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A Short History of Nearly Everything May 14, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books, Reviews.

Finding a good book about science can be challenging. It’s not that there is a dearth of quality material; indeed, in this regard there is probably no better time to be a science buff than the present, with any manner of resources ripe for the picking off bookstore shelves. Rather, the real problem lies in finding material that is accessible to the average reader. Scientists, after all, are neither necessarily gifted writers nor trained journalists, for which reason the Carl Sagans and Stephen Hawkings of this world are true gems.

And then Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything comes along, restoring our faith that there can be informative and entertaining science books that are not the least bit esoteric.

It’s not just the content that makes the book stand out, nor is it only Bryson’s trademark talent and wit. With regard to the former, readers can be assured that the volume is based upon the author’s research and consultation with noted experts in their respective fields. As for the latter, clearly Bryson is in his element, breathing new life to the concepts and controversies that have illuminated (if not occasionally beguiled) our understanding of how the universe works. Instead, where the book truly shines is in its approach of weaving together the great discoveries and debates of scientific inquiry into one coherent story.

This is why the book’s title is no exaggeration: A Short History of Nearly Everything is as much a science book as it is a history of scientific discovery. It is by no means an all-exhaustive one, to be sure, yet it surveys key contributions to geology, chemistry, physics, paleontology and a host of other disciplines in a manner that shows how they interrelate, thereby compelling readers to contemplate what implications these may have upon the human race.

In sum, Bill Bryson’s book is not just a science book done right, but a science book done well.



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