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A Short Review - Bill Bryson's a Short History of Nearly Everything

Updated on October 31, 2010

I don't know how many times I have actually read this book over the past few years, but it is so informative in a very conversational way that I always end up going back to it at least once a year. Bill Bryson begins the book with a short digression to his childhood. He explains how, as a young school boy, his mind was full of wonder at the amazing tapestry that was weaved by his learned teachers.

Unfortunately Bill was still left to wonder after each lesson. He was amazed at how scientists could know what lay in the centre of the earth even although no-one had ever seen it. It was simply explained to him and his gasping classmates that this was how the earth was made, but no explanation was ever given by the teachers or the textbooks as to how they came to these amazing conclusions. Bill just had to accept it. Or did he?

This led him to get to the bottom of how all those aged men in glasses got to the bottom of things, so to speak. He started to make appointments with many and varied boffins in the field of astronomy, botany, evolution. You name it and Bill was investigating it. But he was doing it in his own way. He was finding things out and translating them into words for the average person to understand .Okay, so sometimes he has to explain things a little more in depth than he would like. But sometimes you can't make shorthand of a complicated issue. To his credit, though, he does make a light apology before going into mathematical details or when he rhymes off elements from the periodic table. These aren't things that Bill does lightly as his mission in this book is to bring science to the masses without scaring them away with mind boggling, well, science.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is a great read and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the world we live in and the universe that lies beyond it. Bill hasn't quite, by his own admission, given a short history of nearly everything, but after you read this book it will feel like it, at least in the scientific realm. He has the uncanny ability to bring science to life and also to tell a story of the amazing and often eccentric men and women who made many of the great discoveries in our history. We get a snapshot into their personalities without being bogged down in the analytics of their achievements. Because of Bill's ability to bring an almost story like appeal to his quest for knowledge it grips his readers. Sometimes he is funny; even sarcastic at times and this all adds to the draw of his writing.

An absolutely great read and I recommend checking out some of Bill Bryson's other books too.

I know I will.


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