Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Short History of Nearly Everything” as Want to Read:
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Short History of Nearly Everything

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  257,575 ratings  ·  10,935 reviews
Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization - how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. The ultimate eye- ...more
Paperback, 687 pages
Published 2004 by Black Swan (first published May 6th 2003)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Short History of Nearly Everything, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
jordan there are
three stages in scientific discovery: first, people deny that it is true; then they deny that it is
important; finally they credit the wrong…more
there are
three stages in scientific discovery: first, people deny that it is true; then they deny that it is
important; finally they credit the wrong person.

(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  257,575 ratings  ·  10,935 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
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
...more
Jamie
Apr 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
...more
Paul Bryant
Oct 06, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
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
...more
Grace Tjan
Nov 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Sarah
Aug 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Patrick
May 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Manny
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Dan Schwent
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
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
...more
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
...more
Andrew Smith
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was never any good at science. At the grammar school I attended we were shepherded into laboratories for lessons on physics, chemistry and biology. These were scary places; I’d never been anywhere like this before. The physics lab had gas taps and Bunsen burners and the walls were filled with incomprehensible charts. The chemistry lab held rows of specimen jars, more gas taps and burners and an underlying smell of something unpleasant and vaguely dangerous. The biology lab displayed pictures a ...more
Miranda Reads
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Want a whirlwind worldwide romance adventure minus the romance? This is the book for you.

This book really does cover nearly everything. From the Big Bang to current life on earth, Bill Bryson does wonderful job of breaking down complex theories and concepts to their essential message:
Protons give an atom its identity, electrons its personality.

Though, sometimes he gets a bit wordy.
Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wou
...more
Olive (abookolive)
Well deserving of its popularity and praise, this book manages to be fun even though it contains a massive amount of information delivered at a rapid rate. The title is hyperbolic; this is an introduction to scientific building blocks that will give the reader a basic understanding about the world, our place within it, and of the history behind major scientific discoveries. Though it has the ability to make one feel overwhelmed, I think it has an equal potential to be a good kicking off point fo ...more
Dem
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
2.5 Stars
This is probably going to make me sound as thick as two short planks but I didn't like it, I knew going into this book that it was going to be a challenge as Science is not really my preferred bedtime reading but I do think its good to try new things but unfortunately yes this was just hard work for me and I struggled through this one.


But on the plus side I did learn some STUFF just dont ASK me to EXPLAIN it to you and it did encourage discussion with my Nerdy other half which cant b
...more
Greta
A short history of nearly everything

This is a remarkable accomplishment. From the author, of course, but also from me, to have read it. I'm not a scientist, so when I started reading this book, I expected that I would skip some parts. But I didn't ; I read every single page of this highly readable and enjoyable book.
I won't bother you with all the scientific stuff I learned. Instead, I compiled a top 5 list of the frightful fates of some scientists.

1. Max Planck (1858-1947) was a German theore
...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recent
The best thing about this book is that it introduces other books you would like. It showed me that I should probably read more about Newton and Einstein, and that astronomy is something that I am still interested in. I did find myself scanning through certain sections because I already understood them well (the vastness of the universe) or I don't think I will ever understand them (complicated aspects of biology). Like all science book, they get outdated fast but this one is still holding up, at ...more
Otis Chandler
Aug 19, 2006 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone curious about the world
A fascinating history of science. Ever curious how everything we know about the world came to be - read this! I loved reading about what old greats like Darwin thought about the world - they were all right about most things, but also very wrong about some things - makes you wonder how much we are wrong about today!

Another interesting piece was how many of the world's prominent scientists had the time to do their research because they came from rich families. Very different from todays notion of
...more
Riku Sayuj
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Stunning in scope and execution. Loved every page of it, even geology was made exciting. That really is some feat.
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
D'Argo Agathon
May 09, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
Oh my gods, what a waste of perfectly good paper! I am flabbergasted that this has such consistently high reviews...

Three problems with this tripe:
1. falsity of the science (most blatantly around cosmology, but not limited to any one field) and misunderstanding of scientific principles;
2. a focus more on "biography" rather than on real "history";
3. trivial worthlessness of the information.

Number 1 is briefly chronicled below. Within just the first 20 pages or so, there are ridiculous factual er
...more
Diane
Oct 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul E. Morph
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really interesting book. Bryson succeeds in explaining some complex topics in such a way that they can be understood by the layman. I enjoyed this one a great deal. If I had one complaint it would be that some of the tangents were allowed to run on a bit too long, to the point where I almost forgot what the author was talking about in the first place.
Maciek
May 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
David
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, nonfiction
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
Brian
Nov 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“…Inevitably owe at least as much to supposition as to science.”

“A Short History of Nearly Everything” is in a word fascinating…mostly. I found this text the most interesting when Bill Bryson turned his attention to the personalities in the science world as opposed to lots of the science itself. He is more comfortable writing on that human angle subject and it shows.
For a book that deals with nonfiction (in as much as science is fact, this text makes clear that much science is really nothing mor
...more
Mimi
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hands down my favorite science text written by a non-scientist, although I should mention I don't make a habit of seeking out science books written by non-scientists for kicks. Like most (sensible? pragmatic? responsible?) people, I prefer to read about science from people who actually practice science. Bill Bryson is the only exception though because he's an exceptionally gifted writer who just happens to share my sense of humor--that the end is nigh and that maybe is not necessarily such a ter ...more
Daniel Bastian
Nov 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is not as impossibly far-reaching as the title would indicate
...more
Grumpus
Oct 12, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wanting to know how it all began
Shelves: audiobook
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 interest in all things science, I was still impressed with the witty style of the writing an
...more
Ben Babcock
Third review, March 5, 2019.

Has it really been nearly 9 years since I re-read this? No. But I guess it has. A Short History of Nearly Everything is one of those formative books that has stuck with me for a long, long time.

I have little to add to this review. I thought I had lots to say, but re-reading my review from 2010 below … I already said it there. I was going to talk about Bryson’s repetitive phrasing, praise how he explains how much we don’t know, and remark on how good this book is at ju
...more
Shaimaa Ali
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That was an Encyclopedia not a book!

Bryson has taken us in a journey 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. The only weak point would be the prolonged, unnecessary details sometimes ..
Heather K (dentist in my spare time)



*4.5 stars*

Pretty brilliant, almost required reading.

It took me over a month to listen, but the narrator is excellent and the content ranges from mildly engrossing to fascinating, depending on your areas of interest. I'd listen again and again.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)
  • Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
  • Coming of Age in the Milky Way
  • The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing
  • Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation
  • Last Chance to See
  • Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End...
  • The Future Of Life
  • The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal
  • T. Rex and the Crater of Doom
  • The Planets
  • The Mismeasure of Man
  • The Day the Universe Changed: How Galileo's Telescope Changed the Truth
  • Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
  • The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics
  • Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum
  • Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883
  • Uncle Tungsten
See similar books…
12,718 followers
William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, FRS 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, Bil
...more
“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.” 1588 likes
“There are three stages in scientific discovery. First, people deny that it is true, then they deny that it is important; finally they credit the wrong person.” 372 likes
More quotes…