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A Really Short History of Nearly Everything Hardcover – Oct 28 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Oct. 28 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385666861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385666862
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 1.9 x 28.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #36,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“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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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pierre Gauthier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 29 2009
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 By the reviewinator on 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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By John T C TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Jan. 26 2014
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was so pleased to find a "junior" version of this book. It's just as informative as the Short History, but accessible to a younger crowd. You'll have to read it to the really little ones, but they'll enjoy it nonetheless.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 56 reviews
146 of 154 people found the following review helpful
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.
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
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.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Flamingnet.com Top Choice Book-extremely informative and humorous Feb. 26 2010
By Flamingnet Teen Book Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Science, to many school-aged children, seems boring and
difficult. Most do not realize how extremely important and
amazing it really is. Bryson explored many different
topics ranging from the birth of the universe to dinosaurs
and many others. From his point of view, the Big Bang was
the start of the universe, and it only took one ten-
millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth
of a second to happen. Another explored topic was Newton
and his laws of motion. Incorporating silly cartoon
pictures and stories, Bill Bryson gives a rather detailed
but short history of the science of the world.

My favorite subject to study is science. I am always
asking "why" and "how." For any science lover, A Really
Short History of Nearly Everything is perfect. Bryson
writes in a humorous manner, but he is extremely
informative. I love the book's organization and how there
are countless pictures and extra pieces of information on
the sides of pages. The vocabulary fits perfectly with the
subject matter, and unfamiliar terms are defined finely.
The book covers many different aspects of science and does
so fluently. The only thing that I would improve about the
book is making it longer or having "part-two"!

Reviewed by a young adult student reviewer
Flamingnet Book Reviews
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