Sarah's Reviews > A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
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's review
Aug 28, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, popular-science
Read in September, 2007

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 addressing cosmology, earth science, ecology and zoology, with healthy doses of chemistry and physics, plus the historical development of each, you're going to end up with a doorstop of a text, no matter how smoothly written. The wonder of Bryson's writing is that the reader doesn't get lost in these sweeping surveys. When name-dropping, Bryson always gives a short description of the person in question; if mentioned earlier in the book, he drops in a quick reminder to the reader. This is fabulously effective at giving the names some context, not to mention a little personality.

And indeed, isn't that what science education needs most: more humanity and less intimidation? Those science-phobes out there who freely admit their near-complete ignorance of the subject should do themselves a favor and buy a copy of this book. No, don't get it from your library. There's so much here you'll want to have a copy on hand to refer to later.

To those nerds in the audience -- myself included -- don't think your degrees mean you can pass this one over. As hyper-specialized as science has become, it's refreshing as hell to step back and take a look at things with new eyes. While there's not a lot here I haven't encountered before, there's a lot of information about how our current theories were developed that I didn't know.

(Also? It's heartening to read about the social ineptitude, blind spots, and how utterly incompetent many of these scientist were in other aspects of life. Makes me feel better about never finishing that PhD -- at least I have a life.)

Thorough, humorous, engaging, and educational: what's not to like?
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02/10/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Mabs (new)

Mabs my friend told me to read this book but I wasn´t so sure of its content because mostly I hate the books she loves (and this one is definately in her top 5). After reading your review I believe this will be one of the exceptions.
thank you

message 2: by Suade (new) - added it

Suade I am a fan of Bill Bryson. His sense of humor has made me laugh out loud quite a number of times! While this is already a book on my "to-read" shelf, I liked your review; it's very informative and it has given me a boost to possibly push it up on my list. Thank you.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Suade wrote: "I am a fan of Bill Bryson. His sense of humor has made me laugh out loud quite a number of times! While this is already a book on my "to-read" shelf, I liked your review; it's very informative and ..."

I also enjoyed his book A Walk in the Woods so thought this one would be amusing too. Wishing I could retain half this stuff he writes about.

Dimitris Hall Haha! Couldn't agree more with what you're saying about the incompetent scientists! :D

Kenny Bell PLEASE READ* Do you remember when he talked about stromatolites-the ancient rock structure dated from 3.5 billion years ago, made from cynobacteria-blue/green algae. He says the scientist agree that these were the first origins of life. My question is how do scientist know that the rock is the object that is 3.5 billion yrs old and not the organisms? Because the organisms could just have appeared when man first appeared.(Adam and Eve)

message 6: by Ray (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ray Avedian "Thorough, humorous, engaging, and educational: what's not to like?"

Couldn't agree with you more, and your review is one of the best I've read on this book. But I have to ask: why then only 4 stars? What was missing?

message 7: by Walt (new)

Walt Schmidt I am a dedicated reader and have enjoyed just about everything that others have so enjoyably commented on. about the only comment I'd add is to

message 8: by Hyper (new)

Hyper Kudos well said

message 9: by Ezat (new)

Ezat Khatoni I read this book It's good thank alot

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