- Publisher: Transworld Publishers; 23rd Impression edition (2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1784161853
- ISBN-13: 978-1784161859
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2,745 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,200,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bryson) Paperback – 2004
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From primordial nothingness to this very moment, A Short History of Nearly Everything reports what happened and how humans figured it out. To accomplish this daunting literary task, Bill Bryson uses hundreds of sources, from popular science books to interviews with luminaries in various fields. His aim is to help people like him, who rejected stale school textbooks and dry explanations, to appreciate how we have used science to understand the smallest particles and the unimaginably vast expanses of space. With his distinctive prose style and wit, Bryson succeeds admirably. Though A Short History clocks in at a daunting 500-plus pages and covers the same material as every science book before it, it reads something like a particularly detailed novel (albeit without a plot). Each longish chapter is devoted to a topic like the age of our planet or how cells work, and these chapters are grouped into larger sections such as "The Size of the Earth" and "Life Itself." Bryson chats with experts like Richard Fortey (author of Life and Trilobite) and these interviews are charming. But it's when Bryson dives into some of science's best and most embarrassing fights--Cope vs. Marsh, Conway Morris vs. Gould--that he finds literary gold. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
As the title suggests, bestselling author Bryson (In a Sunburned Country) sets out to put his irrepressible stamp on all things under the sun. As he states at the outset, this is a book about life, the universe and everything, from the Big Bang to the ascendancy of Homo sapiens. "This is a book about how it happened," the author writes. "In particular how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us, and also what happened in between and since." What follows is a brick of a volume summarizing moments both great and curious in the history of science, covering already well-trod territory in the fields of cosmology, astronomy, paleontology, geology, chemistry, physics and so on. Bryson relies on some of the best material in the history of science to have come out in recent years. This is great for Bryson fans, who can encounter this material in its barest essence with the bonus of having it served up in Bryson's distinctive voice. But readers in the field will already have studied this information more in-depth in the originals and may find themselves questioning the point of a breakneck tour of the sciences that contributes nothing novel. Nevertheless, to read Bryson is to travel with a memoirist gifted with wry observation and keen insight that shed new light on things we mistake for commonplace. To accompany the author as he travels with the likes of Charles Darwin on the Beagle, Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton is a trip worth taking for most readers.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Be prepared though to being overwhelmed because there is a lot of information in this book, with references to other works. This book is best read in sections allowing yourself some time to think about what you have learned; and I'm sure you are going to learn at least a few things.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to understand what an amazing place our planet is and life that exists on it.
The book is organized into 6 parts: Lost in the Cosmos; the Size of the Earth; A New Age Dawns; Dangerous Planet; Life Itself; and The Road to Us.
The first part: Lost in the Cosmos is about the big bang and the elemental beginnings of the Universe. Part 2 The size of the Earth discusses the early attempts to determine the size of the Earth in the 17th century. Part 3 A New Age Dawns is about is about Einstein’s universe and the atom and plate tectonics. Part 4 Dangerous Planet is about the interior of the planet and what lies below the surface. Chapter 5 Life Itself is the largest section comprising 161 pages. It covers the rise of life beginning after the formation of the Earth up through the Cambrian explosion. The chapter also discusses Darwin’s work on Evolution. The final chapter The Road to Us is about the rise of humans.
My only issue with the book is that is a bit dated. The history sections are great, but the discussion on current events and science are out of date. This book needs an update.
Bryson moves seamlessly from one sweeping topic to the next with great ease. Whether he is expounding upon thermodynamics, paleontology or cosmology, he helps us to grasp, to the extent that seems possible, the interrelatedness of all physical phenomona. He is particularly skillful at putting into perspective concepts of size and dimension within the universe, whether mind-bogglingly vast expanses or minuscule marvels of life’s building blocks. He not only teaches us what is known, but humbles us by emphasizing how much we do not know.
Bryson also brings us biographical sketches of the greatest names in science as only an enormously talented humorist could do. Intellectual giants like Newton, Einstein, and many others, are brought to us with all their eccentricities. So many brilliant individuals were quite odd, which makes them much more human and accessible to the Bryson’s reader.
There is also a moral underpinning to Bryson’s book which becomes most evident in the final chapter. Our species has, in essence, become the extinction event for so many others with which we have shared the planet. Beginning with the unsuspecting and gentle dodo bird, Bryson outlines how we have systematically brought about the termination of thousands of creatures, intentionally or through ignorance. This sobering reality makes one a bit more respectful of current efforts to save endangered species.
No species, and indeed no human being, is anything other than a miracle of chance, a reality in which Bryson rejoices from his opening chapter. He congratulates each of us for surviving the cut and coming into existence against all odds. His book is humbling and thought-provoking, leaving one with a sense of awe at the grandeur of, well, nearly everything.
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Love this guy.