A Short History of Nearly Everything

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From primordial nothingness to this very moment, A Short History of Nearly Everything reports what happened and how humans figured it out. To accomplish this daunting literary task, Bill Bryson uses hundreds of sources, from popular science books to interviews with luminaries in various fields. His aim is to help people like him, who rejected stale school textbooks and dry explanations, to appreciate how we have used science to understand the smallest particles and the unimaginably vast expanses of space. With his distinctive prose style and wit, Bryson succeeds admirably. Though A Short History clocks in at a daunting 500-plus pages and covers the same material as every science book before it, it reads something like a particularly detailed novel (albeit without a plot). Each longish chapter is devoted to a topic like the age of our planet or how cells work, and these chapters are grouped into larger sections such as "The Size of the Earth" and "Life Itself." Bryson chats with experts like Richard Fortey (author of Life and Trilobite) and these interviews are charming. But it's when Bryson dives into some of science's best and most embarrassing fights--Cope vs. Marsh, Conway Morris vs. Gould--that he finds literary gold. --Therese Littleton

One of the world’s most beloved and bestselling writers takes his ultimate journey -- into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer.

In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trail -- well, most of it. In In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to offer. Now, in his biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand -- and, if possible, answer -- the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world’s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • How we got here
    It's a little odd that many popular books that deal with astronomy and cosmology don't start at the beginning, i.e., the Big Bang. Instead, they usually start with more familiar matters like the solar system and work their way towards the more exotic concepts like black holes and the Big Bang. This is not the case with Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which does start out not only with a bang, but a Big Bang.

    In the cosmic sense, human civilization has been around for a mere sliver of time, so it is not part of Bryson's Short History. Instead, he gives us a look at all that went before: from the Big Bang to the creation of matter, the galaxies and eventually the Sun and Earth. Then, we get the development of life, followed by the development of human life, or at least man's predecessors: homo erectus, Neanderthal man, etc. We get billions of years in around 500 pages.

    A constant theme that runs through the book is not only how much we know, but how much we don't know as well. Much of the evolution of the universe, Earth and humanity is understood, but there is also uncertainty. It makes sense: much of this knowledge comes from inference, and the material we have to work with is sometimes sketchy. This does not, however, give credibility to non-scientific alternatives such as creationism. A conflict as to whether the universe is 10 or 20 billion years old does not invalidate both ages and mean the universe is only 6000 years old (as I have heard creationists argue). Similarly, while an argument can be made as to whether Neanderthal man was a direct ancestor to modern man or more like a cousin, it doesn't refute the fact of human evolution. The broad picture is certain, even if not all the brushstrokes have been made.

    Bryson, as usual, relates all this in his standard manner, which is to say, with immense readability and a good amount of humor. This is not a book of dry facts: Bryson humanizes science, giving life to the many individuals who discovered these concepts. Even if you familiar with much of the material in this book, Bryson presents it in a refreshing way with lots of interesting trivia as well. If you have an interest in general science (even if you're unfamiliar with it), this is a great book to read....more info
  • 2000 Shock
    This might very well be the 2000 version of Future Shock. If you care it is not hard to follow....more info
  • Great seller
    Just got the book, have not read it yet, but the seller was great. Can not wait to read the book!...more info
  • One of the best books that I have ever read
    Bill Bryson has raked together a sampling of all the technical knowledge that we have. Some of the conclusions may be questionable, but questioning is what man does best. This is a book that everyone should read. I am reading the book for the second time and have two other copies that I am circulating among my friends....more info
  • Like a village in a mountain landscape.
    Bryson's book is comparable to Lee Strobel's "Case for Faith" series. Bryson is not an expert in any of the subjects he covers. He reads up on the issue, then goes and interviews experts. What he brings to the table is a good idea for a book -- a history, not of "nearly everything," but of how some important scientific things were discovered -- and a talent for bundling great stories into a lively and compelling narrative.

    If the main knock against Strobel is that he only interviews people who agree with him, the main criticism of Bryson is that he doesn't understand science well, and gets too many facts wrong. A two-star reviewer from California pointed out several errors in January. Let me add a few more. On page 266, Bryson says Spring starts in March, but it doesn't start FEELING warmer until April, because the temperature lags the "official, astronomical" start of the season since water takes a while to warm. Nonsense. If one calculated Spring astronomically, as the three-month period centered on the equinox, it would begin in early February. The argument from design was not "first put forward by William Paley in 1802;" (390) it was popular among the ancient Stoics, and probably others. "There is more difference between a zebra and a horse . . . than there is between you and the furry creatures your distant ancestors left behind when they set out to take over the world." (452) Such a comment should be the reducto ad absurdum of the facile equation of physiological and genetic identity. Bryson claims that "for the first 99.99999 percent of our history as organisms, we were in the same ancestral line as chimpanzees." (443) If that were so, we would have diverged from the chimps in 1629. (Bryson is particular bad at math.)

    Nevertheless, I DO warmly recommend this book. It is fascinating, it is witty, it is delightful -- and I hope most of the facts are true!

    I don't agree with reviewers who complain about Bryson talking too much about the personal lives of scientists. Sure, if you don't want that, you don't want this book. But I enjoyed that aspect of the story very much. As Augustine said long ago, we go to look at the stars and the sea and wonder, yet pass by ourselves without wondering. As Bryson shows in this lively, often humorous, always engaged narration, the observer often turns out every bit as fascinating and quixotic as the observed. Bryson thus adds a new and human dimension to the story of science. For someone like myself, schooled partly in China, pristine nature becomes even more fascinating with something human -- an ancient village, a temple, a woman carrying a load of vegetables to market -- in the foreground. ...more info
  • One of the Most Useful and Best Science Books I Own
    This is a fantastic book. If you're interested in science and history, this is the book for you. Bryson brings up interesting trivia about key people and events in science history.

    He shares the story of Thomas Midgley. His two great claims to fame were putting lead into gasoline and the development of chlorofluorocarbons. Bryson shares the observation that seldom has one person inflicted so much damage with his inventions.

    I have a "junk" copy of the book that I have marked and written in. I use this to read to my 6th & 7th grade students when we are discussing that topic in science. I also love the way he begins the book. I can't think of a better way to start the school year to the read the beginning of the book.

    Each year I recommend this book to my student's parents when I send out my monthly newsletter to them.

    I strongly recommend this book and assure you that you won't regret your purchase!...more info
  • Magnificent overview of empiricism and science history
    I enjoyed this title tremendously. The book is an expansive review of science history with an emphasis on history. It may give shallow treatment to the subjects, but it excels in exciting a curious mind to go back to the bookstore in search of more in-depth material. Great as an introduction and philosophical backdrop in science history....more info
  • Entertaining Journey Through the Universe
    I got this book because I could not find the one I wanted. I was hoping I made the right decision. I have been really enjoying this book. Bryson explains Science in a way that makes it extremely interesting and understandable. I'm very glad I got took a chance on it. ...more info
  • Really Insightful
    Great Book. Read it for the 3rd time this week. The Audio Book is also very good. ...more info
  • A nice summary of the vast scope of scientific understanding
    Covering topics from geology to physics and chemistry, to biology, genetics and paleontology, this book provides a sweeping overview of the state of modern scientific understanding. While it deals with a number of complex and difficult concepts, such as quantum physics and relativity, the material is presented in an extremely approachable manner, which should help even the most science-phobic reader grasp the broad concepts in these areas.

    Perhaps the most lasting impression from this book is the almost unbelievable scales involved in many of these fields. Bryson does a good job of convey just how unimaginably big the universe is, how incredibly small the realm of the atom is, and just how vast a stretch of time is involved in the history of the world. It is truly a blow to realize just how little of the universe we have explored, and how little time we have existed. The other point that Bryson drives home well is the notion that we are far from possessing even close to a complete understanding in any of these fields. The more we learn, the more we discover how incredibly complex everything is. In all, it is incredibly humbling to contemplate how much we know, and how very much more we don't know....more info
  • Top notch scientific overview
    I just want to add my voice to the chorus of praise for this book. Bryson has made an overview of science informative, entertaining, and inspiring....more info
  • Awe-Inspiring
    I picked this book up at the airport, thinking at first that it was a book about human history. I confess I did not know at the time who Bill Bryson is and was blissfully unaware of his widely acclaimed writing record. Obviously, the book turned out to be completely different from what I had expected. Bryson wrote a book about "how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us, and also what happened in between and since." In short, a story about the natural history of the world and much more.

    Bryson's accomplishment inspires awe and envy. Here is a person with no scientific background who, driven by an insatiable desire to learn, has mastered biology, astronomy, paleontology, geology, chemistry and much much more, and then translated this knowledge into a readable account of "nearly everything". The New York Times Book Review wrote that A Short History of Nearly Everything "is destined to become a modern classic of science writing" and I fully agree. Bryson succeeds to explain where we came from and how our world works in terms that every person can understand, while at the same time peppering his tale with humouristic anecdotes about the greatest scientists in history: their lives, their mistakes and their feuds.

    This book is a journey in space and time. It takes the reader from the core of the Earth to the infinite reaches of outer space, and from the beginning of time to the future outlook for our planet. In this journey, Bryson brings home two messages, over and over again. First, how insignificant our lives are in comparison with the age of the world and the forces of nature, especially when we take into account the improbable odds of our very existence. Second, how little we know and understand about how we came about, how our planet works or indeed who and what inhabits it besides us. The book is full of facts which leave the reader open-mouthed; several times I had to re-read a sentence just to make sure I understood the full implication of the facts presented in it.

    The first thing I did today after finishing the book was to log on to amazon.com to search for other Bryson books and order them. I am looking forward to getting more acquainted with this wonderful writer in the very near future....more info
  • Everyone should read or listen to this book
    Anyone interested to know where we come from, how big is the universe is, how tiny is human history, how and where life "is", etc... must read this book.

    Hands down, one of the greatest books in its category written by a funny author with the ability to make complex things pleasant and easy to grasp.

    I suggest the complete audio CDs (17 hours). Started to read this book and the experience was somehow less interesting. Too many names are acknowledged throughout the book, I'd guess around 1000, and that makes it a bit hard to follow.

    I intended to write a longer review but after seeing more than 640 reviews on Amazon alone with a rating average of above 4.6/5.0, I would suggest to just get the audio CD and listen to the whole book twice!

    Kudos to Bill Bryson for this magnificent masterpiece....more info
  • Almost a great book
    I love science from a historical perspective. The people who do the science and the cultures that surround them make for exciting and inspiring stories. The book starts out well, but gets bogged down in the last chapters in a depressing rant against the human animal, and it is sometimes filled with pages of details that seem to lead nowhere. A really good science editor is needed to make this book what it should be....more info
  • A biography of the universe
    The most amazing thing about this book is that it manages to live up to its title! Bryson covers a whopping amount of material in just under 600 pages - discussing everything from the expanse of the universe to the confines of a single cell. And he does a more than admirable job. Scientific technicalities are presented in a highly readable manner through the smart use of analogies. His chapter on the solar system, for example, left me with an infinitely more vivid picture of the make-up of our planetary neighbourhood than a dozen other science textbooks would have. Full credit to Bryson as well for writing with a boldness and authority that belies the author's background as a non-scientist.

    Many reviews have labelled the book as "a rough guide to science". The book offers so much more. It is really a biography of the universe - a an elegant blend of scientific fact, history and lovely anecdotes that makes everything come to life. Nearly everything at least. ...more info
  • Review
    The book is in great condition. The only complaint that I have is that it took over a month to receive the book....more info
  • Short History (Bryson) Review
    I loved the way Bryson tied together so many different branches of science in a digestible way. Very witty and full of fascinating facts, including connections to art and history, that one would not find in a textbook. I'm a science major, but it still gave me a new perspective on my field, and dare I say on life? Couldn't put it down--really. ...more info
  • Personality driven science
    This is a hefty tome, but not one that should scare you away from reading it. Covering everything from the beginning to, well, the end of everything this is a layman's textbook of, well, nearly everything. In the beginning it covers, well, the beginning from the first pangs of the universe (as well as ideas about different beginnings of the universe(s)) through to the first bits of sludge that crawled out of the soupy oceans to life as we know it. It doesn't cover the end of it all, which I guess is why it's called (a) a short history and (b) of nearly everything.

    The thing about this that shines out for me is both the easy introduction to topics that are fairly complex, and also the humanising of the people who made the discoveries. To contrast with another book of science, Dawking's The God Delusion, this book shows that there were quite a few disagreements between those who should have known better. New science and theories came about because the who held onto the old theories died, retired or were pushed out of their cushy academic environment. One example Bryson briefly covers is the work of Archbishop James Ussher of the Church of Ireland, whose analysis indicated that the Earth was 4000 years old. Bryson also details how little seriously the Archbishop's work was taken in to the 19th Century.

    Is this a book for everyone? Well, considering the 574 pages of text and then notes and index, it feels daunting. But it's not a daunting book, not really. If you have to, read it in chunks. You can put it down and pick it up again later. I find myself thinking about sections and passages as I read other books, with that ah-ha sensation. Once read you can keep it in the bathroom to flick through at your leisure....more info
  • Bringing science down to earth
    To me, the sciences are fascinating but elusive. The concepts are marvelous and compelling, but the details are difficult and tedious, especially if your grasp of mathematics is as tenuous as mine. I grew up with a love for what I knew of astronomy and the underlying physics, and an interest in such things as geology, paleontology, and meteorology. These subjects are taught badly, if taught at all, and I never understood them well enough for my curiosity to deepen into understanding.

    That's where The Short History of Nearly Everything comes in. Bill Bryson explains much of what we know and how we came to know it through an abundance of examples and similes, not through formulas and theories. Not surprisingly, he's at his weakest in the most difficult areas. He tries to explain particle physics but is forced to fall back, fairly enough, on, "The fact is, there is a great deal, even at quite a fundamental level, that we don't know . . . The upshot of all this is that we live in a universe whose age we can't quite compute, surrounded by stars whose distances we don't altogether know, filled with matter we can't identify, operating in conformance with physical laws whose properties we don't truly understand." When it comes to string theory, he throws up his hands helplessly, which is understandable since most physicists seem to find it nearly impossible to articulate. Bryson is on firmer ground with Einstein's theories, which make more sense to me now--gravity is not a force, per se, but "a product of the bending of spacetime . . . no longer so much a thing as an outcome." Even here, though, he admits, "Our brains can take us only so far because it is nearly impossible to envision a dimension comprising three parts space to one part time, all interwoven like the threads in a plaid fabric."

    Where Bryson shines brightest is on terra firma, geology and the earth as well as ocean sciences. As Bryson shows in numerous cases, once upon a time, science wasn't just for scientists. Charles Smithson of The French Lieutenant's Woman was not just a figment of author John Fowles' imagination, but representative of a Victorian spirit of scientific interest and discovery. Even Einstein, at the time he published his special theory of relativity, had attended only a four-year course "designed to churn out high school science teachers" and was working in the Swiss patent office--not exactly the type of credentials associated with today's Nobel Prize winners. The 1800s were an especially fruitful time for dedicated amateurs represented in literature by characters such as Smithson and Roger Hamley of Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters. There was Roderick Murchison, who "became with rather astonishing swiftness a titan of geological thinking," or fossil collector and seller Mary Anning, who was the first to discover a plesiosaurus (not, as Bryson puts it, to "find the first plesiosaurus") and who "could extract [fossils] with the greatest delicacy and without damage." Lest we think the entrepreneurial spirit of science dead, however, Bryson introduces Reverend Robert Evans, who, from his home in Australia, had as of early 2003 discovered 36 supernovae. To help the reader comprehend the magnitude of this feat, Bryson provides ample context.

    Science is often focused on the numbers, but it's difficult for the human mind to grasp the very large and the very small that are well outside our physical perception. If my teachers had used comparisons and analogies like Bryson's and his sources, I and my classmates might have understood the significance of all those swirling numbers and formulae. For example, most of us have seen the typical solar system chart neatly tucked into a textbook or displayed on a poster. But the planets don't come one after the other at "neighborly intervals." If Earth were the diameter of a pea, "Jupiter would be over a thousand feet away and Pluto would be a mile and a half distant (and about the size of a bacterium, so you wouldn't be able to see it anyway"). Bryson adds that the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, would be nearly 10,000 miles away at this scale. It's easier to appreciate the size and wonder of the universe when presented in a tangible way rather than as a bunch of 10s with superscripts.

    Bryson covers a lot of territory--astronomy, earth science, oceanography, physics, chemistry, biology, evolution, origins of man, and even the microbes that keep us healthy and make us miserable. Earth and its life depend on delicately balanced systems and processes, with the potential for natural or man-made disaster ever present. The chapter on the Yellowstone supervolcano ("Dangerous Beauty") would keep any nervous soul up a few nights, while humbling chapters like "Lonely Planet" reveal how much of what we rely on is beyond our control--the molten nature of Earth's interior, our moon that is just the right size and orbit to keep our planet stabilized, the position of the Earth relative to the sun (five percent closer or 15 percent farther, and we would cease to exist as we know ourselves). Bryson reminds us that we are a hair's breadth from unpredictable and/or unpreventable disaster, whether from space or from within our own home.

    As we live day to day, going to work, shopping, eating, sleeping, spending time with friends, even vacationing with the family at Yellowstone, it's easy to forget that we're part of more than a neighborhood, a city, or even a country. We're also part of the complex systems that sustain us, our planet Earth, and the universe around us. If you have, A Short HIstory of Nearly Everything may help you to recall the wonder and the fragility of it all....more info
    Summarizing such a vast topic in a simple and understandable way is no easy task. Yet Bill Bryson has done it very well. Listening to the audio book is enjoyable, explanations very clear, interesting and transitions from topic to topic are smooth and flowing. The listener learns about how the main theories in just about all the natural sciences developed, the related natural events, the controversies and about the lives and thinking methods of the scientists who developed them. The current state of scientific theories are also explained. It is a very good source for anyone who wants to have an overview of the history of development of the natural sciences....more info
  • Another great Bill Bryson book!
    I love to travel, and love Bryson's appropriate, often hilarious accounts of his travels to so many places my husband and I enjoy....more info
  • Can we trust this author
    I almost bought this book, but after reading the review from FrKurt Messick, (a 5 start positive review of this book), I was intrigued to also order "The Mother Tongue" by the same author, for my wife (a spanish teacher). However, when I read the reviews of "The Mother Tongue", I found numerous linguists stating that the author had made numerous, inexcusable factual mistakes and he stated controversial concepts as facts. To me, an author who does this in one book, should not be trusted to tell us true, factual information on "The History of Nearly Everything" (a much more challenging book)....more info
  • like drinking out of a fire hose
    Great book with broad coverage of history and science. not a quick read. You need to have your brain awake and engaged while reading. ...more info
  • Great Science And History Presented In An Entertaining Way
    Bill Bryson has created a wonderfully informative book, A Short History of Nearly Everything. In it, he presents a large amount of scientific findings and history in a very entertaining fashion. This book made me laugh out loud many times. This is a great book for anyone, but particularly people who enjoy science. This is one of the best science books I have ever read. Schools should replace science textbooks with this book. It is unlike many other science books, because it is so entertaining. Bryson does not simply ramble on in a boring fashion about a boring science topic. Instead, he presents the information in a way that makes you care about it, and entertains you at the same time. You will never regret reading A Short History of Nearly Everything.
    ...more info
  • Very Interesting and Entertaining
    This is an excellent book and is very entertaining to read. It starts by explaining the beginning of time (big bang), and then goes chronologically from there explaining pretty much every aspect of the history of the universe and the Earth.

    Of course to fit this all into 400 pages Bryson has to be very brief, as the title of the book implies. But despite being brief, he never leaves out anything important. The book discusses many different subjects, including astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, and especially the biology of life on Earth. It talks a lot about important people from history and how they have advanced science, and often includes amusing facts about these people. The book also talks about lesser-known, but very important, scientists from history; scientists who are often ignored because other scientists have stolen their credit for discoveries.

    A major theme in the book is emphasizing how little we humans actually know about the world and universe, which is totally true. After reading this book you'll be amazed by how many species of animals and plants we know absolutely nothing about and how many are estimated to be discovered in the future; you'll see that we really don't know all that much about the history of the Earth; and that we don't really know much about the rest of the universe. It's also quite interesting to note that Bryson has no formal scientific background. He just researched this stuff very thoroughly and then simplified it so that almost anyone can understand the material.

    Overall it's a very good book and it was very hard to put down....more info
  • Not really short, nor about everything, but worth the effort
    This book is quite different from Bryson's usual fare. Here Bryson steps out of his usual travel and language focus to write about science. The product is an interesting combination of the social history of science, biographies of famous scientists, and discussion of significant scientific discoveries in very accessible language. What science does Bryson cover, you might ask? This is where "everything" comes in to the picture. Bryson has chosen a wide range of scientific discoveries, from working out the theory of evolution to discovering the size and shape of the earth. Mostly, Bryson focuses on the largest and smallest things in the universe. He looks at galaxies and volcanoes, but also DNA and atoms. Truly, this book is expansive. For the lay reader, it becomes clear that there's a tremendous amount of knowledge tied up in this book, and it's amazing just how much Bryson had to learn to write it. For the non-scientist, this book manages to create a sense of awe, wonder, and fear, all at the same time. Bryson does an excellent job of highlighting just how surprising and contingent the fact of our existence is, and how complicated it was to get here. He creates amazement as the reader is forced to consider almost unfathomable dimensions, both gargantuan and tiny. Contingency is clearly the most significant theme that emerges from the work. Bryson also paints an interesting portrait of the practice of science, scientific culture, and a sense of just how difficult and tenuous some conclusions are. While it's amazing just how much scientists have discovered, it's even more daunting to consider how much remains inconclusive. Overall, this is an extremely accessible discussion of some difficult topics, infused with Bryson's humor and style. It's a long read, but well worth the effort. ...more info
  • Decent overview of the sciences
    This is a good overview of the fundamentals of science. It meanders through astronomy, chemistry, physics, biology, geology, and paleontology and is very well written. Through Bryson's style, you can tell that he enjoys the subject matter. The "History" part of the title refers to both history in the sense of the universe, but also the history of the bright individuals and their insights that have allowed us to know that history.

    What makes this book distinct is that Bryson was not too long ago in the reader's position (i.e. learning the basics of the sciences) and thereby rarely omits something pertinent to understanding, and his enthusiasm is still fresh and obvious; both of which are a welcomed change from classical science writing. Unfortunately, his lack of expertise leads to the occasional oversimplification, exaggeration, and falsehood- but understandably (and forgiveably) so.

    In the regrettable trade off between expertise and comprehensibility, this settles on the "comprehensible" side of the spectrum. If that's what you're looking for, you'll find it here....more info
  • A Must Read for Everyone
    I purchased "A Short History of Nearly Everything" because of the glowing report of two friends who had read the book. This is a delightfully put together account of "nearly everything". If you are looking to know more about lots of things, this is your book....more info
  • I could not believe this book.
    I could not believe this book.
    Trirobite is named for the three longitudinal lobes, a center axial lobe and flanking pleural lobes.
    But he says, "all shared a basic body plan of three parts, or lobes-head, tail, thorax-from which comes the name".(PG.323)
    That's the question of our junior high school admission exams, around 12 years old.
    Also there are too many lame notifications and lies that comfortable to the readers.
    He has the enthusiast to make money than to make credits.
    All his writings are not bat and I know the author is not the archetypal american but regrettable.

    ...more info
  • Fascinating!
    I purchased this book knowing full well that it was used. It came in the condition that was stated on Amazon.com. I would buy from this seller again.

    I am not finished with this book yet, but definitely recommend it to anyone with a thirst for more knowledge! Very very interesting, but a little hard to get through. There is so much scientific information in it, so you wouldn't read say, half of it, in one sitting. I do like Bill Bryson's style, and know many others who have enjoyed his novels. - I admit, there were a few words/terms I had to look up; but his writing style is easy enough. Much of his personality shows through - a good thing!...more info
    It's a tough call trying to squeeze earth's history into approximately 450 pages, but Bill Bryson has done it. With his trademark gentle humour and a focus on making even the most complex subjects (such as the nature dark matter and our evolution from chimp to Homo sapien) easy to grasp, Bryson has created a thoroughly readable and more importantly, enjoyable, book.
    I am no science whiz, and I will freely admit that there were certain topics that confused me or just didn't hold my attention (for example, I'm not particularly interested in the nature of clouds). Yet despite this, there was so much that I learnt from this book.
    This really is a fascinating read, so if you're interested in learning a little more about this amazing planet we call home, `A Short History of Nearly Everything' will keep you captivated for hours.

    Zara Stevens
    Boy Meets Girl: A Pocketful of Wedding Stories...more info
  • Well almost everything
    This book presented an account of history of science in 18th, 19th and 20th century. It made science interesting with stories of scientists and their rivalry. Hmmm almost like a soap opera.
    The book also brings out the complexity of life and tries to define the same through simplicity of atoms. It almost succeeded in explaining origin of life. Its a great book.
    Now, what got left out. It concentrated too much on western scientists of 18th to 20th century. It does not give any space to ancient scientists who built the foundation of western science. Well, that's why its "nearly" everything.
    The last word...go for it... its good....more info
  • Very Interesting and Informative
    Like I mentioned, this book is very interesting and informative. If you like to history and science this book is for you. I rated it a 4 because is not an easy read and so many facts after facts will sometimes out you to sleep. But if you are interested in the complete history of science and discovery then run out and get a copy NOW....more info
  • Bill Bryson is One of My Favorite Authors
    A Short History of Nearly Everything is a fabulous book. Somewhat different from his usual travel books but really worth reading. At times you might not understand some of the topics like particle physics but keep going--it gives you a comprehensive picture of the history of the earth and all its denizens. If it's by Bill Bryson, you can count on its ability to hold your interest and attention. I really liked this book even though it made me feel pretty insignificant in the cosmic scheme of things....more info
  • Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything
    Bill Bryson narrates a brief yet epic journey of everything from the nothingness of which the universe sprang, to the development of technologies that only a handful of people on our planet understand in one of his best-selling books, A Short History of Nearly Everything. From the top of the world's tallest mountains to the bottom of the deepest petrie dish, Bryson tells the tale of nearly every event that has shaped the universe and the people that unlocked those mysteries. By rejecting the standard stale textbook format, Bryson has assembled a collection of stories that weave together to tell the tale of how we, and everything else, came to be. This book is an easy and interesting read for those who have ever questioned the intricacies of our world, wanted answers, but was unwilling to sift through college textbooks for them. ...more info
  • Where were you when I needed you?
    I just wish that Bill had been my science teacher in Junior High. I was turned off by the boring old dude in suspenders and a pocket protector. He had bad breath and kept looking at the wall clock, clearly bored with himself as well. I love Bill's hilarious writing in his other books, "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" and "A Walk in the Woods.' This was quite a departure from his other books, but once you love an author, you take what you can get.

    Thank you Bill, I now know from whence I came!
    Dodie Cross, author of A Broad Abroad in Thailand

    ...more info
  • Simply Amazing!
    Let me start by saying that this was one of the most interesting and enjoyable books I have ever read!
    The author starts by explaining the beginning of the universe and he discusses it in a very intriguing and easy to understand way. The truly "astronomical" numbers are put into interesting analogies and you truly stand in awe at the information being presented. After this, the book diverts its attention to Earth, a topic which is just as fascinating as the first portion of the book. Bryson moves on to talk about early scientists and discoverers and how they determined the age of the Earth, the orbit of planets, and discovering various elements, among many other things. The next few chapters deal with some important scientists and their contributions as well as providing funny and sometimes strange stories about the scientists, some will make you laugh while others may even shock you. My favorite part of the book deals with the many chapters dealing with the origin of life on Earth and how modern living things came to be. Bryson details the theory of evolution in a clear and easily understood way.
    Bryson presents all the material in a very objective way, including some areas that are up for debate; he presents the facts and figures as he is given instead of trying to sway your view to one side of the argument.
    I can not praise this book enough, I think it will appeal to just about any audience. The book is mostly science oriented but is still largely open to those without any real background in the material being covered as Bryson explains things as if you have no prior knowledge of the subject at hand; despite the elementary approach to the topics, those with a firm background in science will no doubt learn many new and exciting things throughout the book.
    Highly recommended!...more info
  • Truly Awesome Book
    Just a short contribution to the already overwhelmingly positive review here on Amazon. I loved this book. It gave me a new appreciation for earthly and unearthly phenomena that I had not conceived of much less ever considered. The book moves quickly from topic to topic and never becomes too heavy or obtuse. I especially appreciated the final chapter's take on extinction, not a touchy feely perspective, but a realistic review of human knowledge regarding the topic (at one time, the concept of extinction was totally unknown as it contradicted prevailing religious doctrine). Completely fascinating....more info
  • Bryson always entertains while he teaches
    Love his books. Love his way of entertaining you while teaching you something new. Great read. ...more info
  • A tour through history
    Fabulous, well written book that covers a wide variety of little known or understood topics. Bryson meanders through some of the most interesting parts of our history with his special gifts of quirky insights and stylish prose. This is the book that will have you saying "Wow, I didn't know that. That's really interesting!"...more info