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A Short History of Nearly Everything [Hardcover]

Bill Bryson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)

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Book by Bryson, Bill

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Most helpful customer reviews
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not quite everything, but enough Nov. 24 2005
I was first acquainted with Bill Bryson through his works on the English language and various travelogue types of books. In these books he proved to be an entertaining writer, witty and interesting, with just the right amount of I'm-not-taking-myself-too-seriously attitude to make for genuinely pleasurable reading. Other books of his, 'Notes from a Small Island' and 'The Mother Tongue', are ones I return to again and again. His latest book, one of the longer ones (I was surprised, as most Bryson books rarely exceed 300 pages, and this one weighs in well past 500), is one likely to join those ranks.
Of course, a history of everything, even a SHORT history of NEARLY everything, has got to be fairly long. Bryson begins, logically enough, at the beginning, or at least the beginning as best science can determine. Bryson weaves the story of science together with a gentle description of the science involved - he looks not only at the earliest constructs of the universe (such as the background radiation) but also at those who discover the constructs (such as Penzias and Wilson).
A great example of the way Bryson weaves the history of science into the description of science, in a sense showing the way the world changes as our perceptions of how it exists change, is his description of the formulation, rejection, and final acceptance of the Pangaea theory. He looks at figures such as Wegener (the German meteorologist - 'weatherman', as Bryson describes him) who pushed forward the theory in the face of daunting scientific rejection that the continents did indeed move, and that similarities in flora and fauna, as well as rock formations and other geological and geographical aspects, can be traced back to a unified continent.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Primer on Science for the Layperson June 14 2003
Popularizers of science abound: Isaac Asimov, Marcus Chown, Richard Dawkins, Paul Davies, Timothy Ferris, Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan, and Steven Weinberg, to name a few. Add another name to the list: Bill Bryson.
In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bryson, who lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, has written a lucid work on, well, just about everything: physics, biology, chemistry, zoology, paleontology, astronomy, cosmology, geology, genetics, meteorology, oceanography, and taxonomy.
From "the Big Bang" (the beginning of the universe) to "the Big Birth" (the appearance of life on Earth), Bryson translates the arcane, esoteric mysteries of science into comprehensible language, and does so with wit, wisdom, sharp-eyed observations, and hilarious comments. He shows that science need not be boring; it can be fun.
In the Introduction, Bryson confesses that not long ago he didn't know what a proton was, didn't know a quark from a quasar. Appalled by his ignorance of his own planet, Bryson determined to take a crash course in science, and for three years he devoted himself intensively to reading books and journals dealing with science, and pestering scientific authorities with his "dumb questions." This book is the result of his project.
By reading Bryson we learn that a physicist is the atoms' way of thinking about atoms and that a human being is a gene's way of making other genes. Whether writing of nematode worms or Cameron Diaz, Bryson uses analogies and anecdotes that help make science accessible, and less intimidating, to laypersons.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)said, "The closer one gets to a subject, the more problematic it becomes." The truth of this aphorism also applies to the baffling questions of science.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bill Bryson at his best! Dec 28 2005
A short history of nearly everything. What else can really be said about this book? Well written and thoughtful, this book can be read by anyone and appreciated by anyone. I have always loved Bryson's dark yet sarcastic sense of humour, and this book has no shortage of it. Although the actual text of this book covers a wide variety of subjects and interesting facts that you have probablly never hear anywhere else, I would deem this a bathroom book, mainly because the subjects aren't all that grabbing. If it weren't for Bryson's unique style of writing that I have come to love over the years, I would have to say that I wouldn't have picked this book up of the shelves. They now have 'A Short history of nearly everything' with pictures and a price tag almost triple the cost of the regular book, but if you find it hard to read purely text without any pictures, I'd say go out and get it, because its always nice to have a little bit of extra knoweledge, (even if most of it is irrelevant) in your brain.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Science for non-Geeks June 17 2003
A great book for putting "science" in entertaining and relatively easy to understand terms. I was constantly finding myself truly excited by what was being written. This book puts the amazing grandness of the universe into perspective, showing what a miracle it really is that we exist at all, no less that we exist as the highest known form of life. It covers physics, chemistry, biology, geology, paleantology, etc. in a way that ties together and keeps the rader very interested. This is not your college text book. Bryson makes (re)learning fun.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wolf Willow
Wolf Willow... an amazing book about the 1890's Saskatchewan prairie itself with fascinating stories about the bison and the people who lived there. Read more
Published 4 days ago by mitzimouse
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Absolutely fascinating, and very well written.
Published 5 days ago by John
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost everything.
Almost everything but provocative and informative and I couldn't put it down.
Published 9 days ago by Leo Hebert
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic fun read!
Wow. A true pleasure to read. Nothing was written over my head. I understood it clearly and also enjoyed the entertaining way in which it was written. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Danielle Turner
3.0 out of 5 stars Is the sky falling?
I found the surmises too muchof a fairy tale-best guesses. Actual historical facts interesting but best guesses do not necessarily mean that changes cannot occur.
Published 3 months ago by Ruth Turnbull
5.0 out of 5 stars great popular science
Great broad coverage of many topics about the cosmos and the earth in a easily digestible doesn't. Recommended for pop sci nerds but would not recommend for the average reader who... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Benoit Shelston
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish my science teacher in school had been this engaging
I truly wish my science teachers had been like Bill Bryson. He gives a great history as well as makes it interesting and FUNNY!!! Love this book!
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought first in Swedish
Then I got the English version to give as a gift to a friend. Excellent book for someone looking for knowledge and inspiration.
Published 5 months ago by vannina
2.0 out of 5 stars On a Serious Note
Perhaps I was not in the right frame of mind to read this book at the time. Have read others by Bill Bryson which are written with such wit and insight. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Gerty
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good book
A Short History of Nearly Everything is an enlightening, educational, entertaining, and easy to read book for readers who have a natural curiosity about life. Read more
Published 6 months ago by John T C
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