Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely in his own study at home he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him. A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERTHING is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization - how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us.Bill Bryson's challenge is to take subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and see if there isn't some way to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science. It's not so much about what we know, as how we know what we know. How do we know what is in the centre of the earth, or what a black hole is, or where the continents were 600 million years ago? How did anyone ever figure these things out?On his travels through time and space he encounters a splendid collection of astonishingly eccentric, competitive, obsessive and foolish scientists, such as the painfully shy Henry Cavendish, who worked out important conundrums including how much the earth weighed, but failed to report many of his findings. In the company of such extraordinary people, Bill Bryson takes us with him on the ultimate eye- opening journey, and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.
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The deepest mysteries of the universe told in an entertaining way by a gifted writer. I listened to this on a long road trip. Loved it.
If you only know Bill Bryson as the author of amusing but essentially lightweight travelogues, prepare to be amazed. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his Sisyphean quest to understand everything that has ever happened, from the Big Bang via creation and evolution to the rise of human civilization. Bryson takes the kind of mind-boggling subjects that bore the pants off the average reader - geology, chemistry, particle physics, DNA - and miraculously renders them not only comprehensible but engaging, even (God forbid) fun. That he does so without ever seeming trite or simplistic says a great deal for Bryson's skill as a writer, and reveals hitherto unimagined depths of seriousness (remember, this is the man who single-handedly invented literary travel-lite). Of course, A Short History is still a travel book, of sorts. It merely replaces the coastal paths of Britain, the Appalachian Trial and the Australian Outback with the vast, awe-inspiring landscapes of time and space. It's not surprising, then, that Bryson took three years 'finding saintly, patient experts prepared to answer a lot of outstandingly dumb questions'. As with his other books, Bryson presents a splendid parade of characters, dead and alive, by turns obsessive, competitive, foolish and plain eccentric (like the painfully shy Henry Cavendish, who worked out how much the earth weighed but didn't bother to tell anyone). No doubt some spoilsports and naysayers will query whether there is really anything new in here - to which Bryson has the perfect answer. As the physicist Leo Szilard remarked, apropos his unpublished diary, 'I am going to record the facts for the information of God.... He knows the facts, but He doesn't know this version of the facts.' You would be well advised to familiarise yourself with Bryson's version of events. (Kirkus UK)
Format: Audio CD
Published: December 2003
Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers UK
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 14.5 x 12.6 x 2.7
Weight (kg): 0.2
Edition Number: 1
Edition Type: Abridged