A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything

by Bill Bryson

Overview: One of the world’s most beloved writers and bestselling author of One Summer takes his ultimate journey—into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer. In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trail—well, most of it. In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to offer. Now, in his biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand—and, if possible, answer—the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world’s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.

Rona Simmons (02/03/16): From my top ten list of all time favorites. I began reading Bill Bryson here after receiving the book as a regift close to five years ago. I started and stopped a number of times, the topic so comprehensive and the research so deep, I needed a clear head and time to absorb. Nonetheless, with only a chapter or two finished I knew it would be a favorite. Finally I committed myself to finishing the tome. Of course, now I will have to go back time and again to refresh my memory (thankfully key passages are now heavily highlighted).

A key message:
“...we are awfully lucky to be here--and by “we” I mean every living thing. To attain any kind of life in this universe of ours appears to be quite an achievement. As humans we are doubly lucky, of course: We enjoy not only the privilege of existence but also the singular ability to appreciate it and even, in a multitude of ways, to make it better. It is a talent we have only barely begun to grasp.” And, as Bryson repeats often, about everything from the big bang to global warming: “The fact is, we don’t know.”
Rating: *****

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