This is subtitled 'The summer when America changed the world' which is perhaps stretching it a bit (but nothing like so much as James Fox's recent series on BBC4 about years in cities that changed the world) but there's no doubt that it was a momentous summer in America. To start with Lindburg flew across the Atlantic and a decision was made that would lead inexorably to the Wall Street crash. Less world shattering (if you weren't American) Babe Ruth set a record and Jack Dempsey had his last and most famous fight.
And there's lots more. Prohibition (some really startling facts there), the development of television, the proliferation of radio, Al Capone, Mount Rushmore, the Klu Klux Clan, possibly America's laziest and most laid back president.... As usual Bryson gathers together a whole lot of disparate strands and weaves them together - the constant strands running through the book are Lindburg's flight and the unwanted fame that came after and Babe Ruth's astonishing year - and manages to tell you a whole lot in a light, informative way. There is a lot about baseball which might put some people off, but as a resolute non-sports fan I still enjoyed those parts. It isn't as laugh-out loud funny as some of his other books though there's quite enough of his asides and comments to keep a smile on your face.
For reading all those biographies of scientists and picking out the interesting bits. Scientifically, this book is not telling me anything new, but I know very little about the people who did all the work and also, I've discovered, little about what was discovered when. So I'm pleased that I have a book to tell me all that. I'm astounded to discover in how many cases the wrong person has got the credit for a big breakthrough.
Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can’t contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything 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. The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space, revealing the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.
RRP: £8.99, <a href ="http://www.thebookplace.com/bookplace/spring2005.asp?CID=BGO733" TARGET="_blank">The Book Pl@ce</a> Price: £6.29
Just click on book jacket:
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Bill Bryson - Down Under (UK) - In a Sunburned Country (US) - 2000
cummycummins 8th July 2006 09:51 PM
I am currently reading this book. I am only finished two chapters. So far I think it is great. It is all that I expected it to be. Brysons trademark humour is ever present and I love it. What did all of you think of this book. Is it his best or worst book or neither. Share your thought's hear. Please use spoler tags if you think that you will reveal something that happens later on in this book.
Momo 15th July 2006 08:08 PM
I love Bill Bryson, so I loved this one. My favourite of all is "Notes from a Small Island" though I don't share that feeling with most Brits. I lived on the gorgeous British Isle as a foreigner, same as Bill Bryson and loved this country and its inhabitants, same as Bill Bryson. Therefore, I probably thought it was the best. I have never been to Australia but having read his book I feel I almost have.
pollyblue 19th September 2006 11:37 PM
I adore Bill Bryson. He has the sharpest wit. I think Ive read almost all his books but it was a long time ago so I dont remember the titles. I love the one where he moves back to the US after years of living in england, maybe notes from a big country, also, his tale of trekking the apalachian trail which had me in stiches. Any recommendations gratefully received.
Momo 21st September 2006 01:21 PM
Have you tried his language books? They are not as funny compared to his travel books but just as brilliant?