Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Bill

A Short History Of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson

Recommended Posts

Just wondered if anyone else heard BookClub on Radio 4 this afternoon?

 

If you don't know the format of the show, the whole half hour program was given over to interviewing Bill Bryson about "A Short History.....", with questions from book club members who had read it, as well as James Naughtie.

 

It was interesting stuff - you can read more about it and listen to the whole program too, Just Here

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I contacted the person that was sending me the book and they haven't even sent it yet, they will do so this weekend and then it takes time to get here so I think I'm out of the loop for this month, sorry :( I am disappointed

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, you have to make allowances for other people, I suppose. Shame though, it would have been nice to see you in the discussions. I hope you'll come and give your 2 cents if and when the copy does arrive, our comments will still be here after all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been AWOL for a little bit internet-wise, and I have only just started reading this month's book! Apologies for not being a more diligent bookclub member.

 

What I have read so far has been interesting and a good read. I like the accessible style of Bill Bryson's writing. It is especially good for people like me who have some general knowledge about all these things but are a little hazy on the detail. I particularly like how in the parts on the universe he compares planets to pin-heads and other small objects to explain the scale of things. For someone as spatially challenged (is that the right way to put it?) as me this helped a lot.

 

I will check in again when I have got a little further.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm ready and waiting to discuss this book, but take it all in your own time. In the discussions of the other two books, we're starting new threads to discuss particular aspects of the books. That way you can see at a glance what is being discussed. I invite you to do the same when you get a bit further.

 

Looking forward to reading your views!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah I liked this book. I found it helpful the way he starts off at the beginning, with the start of the universe and travels through time from one event to the next and explains them. I suppose that was the most logical way to do it :P

 

I found one of the facts interesting. He says that the white noise and fuzz on the radio and tv when they are not on any channel is the noise and interference of the big bang reaching us? Is this true. I've heard people say similar things but i'm not entirely sure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Strongly recommended for those who feel outsiders in the field of science. I failed General Science centuries ago, but no science book before this had really grabbed me - and I've tried a few. Bryson is easy-going in difficult country. An excellent primer for the ignorant who want to be au fait with what these geneticists and astronomers are up to. Full of fascinating human stories, too, where we learn about the unheralded geniuses behind the big names. Nothing wrong with being a popular author when you're this good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am currently listening to this on Audio and I think it's brilliant. I like the way he has made all the scientist feel very 'celebratised' by giving them secret extra lives where you hear about their back-stabbing behaviour of stealing other peoples discoveries, or losing all their money, children and wife.

 

So far he has covered space, the beginning, the planets and all that that encompasses. We've done Physics, chemistry, geology, and now botany. I have learnt about things I never knew and things I'd forgotten. I know that the moon probably came from a meteroite, and that we are lucky to be around at all (could be deadly turtles ruling earth instead!)

 

But my most favoured part was the description of the most deadly substance on earth (I won't spoil it - but wow was it well worded!).

 

It might be long but it is brilliant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

 

This ebullient book about the history of science is at once informative and entertaining.  For the layman keen to know a little more about those who have contributed to modern science it is a revelation.  Here the adjective ‘superficial’ is a compliment.

 

Those who know Bryson will be familiar with his friendly, jokey approach to serious matters.  It begins with the title, where 600+ pages are deemed ‘short,’ and the author admits to only covering ‘nearly everything.’ In his exordium he welcomes the reader, a unique presence composed of ‘trillions of drifting atoms,’ that have somehow managed to assemble themselves in such ‘an intricate and curiously obliging manner.’

In a few brisk and breezy paragraphs Bryson deals with life on Earth.  Once again the reader is addressed as if he is a bright child learning the ABC of science. Facts and figures are buried in a narrative that tells of miracle upon miracle, how matter becomes man over eons: ‘Life on Earth, you see, is surprisingly tenuous….  The average species on Earth lasts for only about four million years.’ 

 

Moving swiftly into the reader finds that ‘at various periods over the last 3.8 billion years you have abhorred Evolution oxygen and then doted on it, grown fins and limbs and jaunty sails, laid eggs, flicked the air with a forked tongue, been sleek, been furry, lived underground, lived in trees, been as big as a deer and as small as a mouse, and a million things more.’  The matey exuberance becomes infectious - or slightly annoying.

But this is perhaps the best way to engage the common reader, who, like Bryson, is a sucker for a good story. For, after all, at base our author is a novelist.  What I especially relished about the book were the potted biographies not only of the famous but also the many forgotten contributors in the march of science.

Einstein, we learn, was ‘a bright but not outstanding student,’ at Zurich Polytechnic.  He fell in love with a fellow student, who bore him a child outside marriage, a child whom he never saw. Within five years of graduation he had done most of the work for his Theory of Relativity.  James Hutton, a neglected 18th century mineralogist whose A Theory of The Earth was you might say ‘ground-breaking,’ was it seems no stylist, for ‘nearly every line he wrote was an invitation to slumber.’ This is certainly not the case with BB.

 

It must be admitted Bryson’s own style can aggravate, slipping into easy cliché as when we are told that ‘carbon dioxide is no slouch as a greenhouse gas,’ and absurd litotes when we learn that meteoritic samples of lead are not easy to obtain being 4,550 years old.  (At least this time he didn’t say ‘only.’)  But that’s the man, the entertainer who opens up huge vistas of time and space, who impels us to wonder at the miracle of existence and whose research lies lightly under a veneer of chat and spicy gossip.

 

The best book about the history of science you are ever likely to read:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By Viccie
      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.
       
    • By jondah63
      looking for travel books in the bill bryson vein
    • By DJgib
      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.
    • By Bill
      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:
      <a href="http://www.thebookplace.co.uk/bookplace/display.asp?ISB=0552997048&CID=BGO733"TARGET="_blank"><IMG SRC="http://213.253.134.29/jackets/m/055/0552997048.jpg"></A>
    • By Momo
      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)
×
×
  • Create New...