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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 July 2017
I assume most people like me, are used to learning about science by fixating on one topic at a time, and becoming immersed (and very often lost) in the technical jargon and intricacies. This book surprised me in the amount of effort Bryson took to go through book after book of different sciences, both old and new, (from physics, chemistry, geology and many more) and connect the dots into several cohesive stories about our home, planet Earth, and its residents.

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.

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on 2 June 2017
Quite simply this book is the single best book I have ever read. I have two well worn paperback copies and the kindle version. If you want your children to grow up with even a modicum of appreciation for our planet, then get this book and read it to them every night - again, and again, and again. In my view this book should replace the free bible on Desert Island Discs!
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on 11 August 2016
Absolutely fascinating book / Audio CD. We have listened to this many many times on various trips and each time it is a delight. So many interesting facts, all strung together in a great and entertaining way.

While it concentrates mostly on scientific things, it is not overpowering with science or maths, just enough to weave the story together. Many things in the book spark off the desire to find out more, so we often end up googling this or that from the book

The Audio-book is read by Bill Bryson himself and his voice is captivating and engaging.

We love this book and have it in Hardback as well as Audio-CD.

Highly recommended, one of our all-time favourites!
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on 27 March 2016
I have read this twice now. Once when I first got it, and now again several years later. The first time, I kept disturbing my wife saying "can you believe this ..." and went off telling her some anecdote from the book. The second time I kept my wife happier by posting endless "can you believe this ..." entries on facebook.

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.
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on 3 December 2017
I am a particle physicist and cosmologist by training. I really enjoyed how Bill Bryson, better than most scientists themselves, can put things into language that speaks to real people. I will be using this myself when preparing for public science education events, as I am doing just right this minute!
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on 2 June 2016
This book had me reaching into the deep recesses of my brain for things I learnt in high school, and was a great refresher on all things SCIENTIFIC. I stress that word as this book should really be called something like "a short history of the natural world and science". It's not about history in general or other things like the arts or culture. Obviously it had to focus on something, but the title is slightly misleading if you don't know about the book before. Bryson uses very interesting and helpful analogies to put things into perspective, and there are fun little stories about scientists and their experiments. A friend said this book was a struggle to get through, but I learnt something new from every page here and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sometimes there is too much focus given to one particular area and not to another, but obviously that goes without saying when there is only one author. It's not all completely elementary, and you might find yourself reaching for wikipedia or google for more basic information about certain topics in order to understand complex ideas put forth by Bryson. Overall, it's really a book that will have you marvelling at your own existence and the world around you, a must read for anyone with an interest in science!
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on 3 May 2017
My favorite book - in any edition - hard or soft cover. This one has the benefit of some photographs and diagrams which only adds to the enjoyment of the subject matter being discussed. I, for one, love it and cannot get enough. Always the first book in my travel bag.
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on 28 November 2017
This book was showered with praise and awards for attempting the insane task of covering most of science and the history thereof and making it page-turningly good. Knowing exactly how much digression will enliven a subject and knowing when enough is enough is a fiendishly rare and honed talent . By the end of the book I hated Richard Owen even more than I did as a Darwin fan. This book won't be bettered until the next tranche of science has to be written in , only by someone this good . Don't wait for that read this.
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on 13 June 2017
Enjoyed this, I like his style of writing - humorous and factual. Nice short sections and there's a good flow between topics.
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on 1 May 2013
Bill Bryson books are almost always excellent and this is no exception.

This gives an overview of the sciences from their origins to their current state (or at least the state they were at when the book was published). There are many books of a similar vein on the market but Bill Bryson brings a unique accessibility that come from, in my opinion, the way he brings the human element into the subject. The chapters are mostly categorised by science - geology, astrophysics, chemistry, biology, palaeontology etc. However the sciences, rather inevitably overlap from time to time within the chapters and follow the flow from chapter to chapter rather than dividing them up into unrelated topics.

Most science books will quote the discoverer of a particular law or the postulator of a particular theory but treat them largely as objects or almost a sidebar to the theory itself. Bryson treats the people behind the science as people, with flaws, traits, ambitions, feuds, and rivalries that went to shape the way science in general developed. By leading the reader through the science in the book by introducing the personalities that shaped it the subject remains accessible even through some of the less intuitive areas and because Bryson is not a scientist there is constantly a feeling of all being a little bit lost in it together.

A Short History is frequently amusing, almost always witty, and from time to time laugh out loud hilarious. Reading this book on the train will, I can assure you, cause a few looks to be directed your way if, like me you are an indiscreet chuckler, sniggerer, and prone to the occasional guffaw.

To write an in-depth review of this book would require far more time than I am prepared to commit. All I will say is that I am on my 4th reading. I have read it 3 times in hardback and now shifted to Kindle, which is very useful as it is a pretty hefty tome, so that says something about the book as a source of entertainment as well as a source of information.

I highly recommend picking up a copy whether it is as a straight read-through or as a pick up, put down book to dip and out of. It works very well as either.
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