Don’t let the 3 star rating mislead you. This was an awesome book and I’m certain others will think more highly of it. It is a great introduction for those not into the biography of the universe and the history of science. However, if you watch the Science Channel, History Channel, PBS, etc., then you’ll already know much of what’s covered. It is the true "Once upon a time. . ." story.
As someone with an interest in all things science, I was still impressed with the witty style of the writing and use of analogies to drive home various points. It’s a very entertaining listen and the narrator does an excellent job in reading it.
The most salient point of the book for me was the human paradox of how we are changing the world through our presence but at the same how precarious our existence on it is. A favorite quote from the book for me is, “All life is one, is one of the most profound true statements there is.”
Think about this, for you to get where you are today, all of your ancestors had to survive long enough to find someone willing to pair up with. Not an easy task surviving disease, war, or just being eaten. One break in the chain, one moment sooner or later in the conception process anywhere along the line and you don’t exist. It’s a miracle you’re here. And yet you are despite the odds against it. Just when you think you were meant to be here, you have to remember we could all be wiped out by a meteor strike at any moment.
Humans have been apart of only 0.0001% of Earth’s history and yet we have been chosen. As the author states, “We are the least there is. We may be all there is. We are the living universe’s supreme achievement and its worst nightmare simultaneously.”
One last quote to end with comes from Edward O. Wilson in his book, The Diversity of Live, “One planet, one experiment."
I've listened to this over and over. I don't think I've ever said "Wow!" or laughed out loud so much when driving by myself. Although he deals with profound and far reaching subjects, from the Big Bang to geology to DNA, he does it in a way that is affable, and very understandable. Bryson is a first-rate writer, and his light English accent has a way of making his understated humor even more entertaining. Listening to this book, I felt, I still feel, profoundly aware of how wonderful it is that there is life at all in the universe, and how absurd we are when we fail to cherish and protect it at all cost. Bravo, Bill! P.S. Also loved "A Walk in the Woods."
Not often do I listen to an entire audio book twice, but this is one that I will probably listen to again and again.
That said, I am a bit of a science geek.
Strongly recommended. You'll love it.
If you've listened to Bill Bryson narrate his own writing, you're accustomed to his cadence and well placed pauses which allow his words to sink in and, quite frequently, induce tears of laughter. This effect is lost in the audio version of "A Short History of Nearly Everything." The narrator speaks clearly, there's no problem there, but his speed and delivery don't create the same experience as do Bill's.
Max Fisher of Rushmore Academy
I learned more practical, applicable information from this book than possibly any other I can immediately think of.
If you have a single curious bone in your body, you'll find this work extremely satisfying.
If you're full of curious bones, as am I, you're guaranteed to view and appreciate most everything in a new light.
Forget high school science. Just have your kids enjoy this book. Bryson gives a very understandable and thorough overview of astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, etc., in an extremely engaging way. It is like hearing your favorite college professor sit down on a table in front of a group of students and weaving a fascinating story. The human interest aspects of the books were a plus to the scientific explanations. Although this is a tremendously enjoyable read for inquisitive adults, share it with your children and they might actually take up an enduring interest in science. This book is certainly far better than all of my high school science courses combined (and probably college too). Highly recommended.
Near the beginning Bryson states that he knew almost nothing about the only world he would ever inhabit. Most people seem to be in pretty much the same state. If you listen to this you will join him in not being quite so ignorant.
That's great, but what I like best is that while he presents our best current understanding of how our universe works, he also provides a series of wonderful profiles of the very human men and women who have slowly and painfully (and in some cases arrogantly) built up the framework of what we know -- and upon which we will continue to built our understanding. It is an ode to science and scientists. As far as I am concernerned this should be required readling...or listening!
I found this vast summary of 'nearly everything' extremely entertaining and informative to listen to, from the formation of the universe, to the history of science, to the fossil record and early homonids. I rewound this book so many times over again that it took me nearly twice as long to listen to it. Highly recomended for anyone kind of nerdy or intellectual (same thing really)
I actually found myself fascinated by stories of stromatolites and geological societies... and i can listen to this over and over again without being bored, which is saying a lot because i usually have the attention span of a squirrel. Bill Bryson has given a gift to the world by illuminating important but typically dry information in a fascinating story-like book. I hope he will publish many more books like this, although his travel books are also among my favorites, especially A Walk in the Woods.
What a great book! I liked it so much I bought the hardback so that I could mark favorite my passages. I highly recommend it for anyone who has the slightest interest in the world around them.