A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is a popular science book that explains some areas of science, using easily understandable language. The book covers topics such as astronomy, the evolution of the atom, and the history of the Earth. It also looks at the history of human beings and how they have shaped the world.
The main themes of the book are existence, awe, and survival. Bryson argues that life on Earth is essentially a long shot, and that the slightest differences in cosmic, geological, and biological events throughout Earth’s history would have prevented life from being created at all. He also emphasizes the importance of expressing scientific ideas in engaging ways if they want their work to be impactful.
What I Liked
First, I love that this book exists. Entertaining science writing is so hard to come by. Even though the natural world has an infinite amount of beauty, amazing facts and histories, and fascinating ideas…it seems to be harder to write about than the arts & humanities.
Second, Bill Bryson is at the peak of his research game with this book. Only At Home rivals this book for sheer number of anecdotes, examples, and lively stories.
Third, the book does an excellent job providing context to read more about the natural world. I only had one good science class in high school (go Mr. Lumpkin’s Physics!) and, due to my major, I only got to take a few good science classes in college (go Weather & Climate 1101; Geology 1101; and Math 1060!) – so I’ve always felt a bit out of my comfort zone when reading & choosing science books. This book quickly gave me context to go out and explore more.
What I Did Not Like
Not a whole lot! It is a long book. It’s also a bit dense in parts, but overall it deserves the hype & awards that it has received.