A Short History of Nearly Everything

November 3, 2019 - Comment

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

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.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

Comments

Anonymous says:

A most unusual but extremely interesting book! A friend of mine recommended this book knowing that I like science. I’m used to reading about the sciences in single topics. This book surprised me in the amount of effort the author took to go through book after book of different sciences, both old and new, and proceeded to connect the dots into several cohesive stories about our home, planet Earth, and its residents. The biggest surprise is how little we truly know about both and just how much luck was involved that both exist in their…

Anonymous says:

Nearly the Best Book I Have Ever Read I have just completed Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” for the second time. I am quite certain it will not be my last reading. I cannot think of any other single-volume book I have ever read that was as informative, entertaining, and broad in scope as this classic. Not having excelled in science, nor been much interested in it when I was younger, this gem is a massive refresher course on everything I ever learned about science, and then some.Bryson moves…

Anonymous says:

A Short History of Life Well written and entertaining this is not a textbook, rather Bryson attempts to create a story. The story of Earth and the people who made the critical advancements. The story of Marie Curie, Einstein, Darwin. This is a book that would make Carl Sagan proud.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…

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