A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson


If only all science books were as entertaining as Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bryson explains the major scientific theories known to man with masterful storytelling skills. Weaving in richly researched details on the lives and characteristics of the foremost historical scientific figures, Bryson discourses on everything from the big bang theory and quantum physics, to paleontology and plate tectonics. As he put it, the book is about “…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.” Not just detailing what we know, Bryson describes how we learned what we now know.

As an undergraduate Earth Sciences major 20 some odd years ago I remember one of my geology professors describing how the theory of plate tectonics had at that time recently turned the entire Geology field upside down, and how as a theory it had been utterly reviled for years, until the evidence was so overwhelming it had to be accepted and embraced. According to Bryson, this violent resistance to breakthrough ideas appears to be a pattern often repeated.

I have a few things to say about the audiobook. I listened to the abridged version from Audible.com which was narrated by Bryson himself. He has a lovely voice. So lovely and calming in fact that I nearly fell asleep several times while driving and listening to the book. The content of the book is extremely interesting, so much so that I kept on pulling my hair to feel some pain so that I could stay awake to listen to it. I’m serious. This is a great book. There must be something in his voice; I bet if it were analyzed it would be found to trigger the alpha and beta brain waves conducive to sleep. My mother was listening to it as well and I had to wake her up several times. We finally had to take breaks from listening. They cut a lot out to make the abridged version 5 hours down from I think 17? I’m planning to buy the book to see what I’ve missed.