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A Short History of Nearly Everything Paperback – September 14, 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 the Audio Cassette edition.
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 the Audio Cassette edition.
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Top customer reviews
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.
It’s short – although it’s actually quite long, but Bryson writes so fluidly. It’s a history – Bryson tells us what he knows or believes happened, but doesn’t hesitate to point out what he doesn’t know. It’s nearly everything – okay it’s really not nearly everything but it gets into astronomy, Neanderthals and volcanoes. Some information may have been revised in the decade since the book went into print and some science may eventually be proved shaky, but I have not come across a better rough guide to essential human knowledge.
the '...Thunderbolt Kid" and "A Walk In The Woods". This is an educational overview of the
beginning of the universe, and all that follows: how our solar system was formed, the dawn of life,
early hominids, et al. I would have fared better in high school if this text had been available.
Perhaps not for those who have strict creationist views, but others should find this a revealing read,
with just the right Bryson touch.
Considering that Bill Bryson is not a scientist, the book is a remarkable achievement. It spans across a wide array of scientific fields to tackle some of the biggest questions humanity has ever asked. Throughout, Bryson’s writing is engaging, witty, humorous, and thought provoking.
Be aware, this book is as much (or more) a history of science and scientists than it is a science text. Bryson tells a lot of stories about the individual scientists that have moved forward (and sometimes impeded the progress of) human knowledge. I found these stories fascinating, but if you are looking to learn just the science itself, this book on its own will be insufficient. One of the interesting things about the book is that Bryson uncovers the stories of many scientists who aren’t household names but who nevertheless made some astounding contributions to science.
Bryson is also frank about the limits of our scientific knowledge, something that can be in short supply in some popular science works. I was surprised, for instance, at how much uncertainty there is about the Earth’s geological history.
I just wish there were an updated edition that covered recent scientific developments.
Buy it, read it, and save a space on your shelf next to your favorite Sagan, Tyson, Hawking, or other popular science books.
Way to much time is spent on who cheated whom who hated who and who was a jerk
The opening of the book promises answers to basic questions but as often as not we get "John Dalton discovered the atom" That's it
Or "Cavendish discovered several elements" with no explanation as to how.
"Protons" are zipped around the collidor at Cern. Really?? What happened to the the electrons and the neutrons and how come the proton follows s the circular path
Radioactivity kills. Why??
These are all basic questions but are just glossed over in favor or "personalities'
A big disappointment
I enjoyed the book very much. I also appreciate his obvious dedication to objectivity. It is quite refreshing to read material from an author who doesn't present theory as established fact.
Well done Bill Bryson.