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A Short History of Nearly Everything Paperback – September 14, 2004
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“Stylish [and] stunningly accurate prose. We learn what the material world is like from the smallest quark to the largest galaxy and at all the levels in between . . . brims with strange and amazing facts . . . destined to become a modern classic of science writing.”
—The New York Times
“Bryson has made a career writing hilarious travelogues, and in many ways his latest is more of the same, except that this time Bryson hikes through the world of science.”
“Bryson is surprisingly precise, brilliantly eccentric and nicely eloquent . . . a gifted storyteller has dared to retell the world’s biggest story.”
“Hefty, highly researched and eminently readable.”
—Simon Winchester, The Globe and Mail
“All non-scientists (and probably many specialized scientists, too) can learn a great deal from his lucid and amiable explanations.”
"Bryson is a terrific stylist. You can’ t help but enjoy his writing, for its cheer and buoyancy, and for the frequent demonstration of his peculiar, engaging turn of mind.”
“Wonderfully readable. It is, in the best sense, learned.”
—Winnipeg Free Press
From the Inside Flap
One of the world's most beloved and bestselling writers takes his ultimate journey -- into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer.
In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trail -- well, most of it. In In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to offer. Now, in his biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand -- and, if possible, answer -- the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world's most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything" is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.
"From the Hardcover edition.
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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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