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152 of 153 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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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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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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Glorious Stroll through Scientific History, 5 July 2006
By 
Ben Phillips (Milton Keynes) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Whilst some of Bill Bryson's previous works (the "Notes" books in particluar) have fallen foul of whimsical and off-the-cuff eulogising, thankfully the manner of the dialogue in "A Short History of Nearly Everthing" is so captivating and free of personal opinion that very little crticism at all can be levelled at this wonderful book.

Perhaps its only downfall is that it is, of course, hardly a history of "nearly everything" as there isn't enough paper available in the world to print a book covering such a broad sweep. However, the subject material Bryson touches upon here is both accessible for the non-scientific reader and refreshing enough for those with an interest in a history of the Earth and the Universe in which it sits.

Commencing with an account of the Big Bang, Bryson guides us through the processes of creation, the evolution of life on earth, the impact of events both natural and man-made on the earth's environment and the discoveries we are still making in all areas of science. History is, of course, much more striking than fiction, and it is this alone that makes the text so unforgettable. Bryson remarks with clear and candid understatement that the frequent naievete of mankind and our capacity to underestimate contemporary thought has acted as a buffer against our natural development. Quite often it has been the environment which has suffered as a consequence, and sections where Bryson makes this point hark of similar parts of his "A Walk in the Woods".

Another positive concerning the book is that its structure makes it easily put down and picked up again. Chapters which only casually relate to each other make the themes of the book clearly de-marcated, and clearly would work as a school science reader as one cover critic sensibly states. Its a great book for dog-earing the page and returning for a re-read at a later date; sometimes the facts and statistics alone create such intermediate thought that the reader needs to return to the book for further deliberation.

If you are a fan of Bryson, I am not sure that this book should be read for that reason. It should be read as a matter of course by anyone who has the slightest interest in the course of natural history and just what an incredible universe we live in. "A Short History" should stand outside the canon of Bill Bryson's other work for all the right reasons and should be recognised as a versatile author's attempt at enlivening a genre which is often treated in a dreadfully bland and mundane manner by other less lively science books.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best science book of all time?, 3 Nov 2006
By 
C. Eastwood - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Absolutely amazing!!! Bill Bryson has managed to do what no other person in the history of this planet has done - explain to us how things came to be, how things were discovered and how things work without either losing us completely or boring us to death. He should be knighted on the basis of this alone.

I rarely read a book that when I get to the end I wish it would continue for another 1000 pages but I was very disappointed to finish this book today. I've been keen on science for a number of years since leaving school (now 26) and have read certain physics books like Brief History of Time. I always think there's an air of pompness reading these books though because although they teach you a lot, it doesn't take you long to forget most of it, therefore only really leaving you with bragging rights at dinner parties. What use is that? Bill Bryson has used his quirky writing style that has been honed over many years to present facts, figures and tales of the planet that we live on in a totally engrossing but amusing manner.

He gives you an endearing insight into the personalities behind the supremely intelligent beings that made the most important discoveries about this planet. And he also shapes the story line of the book from start to finish in a Darwin type way that explains how this planet has evolved. I have no doubt that this book should be used on a school curriculum.

This is an unforgettable book that I am sure I will read again many more times in the future.
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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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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best popular science books ever!!, 15 Sep 2004
By 
joc66 (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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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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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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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A+, 13 Nov 2003
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Bill Bryson is a travel writer par excellence. He's transported us to such widely separated locales as Britain, Australia, Africa, and the Appalachian Mountains. And his laid back, humorous style is always a pleasure to read.
In A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING, Bill expands his horizons to ... well, nearly everything, from the Universe to the atoms that make it up. In between, he chats about the potential for catastrophic volcanic eruptions and meteor strikes, Einstein's theories, cellular biology, the evolution of life on Earth and Man in particular, the Periodic Table of the Elements, glaciation, quantum mechanics, the currents and depths of the world's oceans, continental drift, subatomic particles, the Big Bang Theory, the Earth's layers and core, the development of Chemistry and Geology, the fossil record, the atmosphere, mass extinctions, DNA, and so much more.
In the Introduction, Bryson admits that he didn't know much about the planet he lives on. So, he spent three years researching and interviewing so he could tell us all about it. What has resulted is a thoroughly enjoyable work of popular science that provides food for thought and imagination. And the stuff that party trivia questions are made of. Did you know that perhaps 10% of a 6-year old pillow's weight is made up of "sloughed skin, living mites, dead mites, and mite dung"? Or that there are six feet of DNA squeezed into every cell of your body - about twenty million kilometers worth? Or that the Human Genome Project suggests that there are about 35,000 to 40,000 human genes - roughly the same number found in grass? Or that the element Francium is so rare that there may only be twenty atoms of it on the entire Earth at any one time? Or that Madame Curie's notebooks are still so radioactive that they're stored in a lead box?
What I find amazing is that the author managed to learn so much about a whole lot in so short a time. I mean, he includes thirty-eight pages of Notes and a ten-page Bibliography. I'm reminded of the high school term papers I struggled through, albeit less grandiose in scope and accomplishment.
Bill, you get an A+ on this one. Go to the head of the class.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If the world interests you, read this book!, 6 Aug 2004
By 
Emma (South Wales United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
As a physics undergraduate I was very interested in this book and it did not disappoint! I was a little worried that it would read too much like a 'story tale' but there are so many interesting facts on every page and Bryson superbly pieces together billions of years of science history. I particularly liked learning about the scientists' personal lives as this part of science often gets ignored (especially when you are being taught the equations and theories!). He raises many thought provoking questions about the world around us but I have to wonder whether some of it is his own opinion rather than fact, but as long as you don't treat it as a textbook, it's guaranteed to interest, and educate you!! All aspects of science are included and you certainly don't have to be a scientist to appreciate it as he simplifies the 'science' bits. He makes excellent analogies to help your understanding and the book is witty throughout. A 'must-read' for anyone who has ever wanted a question answered on a science subject!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to just about everything, 14 Mar 2007
This book contains a little bit of everything. It can be mind blowing in places and will undoubtably have you re-reading bits of it over again to make sure you "got it" the first time round.

A good book, a little hard to take in all at once, but worth reading.
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