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 - Troublesome Words - 1997
I can't think of any other author who fits this description better than Bill Bryson. The latest book I read is Troublesome Words. A great reference book for any questions you might have about the English language, even if it is your mother tongue.Read it, it's great!(thread first started 07.05.06)