Bryson, Bill: A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003)

I’m no scientist, but I love science. There’s so much weird stuff in the universe that’s confusing, and confusion is fun. Confusion makes it possible for me to look for answers. Bill Bryson is no scientist either. He’s just a regular person (well kind of) who tries to make the universe comprehensible to a regular person like myself. I guess that’s what has made A Short History of Nearly Everything a popular science book about popular science.

Bill Bryson’s usual job is as an author who writes travel books. I’ve listened to a couple of them and they are presented with talent. He seems to be a curious person who does loads of research in his chosen field.

Usually, when Bill explains why he chose to write his book about nearly everything, his says that he was bored to sleep in his youth by the scientific presentations by teachers and authors. He wanted to see if he could do better.

In A Short History Bill takes us on a journey from the start of the universe up to today, and he questions what tomorrow will be like. On the road we learn bits and pieces about theories and their creators. The bits and pieces we learn about are astronomy, physics, biology, chemistry and paleontology. For the most part Bryson uses words that are accessible. Rather than present the reader with incomprehensible equations, he uses analogies that illustrate the question being asked.

To get to the point where he felt he could write something about the subject, Bill has gone through a large and varied reading list. He has also used a large group of people to help him with his project, experts within the various fields of interest.

I find this kind of “science” interesting, so I guess I’m the target group. For anyone wanting to learn a little about “nearly everything”, this is a book to read. While little kids wouldn’t get much out of it, young adults should be just fine with Bill’s writing.

If you want to learn more about the various fields presented in A Short History, use the bibliography at the end of the book at a guide.

An illustrated edition of the book was released in November 2005. Abridged and unabridged audio versions should also be available.

  • Aventis Prize for best general science book – 2004
  • Descartes Prize for science communication – 2005
  • Nominated for the Samuel Johnson Prize – 2005

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