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A Short History of Nearly Everything

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4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  160,341 ratings  ·  7,038 reviews
From primordial nothingness to this very moment, A Short History of Nearly Everything reports what happened and how humans figured it out. To accomplish this daunting literary task, Bill Bryson uses hundreds of sources, from popular science books to interviews with luminaries in various fields. His aim is to help people like him, who rejected stale school textbooks and dry ...more
Audiobook, Unabridged, 19 pages
Published October 17th 2003 by Books on Tape (first published 2003)
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Arjuna Karsan A story line which covers how certain discoveries were made. Different topics are split by chapter. One chapter will cover the history of how the atom…moreA story line which covers how certain discoveries were made. Different topics are split by chapter. One chapter will cover the history of how the atom was discovered and then how different particles were slowly understood. Another chapter covers how the understanding of gravity came to be. It is a good read if you are looking for something not too technical but at the same time not too basic. I think the author strikes a good balance to show what challenges early scientists faced in the 18th, 19th, and 20th century.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Manny
A Short History of Goodreads

Surveys show that nearly 40% of all Americans believe the history of literature started in 2007, when Amazon sold the first Kindle; indeed, Amazon Fundamentalists hold it as an article of faith that Jeff Bezos actually wrote all the world's e-books over a period of six days. This is, of course, nonsense. It has been conclusively demonstrated that literature is far older than the Kindle; books already existed thousands of years ago, which were the direct ancestors of t
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Jamie
Apr 28, 2009 Jamie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: absolutely anyone
Good grief if I had even one textbook half this enthralling in high school, who knows what kind of impassioned -ologist I would have grown up to be. I hereby petition Bryson to re-write all curriculum on behalf of the history of the world.

I would run across things half-remembered from midterms and study guides and think, "You mean this is what they were talking about? You have got to be kidding me." It's never condescending, always a joy.

In fact, what I loved most is the acute, childlike sense o
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Paul Bryant
Okay, so here's my Bill Bryson story. I was in The Gladstone, a public house not too far from this very keyboard, with my friend Yvonne, who will remain nameless. We had been imbibing more than freely. A guy approached our table and asked me in a sly surreptitious manner if I was him. Him who? Was I Bill Bryson? Now it is true that I bear a very slight resemblance



but you could also say that about Bjorn from Abba



and a zillion other white guys with beards and gently rounded fizzogs. Anyway, withou
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Grace Tjan
What I learned from this book (in no particular order)

1. Phosphor was accidentally discovered when a scientist tried to turn human urine into gold. The similarity in color seemed to have been a factor in his conviction that this was possible. Like, duh. I’m no scientist, but shouldn’t it be obvious enough?

2. “In the early 1800s there arose in England a fashion for inhaling nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, after it was discovered that its use ‘ was attended by a highly pleasurable thrilling’. For
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Sarah
Bryson's dead serious: this is a history of pretty much everything there is -- the planet, the solar system, the universe -- as well as a history of how we've come to know as much as we do. A book on science written by a non-scientist, this a perfect bridge between the humanities and the natural sciences. A course in the history of science should be mandatory for every teenager, and this should be the textbook.

Yes, it's a big, chunky book. No, it can't be trimmed down any further: when you're ad
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Dan Schwent
A Short History of Nearly Everything is Bill Bryson's summation of life, the universe, and everything, a nice little easy-reading science book containing an overview of things every earthling should be aware of.

As I've repeatedly mentioned over the years, every time one of the casual-readers tells me I have to read something, like Harry Potter or the DaVinci Code, I dig my feet in deeper and resolve to never read it. This is one of the occasions I should have shaved a decade off of my stubbornne
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Foster
This is one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. There, I said it

Bryson's book combines the best qualities of science writers like Attenborough, Diamond, Durrell, and Wilson; presenting the information with the wit he is most known for. It is an amazing achievement to condense the entire base of human scientific knowledge into 478 pages, but Bryson has done it. I completely agree with Tim Flannery, who writes on the jacket that "all schools would be better places if it were the core sci
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Manny
Jan 05, 2013 Manny rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone even slightly interested in science
Recommended to Manny by: Leon Stirling
It's easy to nitpick A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bryson, by his own cheerful admission anything but a scientist, makes a fair number of mistakes. He says that all living creatures contain hox genes; he omits Alexander Friedmann and George Gamow from his description of how the Big Bang theory was developed; when talking about Darwin and Paley, he doesn't seem to be aware that Natural Theology was one of Darwin's favorite books and had a huge influence on him. Those are just a few of the ...more
Patrick
Picked this up on audiobook when I was on tour and listened to it in my car.

I found it fascinating and informative. Kinda like a reader's digest version of the history of science. And even though I knew a fair chunk of what was mention, there was a lot of material I'd never even had a glimmer of before.

Fair warning: If you are prone to worry about, say, the end of the world. This probably isn't the book for you.
Fahad
موجز تاريخ كل شيء تقريباً

رغم الترجمة التي تكبو أحياناً، ورغم ما يقال بأن هناك فصل سقط في الترجمة!! إلا أن هذا كتاب عظيم بحق، عمل مبهر ولذيذ، وضع بيل برايسون هذا الكتاب للإجابة على الأسئلة العلمية التي يجهلها حول الأرض والطبيعة بشكل عام، هذه الأسئلة التي انهالت عليه وهو يحدق في البحر من نافذة طائرة، تحولت إلى رحلة ممتعة، له ولنا، فبرايسون لا يرهقنا بالحقائق العلمية كأنما هو موسوعة، وإنما يدسها لنا في حكايات متشابكة، عن العلم والعلماء في سعيهم للفهم، وبناء كل تلك العلوم من الجذاذات التي بين أيديه
...more
Diane Librarian
I must admit that science is not my strong suit -- I've always been more of a Humanities gal. In high school, I had to work harder in my biology and chemistry classes, whereas English, history and social studies always came more easily to me.

Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" is a good overview of all the science classes I didn't take (or don't remember) in college. It's like Intro to Physics, Chemistry, Geology and Astronomy all in one wonderfully droll book. Since I read very
...more
Amir
از عنوان شروع کنیم

عنوان کتاب تقریبا گویای همهچیز هست. نویسنده نزدیک سه سال به شکل حیرتآوری حجم عظیمی از کتابهای علمی توی رشتههای مختلف رو خونده و به جاهای مختلف سر زده و تقریبا توی تمام شاخههای اصلی علم روز دنیا حداقل سی چهل صفحهای نوشته

آیا این کتاب ارتباطی به ما دارد؟

خوب. این یه سوال جدی برای من بود. چون شخصا هیچ ارتباطی با کتابهای علمی نداشتم و ندارم. اما خیلی وسوسهانگیزه که کتابی رو بخونی که توش عصارهی همهی علوم گنجونده شده باشه. کتابهایی که به این شکل وجه دایرهالمعارفی دارن این فرصت رو به خو
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Dave Gaston
First off, this is a huge departure from Bryson's breezy, excellent travel logs. Secondly, this book should be read with some frequency. It is so densely packed with valuable insight, and sound bites of discovery that you could not possibly absorb it all with one pass. This is my second time reading it and I plan on doing it again next year. The organizational structure is a wonderful series of loosely connected cameos covering several essential and enlightened discoveries of man. As an added bo ...more
Maciek
Aug 06, 2011 Maciek rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Basically everyone
This is an immensely readable book with a truly monumental amount of information. While reading it, one might wish to remember all its content, but it's written in a way allowing the reader to pick up the volume and start reading at any point, according to his interests, though Bryson relays all subjects in captivating and available way, with a big dose of humor.

This is a weighty book - 600 pages - but Bryson's not joking. He really tries to cover everything, from the beginning of the universe a
...more
Riku Sayuj
Stunning in scope and execution. Loved every page of it, even geology was made exciting. That really is some feat.
Martine
Sep 15, 2007 Martine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: science dummies with a sense of humour.
I know virtually nothing about science, so it was with some trepidation that I began reading this introduction to life, the universe and everything, which deals with questions such as "How did the universe originate?" and "How much does planet Earth weigh?". I ended up enjoying the hell out of it, as Bryson's writing style is so witty and accessible that it frequently made me laugh out loud. He has a knack of telling you not just about major developments in the history of the universe, but also ...more
Yomna hosny
Something is very wrong with the world when this book is not required reading for high schoolers!

If we'd had this back when I was in high school, who knows what I would've done with my life! It certainly would have made things a lot less dreary.

It's just one of those books where you know, upon reading the very first page, that you're getting into something incredible !

I'm only 28 pages in and I'm already squirming in my seat with nerdy excitement.

This won't be the last of Bryson's books that I
...more
Ben Babcock
Second reading review, May 7, 2010.

I cannot recommend this book enough. No word of hyperbole: this is a book that everyone should read. Bill Bryson takes the span of human existence and produced a popular history of science that's both accurate and moving. A Short History of Nearly Everything is a celebration of science, but it also evokes the sense of wonder about the universe that science makes available to us. And, almost inevitably, it underscores how much we still have yet to learn about ou
...more
F.R.
A sign that a book is really, really, really gripping you is when you find yourself talking to people about it. And by ‘talking to people about it’, I don’t just mean recommending that they read it, but actually spouting out things you’ve read in its pages, developing arguments from what you’ve learnt and generally just crow-barring whole tracts of knowledge into conversations which, left to their own devices, would have happily meandered elsewhere.

Such a book is Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History o
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Bookshop
Bill Bryson is one of my favourite travel writers. He is immensely funny. He's an American married to a Brit and lives in the UK now. That has an influcence is his writing: he has taken up the dry, self-depreciating humour of the Brits while, at times, remained blunt and straight-forward, as Americans do.

This is his first attempt to write something other than travelling. The book is about science, general science for general public. It covers everything from astronomy to zoology, from the univer
...more
Shaimaa Ali
That was an Encyclopedia not a book!

Bryson has taken us in a journey with from Cosmos till we reached our Planet "Earth", then went into micro-details of almost all beings ..till he ended with us: Humans!!

I'm thrilled by his knowledge & all the scientific facts & theories in this book. Maybe its own weak point would be the prolonged, unnecessary details sometimes ..
Jacob
May 2009

I "read" the audiobook version about a year and a half ago and really enjoyed it--this book can be really enjoyed in small doses--but I felt like reading it in print this time around. At least, skimming a previous paragraph is a lot easier than trying to rewind while driving.

Turns out it's good in big doses too, or any for that matter. Although I haven't read much science writing (yet) and therefore can't compare it to others, I will admit that A Short History of Nearly Everything is on
...more
Grumpus
Oct 28, 2007 Grumpus rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wanting to know how it all began
Shelves: audiobook
This is based upon the audio download from [www.audible.com].

Narrated by: Richard Matthews

Don’t let the 3 star rating mislead you. This was an awesome book and I’m certain others will think more highly of it. It is a great introduction for those not into the biography of the universe and the history of science. However, if you watch the Science Channel, History Channel, PBS, etc., then you’ll already know much of what’s covered. It is the true "Once upon a time. . ." story.

As someone with an in
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Sarah
I have to say this is by far one of the best books I've ever read. Although I haven't finished I'm in love with this book.
My chemistry teacher gave me it to read a while back and it took me a while to get started on it, but after I did I couldn't put it down. You don't have to have a real passion for physics or biology or chemistry to appreciate the book as a whole. Although I find some chapters more intresting than others, the footnotes that Bryson includes definetly make the book as lighthear
...more
Dayanand Prabhu
I finished this book in little over a week. 570 Pages of pure unadulterated trivia. One might argue that this isn't a science book. You see Bill is no scientist, but he is a storyteller, a very good one at that. So in this book Bryson has with all his might presented us a story of how science came to be. A story of how over the centuries our knowledge of the world and beyond has evolved and how different personalities have contributed and fought for it. That itself makes it a very important book ...more
Marian
You're probably looking at this book thinking it is so far off my normal path. And it is. I'm chalking it up to penance for doing so poorly in every science class I ever attended.

I truly gave this book an honest effort, but at 2/3 of the way through I cannot continue. In all honesty, the book probably deserves a 5-star rating given there is no fault to be found with either the research or the writing. The problem here is this reader has a 1-star IQ. So I split the difference with 3 stars.

Bryson
...more
Penny
Sep 28, 2012 Penny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Penny by: One of my supervisors
I loved this book! You don't have to be a scientist to enjoy A Short History of Nearly Everything as part of Bryson's motivation was to make science more accessible to Joe Public, but I have to say that as a scientist this book resonated deeply with me. Bryson delivers the most interesting facts of many of the greatest, and sometimes pretty obscure, men and women in the history of science. Since some scientists can be rather eccentric it makes for some very good stories! It's a remarkably easy r ...more
David
I am a scientist, and I found much of this book quite fascinating. The book certainly isn't comprehensive in any sense of the word--in fact it seems to roam in a semi-random sort of way; but the author's sense of humor and attention to colorful historical facts kept my interest from beginning to end.

One of the themes of this book, is that when someone comes up with with a new discovery, there are three stages before it is accepted:
1) Nobody believes it.
2) Nobody thinks it is important
3) It gets
...more
John
Jul 11, 2008 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The world...
Bill Bryson is excellent... so witty and funny. His writing makes me laugh out loud and cry with laughter - sometimes I can barely breathe.

His research is also wonderful and the facts, presented in this book, are not only interesting, but also startling, fascinating and stimulating. The whole book is wonderfully assembled and a delight to read, re-read and simply to dip into.

Indeed... I am re-reading again....

It is, however, a severe worry to me that many of the facts that I am re-reading for th
...more
Mrs Sarah
Not everyone is a science geek. Bill knows that.

I am a science geek. Not that I took a lot of science courses, but it's a source of fascination for me. There was a lot of stuff I already knew -- if you've read A Brief History of Time the first two chapters are a wash -- but there was also a lot of stuff I didn't. It is miraculously accessible and funny, like all of Bryson's work.

This is a textbook on its face, but at its heart is the diary of a grown man coming home every evening for a year with
...more
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Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and worked in journalism until he became a full time writer. He lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire. He and his family then moved to New Hampshire in America for a few years, but they have now returned to live in the UK.

In The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson's hilarious first t
...more
More about Bill Bryson...
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail Notes from a Small Island In a Sunburned Country At Home: A Short History of Private Life I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away

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“Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result -- eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly -- in you.” 1415 likes
“Tune your television to any channel it doesn't receive and about 1 percent of the dancing static you see is accounted for by this ancient remnant of the Big Bang. The next time you complain that there is nothing on, remember that you can always watch the birth of the universe.” 266 likes
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