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162 of 163 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I have ever read!!
I have never felt so compelled to write a review before; this book is a true masterpiece. Bill brings science to the masses in an entertaining and easy to understand manner. If you've ever wondered for example, what the theory of relativity actually means, get this book. I read it in a week, now I am going to read it again, and probably again after that! The size of the...
Published on 30 Nov. 2004 by Gary Turner

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85 of 91 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your money on the illustrated edition.
I had bought and read the original book when it came out first, and thought it was brilliant. When I saw that there was an illustrated edition i put it on my wish list for Christmas. When I got it I was so disappointed. I was hoping that the illustration would enhance the book but photographs of the scientists he is talking about, covers of science fiction magazines and a...
Published on 26 Jan. 2006 by Patrick Gill


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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best non-fiction book I've ever read, 16 July 2003
I bought 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' because I read an interview with Bill Bryson where he describes it as a book for anyone who is interested in science and how things work but never enjoyed it as an academic subject. As this descibes me too a T I purchased a copy hoping that it would provide me with an idiot's guide to the world.
The book does way more than that. In five hundered pages roughly evenly divided between what can be grouped as physics, chemistry, biology and geo/eco sciences he exaplins the bare bones of what you need to know to understand human life and the galaxy we live in. And boy does he describe it well. By providing us with amusing pen portraits of the key figures (and there are some very odd fish indeed) and taking the protracted route to his point in order to fit in a few good anacdotes he accompanies the science with fascinating and funny information.
As for the science itself, it's blissfully acessible. In fact, at times I found myself wishing he'd go into slightly more depth because I recognised that he'd left out things I'd covered in science GCSEs. On other occasions however, especially in the realm of quantum physics and subatomic physics (what else?), I did have to concentrate very hard to get it. Accounting for individual differences I'd say that most people could understand the science without too many problems.
His gift with language is wonderfully apparent throughout the book. Not only is it well structured, craftily so in fact, but the prose is snappy, the pace comfortable and his paragraphing perfect. Bryson seems to have borne in mind as he wrote that his target audience won't have had much patience for science books in the past and thus it doesn't read like a text book at all but as an amusing and well written meander theough the personalities and discoveries of the scientific past. He even manages to make some of the really big (or really small) numbers comprehensible!
I recommend 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' very highly, even though it isn't a history of nearly everything. This is a good thing as it means that there's lots more for him to write similar books about. Roll on the sequel!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply mesmerising., 19 Jan. 2005
This is by far the best book on the history of natural science I've ever read.
Bryson's presentation of the potentially esoteric and incomprehensible subjects is full of clarity and enthusiasm. For example, he presents statistics not as mere numbers but explains just how astronomical and incomprehensive their scales are to our ordinary human mind. What is also nice about this book is that he describes the personalities, obsessions and eccentricities of those who made important scientific contributions. The political drama of scientific discovery and recognition is thrillingly narrated, and Bryson should be congratulated for his sympathetic recognition of those who made the first discoveries but were ignored by the world simply because their ideas were too radical for the age, only to be `discovered' by someone else later.
In this day and age when university science departments are forced to close down because of poor funding and decreasing student numbers, which in turn is due to fewer people taking up subjects like physics at school, a book which not only affords you a good basic understanding of science but also makes you excited about it is a true gem. Every school library should have a copy of this book. Every household should have one. And if you are one of those people who never excelled at science at school and have lost interest since then, this is the book for you, as it was for me.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best bed time story book ive ever read!, 20 Feb. 2004
I bought this book initially as something for me to read at night before going to bed - something easy. Turns out, I was right. It is the MOST easy and informative reading ive ever done in my life. Suffice to say, I was hooked on it (yes, ive read it more than 5 times and need to look for a different book now, its sad). Its one of the most fluent books written on the subjects brought up. Its goes all the way from those mini superstrings to Darwinism etc etc, trying to explain in lay man`s term, the universe itself in general and more specifically, of our earth, from a scientific perspective. This guy weaves explanatory science with twists of details of the scientists/explorers who did the work (or not) - the kind of stories you could hardly dig up from ordinary science book and lecturers alike. You end up feeling knowing a lot more about the universe, and at the same time, feel that you still are empty and crave for more. Its truly marvellous - I just hope somebody else is going to produce something this good sometime soon - Its hard to sleep now!
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best popular science books ever!!, 15 Sept. 2004
By 
EllyBlue (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I am a big fan of popular science books and have read quite a few. This one rates as one of the best ever. The writing style is enthusiastic and Bryson can certainly tell a good story. In some places, it is clear that he is also an excellent travel writer. The chapter on the Yellowstone National Park is a case in point and gives a real sense of place.
Bryson is able to explain complex scientific ideas clearly and without too many numbers which can be a bit off putting. I also like the fact that this book really does cover "nearly everything" from astro-physics, to micro-biology with some areas of science that don't seem to be too well-visited by the casual reader. There is a lot of interesting stuff about scientists as well as the science, and this helps you to appreciate a little bit about what it's like to work at the cutting edge of scientific discovery.
This book is a real page turner, and I was completely gripped from start to finish. If you already like reading popular science and you haven't bought this yet, then you really should. If you haven't so far read any popular science books, but you'd like to be a bit better informed about the current state of understanding, then you could do far worse than buy this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 1 Dec. 2006
By 
M. Godenho "mg" (uk) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I never studied history at school and was hesitant to buy this.

I've read half of one of his travel books and thought it was pretty average. (Maybe I'll go back and try them again one day).

Anyway I quite like scientific books and books about the universe and this book is excellent. It's different from lots of other scientific books since it's written in a very conversational style.

This means if you have no background in maths or physics you will still enjoy the stories and have an appreciation for this place we live in.(Earth, milky way, universe etc)

There are also some nice straight forward analogies that helps you understand the concepts. Finally there's a book that's written with the reader in mind! Not all of us are physics professors!

All in all if you want to know about the history of the world and the universe then buy this book. I can't put it down. I reckon it would be a good "dad" book if you know what i mean.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. The Title Really Says It !!, 2 Aug. 2006
By 
Leigh_at_CH9 (Cheshire England) - See all my reviews
.

So much fact & interesting stuff is packed into these pages without ever taxing the reader that you just can't put this book down.

How does Bryson cover so much of this stuff so quickly and keep every single page interesting and understandable? This was my 1st "layman's" science book some years ago and led me to my current interest in cosmology, although it could just as easily lead to an interest in history, geology, biology, Palaeontology or chemistry to name a few of the subjects covered. Unsure what type of lay science book to read? Read this one and decide from there...
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World history like you've never read before, 6 Oct. 2003
By A Customer
A fan of Bill Bryson's travel books, I couldn't wait to see what he would make of the history of the world. The book is very entertaining, insightful and jam-packed with interesting and obscure anecdotes and the usual funny throwaway lines Bryson is so good at. There's nothing new to what he is saying - most of us slept through boring history and science lessons in high school that told us much the same - but Bryson's writing style and modesty is a breath of fresh air. If you're into learning how the earth and everything that goes with it came into being and evolved, forget the so-called "easy to read" books written by scientific geniuses and read this...it is TRULY easy reading, teaches you a lot and gives you a few laughs in the process.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT A BOOK, 23 Nov. 2006
By 
Matt Verboom (Alton, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Short History of Nearly Everything - Illustrated (Hardcover)
This book was recommended by a number of people over the last couple of years and i finally bought a while back back where it stayed in the cupboard for another few months. When i did start reading it i was annoyed at myself for not getting it sooner........

This is a MUST HAVE for anyone who has any interest in the origins of science and how things were discovered over the last few centuries. It is amazing what some scientists were willing to do to prove their research was right or taking credit for other peoples work and claim it as their own. The last chapter really slammed the nail home about the way things are these days and how in a very short time we are ruining something that has taking billions of years to evolve. They should make this book compulsory reading at school.

I personally think the illustrated version is worth it especially if you can get it second hand from the new & used section at a nice price.
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97 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bryson does it again, 11 Jun. 2003
It takes an author of real talent to summarise the history of life, the universe and everything in a manner that is palatable to non-scientists, and Bryson manages it brilliantly. He explains seemingly dry, complicated scientific ideas in a way that is easy to understand, and that fills the reader with a real sense of awe: The universe is *how* big? A proton is *how* small? And the big bang happened *how* quickly?
True to form, Bryson puts the development of scientific ideas in their historical context and provides a fair smattering amusing anecdotal tales - my personal favourite being the description of Cavendish's overwhelming shyness.
An easy to read, thoroughly absorbing book. I can't recommend it enough.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsive reading, 9 April 2008
By 
Jon Chambers (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
I used to know a Deputy Head whose only memorable assembly was full of amazing facts about the universe. (Hi, Mr Green. Hope you're well.) Luckily, we got to hear this assembly roughly once a year and, even more astonishing than the amazing facts, each time was as riveting as the last. Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything has the same kind of effect but magnified by about ten. It's compulsive.

As a great communicator, Bryson makes science accessible and entertaining, and he never misses a chance to bring the human factor into play. Like the oddball geologist, Reverend William Buckland, who attempted to eat his way through the world's fauna. (Apparently, everything but the common garden mole has some gastonomic merit.) Or the Strathclyde University caretaker, James Croll, who spent more time in the library studying physics, mechanics, astronomy and hydrostatics than caretaking, eventually publishing a paper on the effects of the Earth's motion on climatic change, and becoming a member of the Royal Society as a consequence.

Bryson being Bryson, there's no want of wit. Space is 'spacious'. Humphry Davy, discoverer of a string of elements, was 'serially astute'. One liners abound: 'Geologists are never at a loss for paperweights.' 'Zinc - bless it - oxidises alcohol.' Quoting from a New York Times 'simplified' guide to the mind-bogglingly complicated world of sub-atomic physics, he writes: 'No arguing with that. No understanding it either.' What's more, the book is occasionally hilarious when simply relating the history of science: The NYT (again), for its 1919 interview with Albert Einstein, sent its stupefied golf correspondent!

This often awe-inspiring book, touching on profound mysteries of the universe, leaves you with the realisation that key branches of science, especially quantum physics and molecular biology, are getting impossibly complex. Even more mundane things like ice ages and human descent are currently well beyond us, and the idea that we will eventually understand all there is to know about everything looks wildly optimistic. Nevertheless, this is a great story told with relish. Quite simply, Bryson's 'science book' is wonderful, lucid, informative and life-enhancing stuff that's sometimes gripping and sometimes funny. One reading will not be enough.
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A Short History of Nearly Everything - Illustrated
A Short History of Nearly Everything - Illustrated by Bill Bryson (Hardcover - 1 Nov. 2005)
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