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A Really Short History of Nearly Everything [Hardcover]

Bill Bryson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 29.95
Price: CDN$ 18.87 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book Description

Oct. 28 2008
Bill Bryson’s own fascination with science began with a battered old school book he had when he was about ten or eleven years old. It had an illustration that captivated him–a diagram showing Earth’s interior as it would look if you cut into it with a large knife and removed about a quarter of its bulk. The idea of lots of startled cars and people falling off the edge of that sudden cliff (and 4,000 miles is a pretty long way to fall) was what grabbed him in the beginning, but gradually his attention turned to what the picture was trying to teach him: namely that Earth’s interior is made up of several different layers of materials, and at the very centre is a glowing sphere of iron and nickel,
as hot as the Sun’s surface, according to the caption. And he very clearly remembers thinking: “How do they know that?”

Bill’s storytelling skill makes the “How?” and, just as importantly, the “Who?” of scientific discovery entertaining and accessible for all ages. He covers the wonder and mystery of time and space, the frequently bizarre and often obsessive scientists and the methods they used, and the mind-boggling fact that, somehow, the universe exists and against all odds, life came to be on this wondrous planet we call home.

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Review

“Brims with strange and amazing facts . . . destined to become a modern classic of science writing.”
-The New York Times

About the Author

Bill Bryson’s bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and A Short History of Nearly Everything, which won him the 2004 Aventis Prize. He lives in England with his wife and children.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! July 29 2009
By Pierre Gauthier TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had not realized that this book was destined at a young public when I bought it.

I found it enthralling nonetheless since it presents an outstanding synthesis of up to date information about our universe. Its short length makes it very easy to read and allows the reader to link individual topics with others.

Very pedagogically, a summary is included at the end of each chapter.

Throughout, colour illustrations liven up the text (though some of course are a bit juvenile).

Personally, I consider that the bearded author's cartoon portrait appearing on each summary page is a bit narcissist on his part but that is a minor bother and others may think it humanizes the work.

More importantly, greater care should have been taken in reviewing the book. There are quite a few cases of contradicting data from one page to another. For instance, the word «million» is omitted in the summary for chapter two and the earth's age is stated as 4,550 years!

Nevertheless, this is a highly recommended book . . . and not only for children and teenagers.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Really Great Book Feb. 11 2009
Format:Hardcover
I read the long version. My wife and I are big fans of Bill Bryson. My son who is 13 found the adult version too advanced so I ordered this one. It's a beautiful metallic silver hardcover with lots of illustrations - perfect for tweens and teens.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another good book Jan. 26 2014
By John T C TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
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. Coming from reading Disciples of Fortune, which is a book from a different culture that exposes and answers questions in a hilarious way, this book came as a further boost and made me feel like I was involved in the telling and listening of the story.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  43 reviews
131 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last! An explanation for the world that's EXCITING Nov. 17 2009
By Jesse Kornbluth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For almost half of her 7.5 years, our daughter has gone to sleep as her mother delivers a lecture. Not the kind of lecture that follows bad behavior --- our kid just prefers facts to fiction. And so her mother gives a nightly discourse called "Bore Me to Sleep."

Our child knows that no policeman can enter the apartment and take Daddy's computer without a warrant. She knows about the banking crisis (though she prefers to believe that some financial instruments are called "high-heeled munis" and "credit default flops") why the seasons change, how your digestive system works, what fashion designers do, how everything is made of the same atoms, the movement of a bill through the House and Senate --- she's been exposed to a ton of random information.

She could easily be Bill Bryson's child.

Bryson got interested in how the world worked in the 4th or 5th grade, when an illustration in a textbook --- the Earth, with a wedge removed --- caught his interest. It would be nice to report that the book ignited lifelong learning. But it was a standard-issue textbook, not at all exciting. So it wasn't until he was a famous writer (author of a funny memoir called The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and the even funnier A Walk in the Woods) that he wondered again how the world worked.

A few years and 475 pages later, he produced A Short History of Nearly Everything. My wife devoted a summer to it and read every word. I flunked Science repeatedly in school; it's enough for me to know that some important event occurred 500 million years ago.

Now he's created A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, and he's done me --- and you, and every curious kid burdened by a dull textbook or a brain-dead science teacher --- a huge favor. He's taken the greatest hits of his Big Book, trimmed the history so the text is mostly stories, and added illustrations that are variously helpful and amusing.

The result is a book that a curious 9-year-old can get something out of, a 12-year-old can read like a novel, and an adult can devour, blessing Bryson all the while for explaining the history of life on earth in such reader-friendly prose.

Among the cool contents:

The Big Bang was so massive that, in just three minutes, "98 percent of everything there is, or will ever be in the universe, has been produced."

A baby weighing 4 kilograms has about 400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in its body.

"The average distance between stars is just over 30 million million [no, that's not a typo] kilometres. Of course it is possible that alien beings travel billions of kilometres to amuse themselves by planting crop circles in the English countryside or frightening some poor guy in a truck on a lonely road in Arizona. But it does seem unlikely."

"Fly from London to New York and you will step from the plane a quinzillionth of a second younger than the friends you left behind."

Weather, geology, space, energy, the atom --- it's all here, and all stunningly interesting. What's not here? Creationism. Bryson not only doesn't deal with it, he doesn't acknowledge it; for him, the world is 4,550 million years old. And evolution isn't a "theory," it's a fact: "The first visible mobile residents on dry land were probably like modern woodlice." (In Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and certain heartland states, a kid who brought this book into school could possibly be in trouble.)

Of greater concern to me than the science/religion schism: "99.99 per cent of all species that have ever lived are no longer with us." And people may be "bad news" for other species. Bryson's conclusion: "If you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep a record of where it has been, you wouldn't choose human beings for the job."

This is not to say that the book ends with a downer. Just the opposite. What drives Bryson is the idea that life is exciting, mysterious and glorious. There's no way to read his book without wanting to keep it going for at least another 60 or 70 years.
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great classroom resource Nov. 2 2009
By SZAA - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Bill Bryson is not an author I've encountered before, though he's definitely one I'll be going back to. A Really Short History of Nearly Everything was originally published for adults back in 2003 and this particular version has just recently been adapted for kids. I didn't read the original, but this adapted version is awesome!

Though he doesn't really give you a short history of everything in the world, he does hit on main scientific points in history, such as what happened to dinosaurs, why the oceans are salty, how heavy the earth is, chain of life, genetics, planets, weather, atoms, asteroids, etc, etc, etc. Bryson then gives a short, simple explanation which reads very much like a story would, in a nice flowing manner. Not boring and scientific at all, which is a definite plus when it comes to non-fiction books for kids.

Filled with illustrations and photographs that accompany facts that are short and to-the-point. This would be a great resource for a classroom, homeschool setting, or library, especially while teaching different units. A great supplemental material.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it Jan. 14 2012
By Donna S. Meredith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My book club accidentally put the "really" in the title of the book they meant to choose, the adult version, "A Short History of Nearly Everything." I thoroughly enjoyed the young people's version. I learned a lot and re-learned things I'd forgotten from years-ago science classes. Plan to pass this along to my grandson. The book's two-page chapters make it perfect for a quick bedtime lesson or science report.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pictures and Text Dec 1 2009
By R. J. Diefendorf - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Written for teenagers. There is much interesting information, presented in a balanced manner, about basic science theories and their development. The scientists and their eccentricites are described. All written in an enjoyable manner. The biggest fault is that the associated cartoon drawings appear more appropriate for a forth grader, and the text for an eight grader. Still, I enjoyed it, even though I am a retired scientist.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book Jan. 1 2010
By Snoosh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read (via audio CD) the adult version of this book and found it interesting. It covers the beginning of the universe and our place in it to how humans got to be as we are, and has some great insights (like in the beginning where they note that we are all collections of atoms that happened to get together to form us, and the same atoms used to be other things and will be other things again). It shows how "science" is as much an art and political and silly as it is "science", stripping away some of the awe without removing the wonder of the discoveries made before "modern technology" and our advantages today. All in all, great for some interesting knowledge and useful perspective.

This version is for younger readers. Our kids (10-15) weren't sure about it when they got it for Christmas, but they are picking at it and getting drawn in and I'm sure will read it cover to cover before long. Other toys are too distracting right now, but they do find it interesting and are reading it as kids do!
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