This book is a compilation of essays from the Natural History magazine with some minor editing for continuity. It still reads like a compilation of essays with the common theme of the cosmos; it's not a book just about black holes or about our galaxy colliding with another galaxy and getting sucked into a black hole. Some of the material in the book is a little complex for a non-scientist. An amateur astronomer would probably find the entire book interesting. For the general public, only certain chapters would be fascinating. For example, the sun is white, not yellow. If it was yellow, then white stuff (like snow) would look yellow. After reading that, it seems obvious that the sun is white. Yet most people have this misconception. It is worth reading to know some of our mistaken ideas about the universe.
You have to love science to enjoy this book. It touches on a lot of subjects from the Big Bang, geology, biology, dinosaurs, Homo sapiens, ecology, to extinct animals... in a somewhat chronological order peppered with interesting factoids so the subjects aren't dry and dull. This is how students should be introduced to science -- stories of how one thing led to another. It doesn't cover any particular subject thoroughly (hence the title indicating a "short history"). It is an excellent introduction to the different sciences.