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A Short History of Nearly Everything [Hardcover]

Bill Bryson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
48 of 48 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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11 of 11 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable Nov. 9 2003
By "soz11"
Who would have thought that a book on physics and chemistry (among much else) which was such drudgery at school would be so unputdownable!! Went into it thinking it would be an interesting read but ended up having my life revolve around it for two days...even taking it to the beach. Not just fascinating but quite inspiring to think how lucky we are as humans to be here at all. And really admired the level of research and objective presentation of competing theories, as well as the insight into the interesting (to put it mildly) characters in science. Even if you're not science minded you'd be hard pressed not to enjoy it. Thanks Bill Bryson for a smashing book!
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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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written and quite enjoyable June 22 2003
This book is more in line with Bryson's "The Mother Tongue" about the English language. So if you are expecting humor, you may want to choose some of his other titles.
If you want to learn a ton of stuff, read this. Over the years, I have read a lot of Sagan, Gould, Lederman, etc. and Bryson does a great job of bringing their best ideas together plus many more. I enjoyed his book greatly. I find it especially interesting how he weaves the story about we humans muddling through just about everything all the while the universe is unwittingly trying to snuff us out. It puts things in perspective.
Overall, I'm very impressed at Bryson's accomplishment with this work and recommend it without reservation.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The best book I have ever read! Covers everything we need to know.
Published 7 days ago by Wayne. A. Griffin
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have on any bookshelf
Yay for people who research everything so we don't have to, right? Bryson did a great job of telling the story of science, to sum it up, and although I found a few inaccuracies (it... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Heather Caldwell
4.0 out of 5 stars A short history of nearly everything
Very good to get an appreciation of evolution of mankind. Strange that he wonders why Farenheit put its scale at 32 and 212 for water. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rbtjean
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Interesting read.
Published 1 month ago by Cohomeister
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
It's a mighty handful of information and somehow Mr Bryson keeps our interest and attention. Well worth the cost.
Published 2 months ago by Kathleen Small
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fantastic read 10/10
Published 2 months ago by ilya
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 2 months ago by mitzimouse
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Absolutely fascinating, and very well written.
Published 3 months 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 3 months 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 5 months ago by Danielle Turner
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