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A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bryson) Paperback – 28 Jul 2016
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"Mr Bryson has a natural gift for clear and vivid expression. I doubt that a better book for the layman about the findings of modern science has been written" (Sunday Telegraph)
"A fascinating idea, and I can't think of many writers, other than Bryson, who would do it this well. It's the sort of book I would have devoured as a teenager. It might well turn unsuspecting young readers into scientists. And the famous, slightly cynical humour is always there" (Evening Standard)
"A genuinely useful and readable book. There is a phenomenal amount of fascinating information packed between its covers ... A thoroughly enjoyable, as well as educational, experience. Nobody who reads it will ever look at the world around them in the same way again" (Daily Express)
"Of course, there are people much better qualified than Bill Bryson to attempt a project of this magnitude. None of them, however, can write fluent Brysonese, which, as pretty much the entire Western reading public now knows, is an appealing mixture of self-deprecation, wryness and punnery" (Spectator)
"The very book I have been looking for most of my life... Bryson wears his knowledge with aplomb and a lot of very good jokes" (Daily Mail)
About the Author
Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. Settled in England for many years, he moved to America with his wife and four children for a few years, but has since returned to live in the UK. His bestselling travel books include The Road to Little Dribbling, The Lost Continent, Notes From a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods and Down Under. In a national poll, Notes from a Small Island was voted the book that best represents Britain. His acclaimed work of popular science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Aventis Prize and the Descartes Prize, and was the biggest selling non-fiction book of its decade in the UK. His new book The Body: A Guide for Occupants is an extraordinary exploration of the human body which will have you marvelling at the form you occupy.
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The book's title is very apt.The breadth of history covered by this book is massive (as well as weighty!) – from the first fraction of a second of the Universe’s existence to the recent discoveries of the 20th century. Obviously there are certain gaps (hence the "nearly"), but Bryson readily points out what he does not know. It is an honest history of the scientific accomplishments since the earth's inception. It is a must read for every human, as it hands you a feeling of bursting pride - being a participant in humanity's great journey. Although the most surprising feature is the balance between the roles played by chance in many of these discoveries, and the unyielding human determination to identify a grey area, and seek knowledge accordingly.
The book’s strength lies in its ability to convey the wonder (and complexity) of science to the average layman - mainly because Bryson, himself, has no scientific background and only recently familiarised himself with these wonders. More than just a condensed text of salient, factual information - Bryson brings this to life whilst describing the surrounding imperfect scientific process (why the information was sought after, how scientists honed their approaches from producing wildly incorrect estimations to the precisely calculated figures we use today, and why information or possibilities lie outside our grasp), as well as amusing anecdotes.
The other strength of this book is that by approaching it from the POV of a non-scientist, Bryson nourishes our wonderment and understanding to grow as information fluidly disguised in Bryson’s energetic, quirky, familiar and humorous prose seep out each chapter, letting us journey alongside some of the most prominent (and some of the less prominent but equally brilliant) scientists in their obsessive pursuits. In fact, I found information that I loosely remembered from my schooldays and now find that the little bit of context and intrigue that Bryson adorns them with has left them impressed in my mind forever.
This book gives science a human face, and a humorous one at that. You will not come out of this being a great scientist, but you will certainly have gained a great overview of a good many scientific topics, and via an enjoyable route rather than an overly stuffy textbook. Like me, you will also likely feel the constant urge to share some newly read gem along the way.
Surprisingly, a lot of the discoveries we now take for granted were very controversial at their time. Some were so far ahead of their time that nobody cared much and the facts were re-discovered a century later.
For me, the book was a great way to appreciate the existence of the universe, the earth and life. It was also very inspiring to see that over the centuries, there were always a few people with focus and dedication. Some spent decades on a problem until they finally made a breakthrough. We owe a lot to these people.
Also recommend the book if you have a kid in high-school, around the age of maybe 15. The book might make school more interesting.