Science with a smile.
… the more I read of A Short History of Nearly Everything, the more I was convinced that Bryson had achieved exactly what he'd set out to do, and, moreover, that he'd done it in stylish, efficient, colloquial and stunningly accurate prose. We learn what the material world is like from the smallest quark to the largest galaxy and at all the levels in between. The basic facts of physics, chemistry, biology, botany, climatology, geology -- all these and many more are presented with exceptional clarity and skill. — Ed Regis
As the title suggests, bestselling author Bryson (In a Sunburned Country) sets out to put his irrepressible stamp on all things under the sun. As he states at the outset, this is a book about life, the universe and everything, from the Big Bang to the ascendancy of Homo sapiens. "This is a book about how it happened," the author writes. "In particular how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us, and also what happened in between and since." What follows is a brick of a volume summarizing moments both great and curious in the history of science, covering already well-trod territory in the fields of cosmology, astronomy, paleontology, geology, chemistry, physics and so on. Bryson relies on some of the best material in the history of science to have come out in recent years. This is great for Bryson fans, who can encounter this material in its barest essence with the bonus of having it served up in Bryson's distinctive voice. But readers in the field will already have studied this information more in-depth in the originals and may find themselves questioning the point of a breakneck tour of the sciences that contributes nothing novel. Nevertheless, to read Bryson is to travel with a memoirist gifted with wry observation and keen insight that shed new light on things we mistake for commonplace. To accompany the author as he travels with the likes of Charles Darwin on the Beagle, Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton is a trip worth taking for most readers. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
While this book doesn't cover "nearly everything," it does a fantastic job of tackling certain topics: biology, earth science, chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Writing with wit and charm, Bryson, who has hiked the Appalachian Trail (A Walk in the Woods) and traveled around Australia (In a Sunburned Country), now takes us on a scientific odyssey from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization. Reflecting his gift for making science comprehensible yet fun, he tells the story of the discoveries and the people that have shaped our understanding of the universe. Along the way, we meet some fascinating and eccentric scientists. Although Bryson clearly intends this book for general readers, subject specialists will also enjoy his wry takes. The 30 chapters are divided among seven scientific topics, and this reviewer found himself reading chapters out of order, selecting topics of particular interest. There are useful footnotes, as well as chapter notes and a bibliography. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. (Index not seen.) [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-James Olson, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib, Chicago Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5–9—An illustrated adaptation/abridgment of Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, (Broadway, 2003), this treatment addresses the same set of sprawling questions as the original. Among them: How and when was the universe born and how vast might it now be? How old is the Earth and how much does it weigh? Why did the dawn of life happen to emerge here, of all places, and how could lowly microbes possibly be the primitive precursors of a species as complex as Homo sapiens? These are weighty questions for readers of any age to grapple with, but Bryson lightens the load by skillfully scaffolding the concepts he presents. Each topic is concisely addressed in the author's breezy Brit voice, explaining exactly what we know and how we came to know it. Photographs, cartoon sidebars, humorous anecdotes, and frequent recaps entertain and reinforce understanding along the journey. Ultimately, all of the ideas come together to give readers a wide-angle perspective on what a wildly improbable privilege it is to be a member of a species that the author says is "perhaps, the universe's supreme achievement." Bryson wraps up by suggesting that since we seem to be both "the best there is" and the only species capable of deciding our planet's future, we humans should redouble our efforts at being good stewards of the Earth. A highly recommended piece of popular science that succeeds largely because—as he nears age 60—there's clearly still a curious kid living in Bryson's head.—Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
In this abridged and illustrated version of his Short History of Nearly Everything (2003), Bryson invites a younger crowd of seekers on a tour of time, space and science-from the Big Bang and the birth of the solar system to the growth and study of life on Earth. The single-topic spreads are adorned with cartoon portraits of scientists, explorers and (frequently) the author himself, which go with small nature photos and the occasional chart or cutaway view. Though occasionally subject to sweeping and dubious statements-"There's no chance we could ever make a journey through the solar system"-Bryson makes a genial guide ("for you to be here now, trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to come together in a complicated and obliging manner to create you"), and readers with even a flicker of curiosity in their souls about Big Ideas will come away sharing his wonder at living in such a "fickle and eventful universe." (index) (Nonfiction. 11-13)
“Stylish [and] stunningly accurate prose. We learn what the material world is like from the smallest quark to the largest galaxy and at all the levels in between . . . brims with strange and amazing facts . . . destined to become a modern classic of science writing.”
—The New York Times
“Bryson has made a career writing hilarious travelogues, and in many ways his latest is more of the same, except that this time Bryson hikes through the world of science.”
“Bryson is surprisingly precise, brilliantly eccentric and nicely eloquent . . . a gifted storyteller has dared to retell the world’s biggest story.”
“Hefty, highly researched and eminently readable.”
—Simon Winchester, The Globe and Mail
“All non-scientists (and probably many specialized scientists, too) can learn a great deal from his lucid and amiable explanations.”
"Bryson is a terrific stylist. You can’t help but enjoy his writing, for its cheer and buoyancy, and for the frequent demonstration of his peculiar, engaging turn of mind.”
“Wonderfully readable. It is, in the best sense, learned.”
—Winnipeg Free Press