David's Reviews > A Short History of Nearly Everything
A Short History of Nearly Everything
by Bill Bryson
by Bill Bryson
There are, broadly speaking, two classes of interesting popular science books. The first class is written by scientists who want to reach a popular audience; the second class is written by journalists who find a particular scientific topic interesting. Good examples of the first class include the writing of Henri Poincare (The Value of Science is a recent printing of three of his books in one volume -- still relevant over a century after they appeared, and it made me wish I could read the original French) or Steve Strogatz's Sync, and good examples of the second class include Gleick's Chaos and Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. The usual failure mode for books written by experts is poor balance between the details and the big picture; the usual failure mode for books written by journalists is when the information conveyed is inaccurate or incomplete in a way that presents something skewed. Bryson's book is surprisingly good, a sort of travelogue through part of the scientific world that has the same flavor has many of his more conventional travelogues. The facts are there, the feel is right, and the whole thing is entirely entertaining without providing anyone the illusion that it's comprehensive. Good stuff.
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