thefourthvine's Reviews > A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
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Jun 05, 2007

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bookshelves: science, essays
Read in January, 2004

This book should be called "A Short Introduction to Nearly Everything"; it's superficial entertainment for the science-minded, and the content is seriously lacking. But it has two great strengths: style and details.

For me, the content is just...sad. On basically every topic, he covers the basics that everyone already knows, and then just as he's getting to the interesting parts, he switches topics. After a while, this got really frustrating. I'd be thinking, "Hey, I know where he's going with this, and it's going to be awesome when he gets there," but then he never got there. So I guess you could say this is 500 pages of scientific foreplay, without any of the mind-blowing orgasms science can actually give you. (Eeeech, that metaphor. Um. Yeah. I never promised to be verbally skilled, you know?)

Stylistically, this book is wonderful: Bryson's got a brisk, breezy, engaging narrative voice, and he really uses it to advantage here. And he gives great minor details, too - the pieces of trivia about the lives of some scientists, for example, were super, and many were unknown to me.

Basically, it's fun to read this book. It just isn't very interesting. Or educational - I didn't come away from this feeling like I learned anything other than a few bits of trivia. I realize you can't cover very much of the good stuff in science in 500 pages, but surely Bryson could do a bit better than this.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Virginie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:16AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Virginie "Introduction" and "details" do not match I think.
I agree it's not an educational book but I was amazed by the coverage of it. I learned so many things!


message 2: by Benedict (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:42AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Benedict as you said, a mass-market reminder of the patriarchal pursuit of scientific discovery over the last 400 years.


message 3: by Kim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I must be easy, because I totally got all the way to the scientific mind-blowing O with this book.


message 4: by Benedict (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:01PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Benedict well put Kim!

If I strip it all the way down to its verbose foundation it boils down to the story of a man who lists a series (designated) "scientific" accomplishment of other men like him in prose form...


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