• Extra Life

  • A Short History of Living Longer
  • By: Steven Johnson
  • Narrated by: Steven Johnson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 26 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (140 ratings)

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Extra Life  By  cover art

Extra Life

By: Steven Johnson
Narrated by: Steven Johnson
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Publisher's Summary

“Offers a useful reminder of the role of modern science in fundamentally transforming all of our lives.” (President Barack Obama, on Twitter)

“An important book.” (Steven Pinker, The New York Times Book Review)

The surprising and important story of how humans gained what amounts to an extra life, from the best-selling author of How We Got to Now and Where Good Ideas Come From

In 1920, at the end of the last major pandemic, global life expectancy was just over 40 years. Today, in many parts of the world, human beings can expect to live more than 80 years. As a species, we have doubled our life expectancy in just one century. There are few measures of human progress more astonishing than this increased longevity.

Extra Life is Steven Johnson’s attempt to understand where that progress came from, telling the epic story of one of humanity’s greatest achievements. How many of those extra years came from vaccines, or the decrease in famines, or seatbelts? What are the forces that now keep us alive longer? Behind each breakthrough lies an inspiring story of cooperative innovation, of brilliant thinkers bolstered by strong systems of public support and collaborative networks, and of dedicated activists fighting for meaningful reform.

But for all its focus on positive change, this book is also a reminder that meaningful gaps in life expectancy still exist, and that new threats loom on the horizon, as the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear. How do we avoid decreases in life expectancy as our public health systems face unprecedented challenges? What current technologies or interventions that could reduce the impact of future crises are we somehow ignoring?

A study in how meaningful change happens in society, Extra Life celebrates the enduring power of common goals and public resources, and the heroes of public health and medicine too often ignored in popular accounts of our history. This is the sweeping story of a revolution with immense public and personal consequences: the doubling of the human life span.

©2020 Steven Johnson (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“A surprising look at why humans are living longer.... Entertaining, wide-ranging, and - in light of COVID-19 - particularly timely.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Fascinating.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“To call this timely would be something of an understatement.” (The Toronto Star)

What listeners say about Extra Life

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Thought provoking

Steven Johnson provides thought provoking examination of the past as a prelude to the future of our species, our health and our world.

4 people found this helpful

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A Extra Life for every reader

Just reading this book will not only add to your knowledge base but will make your extra life more meaning full.

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Great book, but his personal opinion got in the way some

It was a great book, but he was very determined to make sure you knew his views on population and it’s effects on climate change. He seems to think that the more people there are the worst it’s going to be for the planet. And that if we didn’t have as many people then our lifestyle would be just fine. Instead of what we are doing is making climate change happen and that our switch to renewable energy will allow our population to grow without fear of destroying the earth in the process. Anyways, this book was supposed to be about what has happened not about his opinion on what will happen. But the history part of the book was fantastic, his prediction part wasn’t.

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Must Read

Clear and concise. The juxtaposition of true heroes is well-stated. Alas, we are humans.

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Profoundly interesting

I enjoyed this book. It held my interest with almost every word. A good read for the curious. There’s much to be learned about how far we’ve come in curing disease and possibly where we’re going. Fascinating stories and history I didn’t know. Highly recommended

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Great

Great book very informative I really learned a lot thank you for the great research

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Steven Johnson always delivers

Yet another great story of human innovation, crediting the many celebrated, and lesser known, people and events which have extended it lives by 20,000 days in the past century.
This is an excellent overview and guide to anyone interested in public health as it has unfolded in the Industrial Age. With a familiar nod to folks like John Snow and Louis Pasteur, Mr. Johnson broadens our view of factors sustaining life to include seat belts, regulation, vaccination, antibiotics and more. He tells the story in a manner that is educational, accessible and enjoyable. As usual.

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This book made me go back to grad school

True story. I heard the author promoting this book on NPR, and I went online within the month and enrolled in a Public Health grad certificate program. The content is exactly my jam, and the approach is so accessible from Mr. Johnson. Literally life-changing!

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Interesting facts

This is my third Steve Johnson book and, like How We Got to Now., this book brings interesting facts and is able to connect several dots to build a network of evolution. However, like the second book that I read from the author - Everything Bad is good for you - the author projects analysis (in this book most regarding Covid-19) that does not have the structure and validation as the others he does bringing facts from a distant past. In addition, in a book about Extra Life, I missed more about nutrition (only in the end he covers it from a brief moment analyzing an indigenous population example.

Anyhow, it is a good and interesting book.

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Great book espeally for today

A hopeful dystopian story that offers many odeas on how to solve todays problemz - Climate change, Russia, energy, erc, etc, etc.

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  • Chrisitne Nielsen
  • 08-30-22

Compelling and interesting

Great book, not just looking at the inventions but also the catalysers that helped spread the idea and the societal and health implications of these inventions. Highly recommend

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  • Matthew Torney
  • 04-02-22

A brilliant, engaging and thought-provoking book

Steven Johnson’s book is brilliant. Its engaging narrative details how networks of people, ideas and institutions - not individual geniuses - created the incremental improvements that resulted in humans living an extra life on average in the past century. I have thought about it often since reading it recently.