As the subtitle suggests, the Canon sets out to explain the basics of science, and show the beauty of how we use the scientific method to figure out how the world works. Using plenty of real-life (often wacky)examples, Natalie Angier neatly explains most, if not all, of the concepts she covers. Where she really excels, however, is at making connections between them, which is exactly where high school science often falls short. She doesn't go into much detail about any one topic, but that's not the point of the book, so I wasn't at all disappointed.
Angier is American, and some reviewers have complained that her humour and examples come mostly from her home continent. That's true, but I don't think it spoils the book in any way, and I didn't find her jokes hard to grasp- for example her quip about how you feel like more than 60 per cent of your body is water when you're bursting for a pee is about as universally human as these things come. If you're not a fan of puns, then beware- but I never felt that Angier's wordplay detracted from the scientific content she was describing. Over and over again she shows her ability to use real-life, down-to-earth examples, bring universal concepts into the realm of the average human's experience, and to bring some of the beauty of poetry into the scientific literature.
I read this book because I want to be a secondary science teacher, and I found Angier's examples were an excellent source of ideas for use in the classroom. I didn't learn a lot of new science, but I did learn some new ways to explain familiar concepts, and ways to hook the interest of people who may have been turned off the very idea of science. With the fact and test-based nature of school curricula, it's a tough job indeed to get across the sense of excitement that scientific discovery brings. Angier manages this, and for that this book is to be applauded.