Paul Bryant's Reviews > A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
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Oct 06, 2007

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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, without missing a beat I said yes, I was him. So the guy immediately asked me if I'd sign two of his books, and before I could say "Come on mate, I'm not actually American, can't you bleedin well tell?" he had zapped out of the pub. Only to zap straight back with two hardbacks of Bill's deathless works. What could I do? He opened them up reverentially and told me one would be for him and one for his mother. Friends, I signed them - "Best wishes, your friend Bill Bryson". He was so grateful, so very very pleased. We drank up and got the hell out of there. I look back on this disgraceful incident and shudder. That's the last time I'm impersonating a famous author.


Short note on the book in question:

There was no way our Bill could write a gently humorous book about the history of all of science without sounding like a fairly smirky know-it-all, so that's what he does sound like, which can be just a trifle wearing. LOTS of good info in here, but it's like being forced to live on Indian takeaways and nothing else, great for a while and then GET ME A SANDWICH! Or like being stuck on a long airplane ride with a very garrolous and opinionated fellow who thinks he is the very model of the modern travelling companion, regaling you with insightful and humourous anecdotes by the bucketful while you're wondering if it would be so bad if you faked a heart attack and you could whisper to the flight attendant "I'm okay really but GET ME AWAY FROM THIS GUY!"
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 6, 2007 – Shelved
April 21, 2013 – Shelved as: science

Comments (showing 1-50 of 73) (73 new)


Books Ring Mah Bell NO! NOOOOOOOOO!


Paul Bryant Arf arf.


Paul Bryant Yeah kind of. I scampered through the latter chapters, because my eyes kept bouncing off all those numbers. let me open the book at random - page 370 :

"a single bacterial cell can generate 280,000 billion individuals in a given day"

or page 451:

"your cells are a country of 10,000 trillion citizens"

Again, page 516:

" a massive freezing occurred about 2.2 billion years ago, followed by another billion years of warmth"

This is like 14 year old boy writing, all goggle-eyed at lots of Big Numbers.


message 4: by Jay (new) - added it

Jay Rivera Goodness! You DO look like Mr. Bryson. I'd milk it, too. Thanks for the hilarious story.


Paul Bryant When I was young and beardless they told me I looked like John Denver. I don't know which is worse.


David I love your story. I'd be worried if you hadn't found the book annoying.


message 7: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker :-D

Although I rather hope that earnest man does not chance upon this review.


Paul Bryant Better believe I don't go back to that pub very often and when I do I disguise myself as James Ellroy..


message 9: by J. (new) - added it

J. Not to be snarky, but how does a book about science, which is built on top of, or leans heavily upon, mathematics (aka numbers) not have numbers on nearly every page? Your story was humorous, though, and your other comments about his tone seem to make sense from what I have read.


message 10: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant Numbers are okay, it's the way Bill beats you up with numbers which ordinary people can't comprehend so the information just turns into a kind of science-flavoured white noise that I objected to.


message 11: by Jenny (new) - added it

Jenny Conatser "Science-flavored white noise" may be the best adjective-noun combo I've ever heard. :)


message 12: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant hah, thanks, I may have t-shirts printed now


Joseph "Slight resemblance"? You're his spittin image, mate.


message 14: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant I have had celebrity re-alignment surgery since then.


Scribble Orca Paul, you are such a shallow b. It was you sitting on the plane wondering whether to fake the heart attack next to the opinionated fellow talking in big numbers, wasn't it?


message 16: by Linda (new)

Linda John Denver would definitely be worse.


message 17: by Velvetink (new) - added it

Velvetink Still don't know what you really look like!


Traveller LOLLOLOL. The Impersonation Story. Hee-hee. My mother used to be mistaken for Joanna Lumley, especially on airplanes. Sometimes she played along a little..

Ha, so you grew a beard not to look like John Denver, and now you look like Bill Bryson AKA Benny Andersson, depending on whether you were a pop fan in the 80's..

Maybe you should wear your hair in a ponytail, or a short military style... XD


message 19: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant yes, imagine how happy I was to turn into Bill Bryson


David Cerruti A Brief History of Pretty Much Everything in 3 minutes 12 seconds.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNYZH9...


message 21: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant Georgia liked that one too!


message 22: by Kenny (new) - rated it 1 star

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 23: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant they work on hunches.


message 24: by Kenny (new) - rated it 1 star

Kenny Bell what do you mean?


Nicholas Most likely using carbon dating.


message 26: by Dagny (new) - added it

Dagny That is Björn!! Not Benny!! (OK, so I just had to do that)


message 27: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant oh yes, no one has pointed that out yet! I will fix this now!


message 28: by Neil (new)

Neil Great story and review..


message 29: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant thanks Neil - you never know, maybe the books I signed were later sold on ebay.


Dustin Covert "with my friend Yvonne, who will remain nameless." what??????


message 31: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant Well, don't you have a nameless friend called Yvonne?


message 32: by Hyper (new)

Hyper The book in question should undoubtedly be included and conceivably replace at least one text in various subject curricula. As for your "..trifle wearing..." opinion, describes your 'Review' accurately. After your candid offbeat & funny beginning, the "sandwich" definitely presides over the remainder of your useless analogy. Glad you tried to take it on-board & good luck in reviews if you ever accomplish even co-authoring anything,even fractionally as relevant, as this Bryson masterpiece, at all.


Bobby Bermea Hilarious. But I enjoyed the book a great deal.


message 34: by Bug (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bug Bill Bryson is Australian, so what's the point of saying "I'm not American?"

Americans read authors from all over the world you know. Just because the fan was American doesn't mean the author of the books he wants you to sign is also American.


message 35: by Paul (last edited Aug 12, 2015 01:36PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant Hey Bug, you had me going for a moment there.

Wiki says :

William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, FRS (/ˈbraɪsən/; born December 8, 1951) is a best-selling American author of humorous books on travel, as well as books on the English language and science. Born in the United States, he was a resident of Britain for most of his adult life before returning to America in 1995. In 2003 Bryson and his wife and four children moved back to Britain, living in the old rectory of Wramplingham, Norfolk, and he served as chancellor of Durham University from 2005 through 2011.

He ain't no Australian.


message 36: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Bug wrote: "Bill Bryson is Australian, so what's the point of saying "I'm not American?"

Americans read authors from all over the world you know. Just because the fan was American doesn't mean the author of ..."


He's from Des Moines, IA, about 450ish miles south of where I sit right now! He did write a book about Australia In a Sunburned Country. :)


message 37: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Paul wrote: "Well, don't you have a nameless friend called Yvonne?"

haha, someone beat me to the punch about your "nameless friend, Yvonne". :) Fun review, Paul. I've not read this book but I am a big Bill Bryson fan. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail written after he returned to the States in 1995 is hilarious!


message 38: by Catherine (last edited Aug 13, 2015 04:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Catherine Bug wrote: "Bill Bryson is Australian, so what's the point of saying "I'm not American?"

Americans read authors from all over the world you know. Just because the fan was American doesn't mean the author of ..."


Bill Bryson ain't no Aussie!!! He's American through and through!! lol

Paul....I really enjoyed the book..as I've enjoyed several of his others... I think he meant for it to be a humourous anecdotal story about science and history...designed to encourage non-science/maths people feel like they have come away with some knowledge :) I have to say, though, I didn't laugh as much as with his other books...

And as for autographing books....well....I guess if you got away with it...you can't feel bad for the patron :) could I send you my books for autographs?!?! I'd like them signed "Bill Bryson', and any other authors you could pass for!! lol


message 39: by Bug (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bug OOPS! You all are completely right. I don't know why I thought he was Australian! Thanks! Well, I probably would've also mistaken you for Bill Bryson then, lol.


Catherine Bug wrote: "OOPS! You all are completely right. I don't know why I thought he was Australian! Thanks! Well, I probably would've also mistaken you for Bill Bryson then, lol."

lol...he does look rather like Bill....so I don't think any harm would come...unless, of course, Bill Bryson were actually in the same room!!!


message 41: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant just to be clear, that is Bill in the review, not me... that's why he looks like Bill!


message 42: by Cecily (new)

Cecily Today is clearly a day for misunderstanding your reviews. Now's the time to see just how far you can push (in)credulity...


message 43: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant It's usually the Gulliver's Travels one that gets em


Catherine Paul wrote: "just to be clear, that is Bill in the review, not me... that's why he looks like Bill!"

I rather thought it was Bill... (I was a bit confused) bit was willing to give you the benefit..haha..as it could happen!!


I'm just going to call you Robin (Hood), or shoud we call you the Sherilff of Nottingham!!


message 45: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant actually believe it or not there is a real Sheriff of Nottingham - it's an honorary title, he doesn't have to oppress peasants any more. They all run campsites and souvenir shops now. No tilling or planting or garroting Normans.


message 46: by Catherine (last edited Aug 13, 2015 04:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Catherine Haha.. are you sure about the "no garroting"?!? lol


message 47: by T.D. (last edited Aug 13, 2015 04:38AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

T.D. Whittle Paul, would you mind signing my stack of Barbara Pym first editions?


message 48: by Cecily (new)

Cecily Paul wrote: "there is a real Sheriff of Nottingham - it's an honorary title, he doesn't have to oppress peasants any more..."

He may not have to oppress them, but is the Sheriff allowed to, should the urge to do so arise?!


message 49: by Jane (new) - added it

Jane One of the most amusing reviews and subsequent banter I've read in a while. Thanks Paul.


message 50: by Jane (new) - added it

Jane PS. I am sending you my kindle to sign.


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