanding of Earth in its broadest context, as well as a greater appreciation of its possibly rare ability to sustain life over geologic time.

Charles H. Langmuir is the Higgins Professor of Geochemistry at Harvard University. Wally Broecker is the Newberry Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and the author of Fixing Climate and The Great Ocean Conveyor (Princeton), among other books. Both are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Charles Langmuir

Wally Broecker


"[T]his classic history of our common home with the latest discoveries in planetary science . . . is a cutting-edge exploration of the Earth's evolution from the Big Bang to the advent of human civilization."--Barnes & Noble Review

"To be worth being this unwieldy, a book ought to do something pretty remarkable. And that's just what How to Build . . . does, as you can tell from its subtitle, The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind. Now that's what you call a large canvas."--Brian Clegg, Popular Science

"Like any good story, the tale that Langmuir and Broecker tell is a complex, weaving narrative that would be ideally placed on your bookcase between James Kasting's How to Find a Habitable Planet and Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee's Rare Earth. . . . As non-astronomers they cover the initial cosmological and astronomical sections adequately, but as the book develops towards explaining the processes that make Earth habitable, the authors' expertise really comes to the fore. . . . How to Build a Habitable Planet is Earth's story, but Langmuir and Broecker conclude with a nod to exoplanets and the search for alien life. Could it one day also become another planet's story?"--Astronomy Now

"The authors . . . have taken on a mighty task. You cannot underestimate the accuracy of their scholarship, or its thoroughness."--Heather Couper, BBC Sky at Night

"This is a completely different book, wholly updated but also more detailed and more comprehensive. Yet, it keeps the bright flavour of the old version, and remains accessible without compromising on accuracy. . . . How to Build a Habitable Planet is an accurate and enjoyable read."--Euan G. Nisbet, Nature Geoscience