In this book on beginnings Isaac Asimov as always delivers.
Though written in 1989 it still holds up in many remarkable ways.
For those interested in further study to better understand some of the beginnings issues covered by Asimov, I would recommend the following:
1) On the beginnings of history, I would recommend Before the Dawn which traces human evolution from the perspective of genetics. Among other things you learn that evolution is still ongoing. That's why some people can drink milk while others remain lactose intolerant.
2) On the beginnings of life, I would recommend The Fifth Miracle by Paul Davies. I would also recommend The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins where you'll learn that you are cousins fifty thousand times removed from pretty much any chimpanzee. For advanced study on the origins of life, I would also recommend Mitochondria and Oxygen by Nick Lane which discuss the origins of life from the perspective of the items listed in their titles. For those wishing to go even further I would recommend Atom which picks up the story of oxygen pretty much where Lane leaves it off.
3) On the beginnings of Earth, I would recommend Rare Earth by Peter Ward. This book picks up the discussion that Asimov briefly started about the origin of continents on Earth. Interestingly enough, not only is Earth the only habitat in our solar system so far found to support life it is also (perhaps not uncoincidentally) the only place with moving continents.
4) On the beginnings of the Universe, I would recommend Origins by Neil de Grasse Tyson and also Cosmos by the late Carl Sagan (which also dates from the 1980s but like this book also basically holds up). For advanced further reading (and I mean really advanced) I would recommend Road to Reality by Roger Penrose. Perhaps more accessible, you might also find Michio Kaku's Hyperspace to your liking though you might wish to also add Kraus' Through the Mirror to your reading list (because Kaku believes in string theory whereas Kraus is skeptical about it).
Because there were important origins issues not touched on by Asimov, I would also make the following additional suggestions:
1) On the origins of human love, I would recommend Helen Fisher's Why We Love.
2) On the origins of language, I would recommend Bickerton's Language and Species.
3) On the origins of writing, I would recommend pretty much anything by Jack Goody.
4) On the origins of religion, I would recommend Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer as to issues related to the morphology of God. As to the doxology of religion I would recommend Dawkins' The Selfish Gene (yes, it does relate), Prisoner's Dilemna by William Poundstone, Jeffrey Moses' Oneness (which gives verbatim quotes of all the religions treatments of moral issues, viz: they all have a version of the golden rule, etc.), and Robert Axelrod's Evolution of Reciprocity (which shows how reciprocal ultruism naturally evolves as a matter of the survival imperative).
5) On the origins of law, I would recommend the Axelrod book I already suggested along with Unto Others.
Because of the preclusive effect foundational activities can have in terms of historical roads not taken, it is my opinion that understanding how things came to be has everything to do with understinding why they are as they are.
Our histories are ourselves.