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A Short History of Nearly Everything Paperback – September 14, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Bryson tries to do what most school textbooks never manage to do, explain the context of science in a way that is relevant to the average person. At the beginning of the book, he recalls an event from his childhood when he looked at a school text and saw a cross-section of our planet. He was transfixed by it, but noticed that the book just dryly presented the facts ("This is the core." "This part is molten rock." "This is the crust.", etc.), but never really explained HOW science came to know this particular set of facts. That, he quite correctly points out, is the most interesting part. And that is story he sets out to tell in this book.
Bryson obviously spent a great deal of time and effort developing and checking his facts and presentation. He obviously enjoyed every minute of it too, and it shows. Never have I read a book where the author conveyed such joyful awe of what we have learned as a species (with the possible exception of some of Richard Feynman's books).
My benchmark for this kind of book is usually; How well does it explain modern physics? There are few books out there that manage to explain relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory in a way that doesn't make your eyes glaze over. The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav is the best of the lot in my opinion. While this book did not change my opinion, Bryson's explanations of these mind-bending theories are not only lucid and sensible, they are also full of his telltale tongue-in-cheek side comments and therefore are just plain fun to read.Read more ›
Bryson is not a scientist, but rather a curious and observant writer who, several years ago, realized that he couldn't tell a quark from a quasar, or a proton from a protein. Bryson set out to cure his ignorance of things scientific, and the result was "A Short History of Nearly Everything," which was originally published in 2003.
For readers who are new to science and its history, "A Short History of Nearly Everything" contains one remarkable revelation after another. It is amazing how enormous, tiny, complex and just plain weird the universe is. Learning about "everything" is a humbling experience, and I kept thinking of Stephen Crane's blank verse: "A man said to the Universe: 'Sir, I exist!' 'However,' replied the Universe, 'the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.'"
Just as engaging as Bryson's story of what we know is the parallel story of how we know it--from the first clever experiments to figure out how much the earth weighs to today's ongoing efforts to describe the origins of the universe itself, it becomes obvious that science is not an answer but a process, a way of learning about a world that always seems to have one more trick up its sleeve.
Whatever else may be said about the universe, Bryson explains that learning about its mysteries is a very human endeavor.Read more ›
The author says he didn't do very well in science when he was in school because the teachers and texts seemed to be hiding all the good stuff. Now, as an adult, he's gone after the good stuff. And he's the guy to write it so the rest of us can understand. Not only does he write clearly, but he's very good at explaining as much as a normal person can understand (of relativity, for example), while pointing to the stuff that's weird, and setting aside the stuff that you have to be a specialist to understand.
He also is very good at giving credit to people who thought of things but were ignored until someone else came along and took credit. This has happened all too frequently, and it's good for the record to be set straight.
If you too were afraid of science, this is a wonderful book. If you already know a lot of this but just like to read enjoyable writing--it's also a wonderful book.
This book is so good and so comprehensive I can see myself reading this over again.
Thank you Bill Bryson for your hard, extensive research! Quite remarkable.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Quite possibly my favorite book. I want to become a dictator just to mandate that everyone in existence reads this book. Read morePublished 4 days ago by M. Felix
I just finished reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) - absolutely loved it. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Amazon Customer
This is a very entertaining book and should be required reading for every high school student. It would provide them with a fundamental understanding of science and how we came to... Read morePublished 7 days ago by Amazon Customer
Should be at the heart of every high school history curriculum. Very interesting, informative, and thought provoking. An absolute must read.Published 7 days ago by R Davis
This book is incredible, with comprehensive insights on science and the people who enlightened the human race. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Steve Nelson
I read this on the recommendation of a person I barely know, but whose insights impressed me. I am so glad I recalled her recommendation when I was between books. Read morePublished 9 days ago by R. Martinez