The book is a collection of anecdotes and various stories of scientific discoveries and personalities. Those of you who expect a straightforward scientific textbook might be disappointed. Though Bryson does provide some content of science, that is not the focal point of the book, which is Bryson's own telling of stories of science. Those of you would want to know a little bit of everything will get quite a lot here. Matthews' reading of the book is excellent - I particularly like the way he handles foreign names. I read the entire book while I drove to work for five consecutive days. Very enjoyable.
The book was well read, captivating, and extremely educational. The information just wouldn't stop coming.
This book got me interested in science again. Makes me want to go back to university and take all the sciences.
Its great from cover to cover.
The bit about Yellowstone Park.
Not that kind of book
Just an awesome, awesome book.
This is probably the most interesting factual audiobook I have heard to date.
The narrator gave a very good performance indeed.
I found this book both interesting and entertaining from beginning to end.
His narration really helps bring out the wit
I adore Bryson, and it all started with this book. The universe, and our little piece of it are such fascinating places, yet traditional science literature fails magnificently at making ANY of it seem a least bit interesting. That is where Bryson comes in. He makes science as fun as watching a super nova with your own eyes, but this book is more than just science. It is really a story of people - the scientists behind science, most of whom were hilariously strange individuals. It is also a book that will make you furious with anger as you hear about the extinction of the Do-do bird and countless other creatures man has exterminated for no other reason except that he could. There are also countless amusing facts such as "To the nearest approximation, everything that has ever lived is dead". Bottom line - get this book right now. Though it may be long, it is immensely informative while at the same time being immensely fun. A work of genius.
I echo what previous reviewers have said, but I want to add that apart from the actual "science" of it, the profiles of scientists and thinkers -- and all of their extraordinary quirkiness -- is what gripped me the most. Bryson does a great job of adding in details that deepen the story and understanding of characters -- like the scientist who would "think" while resting his head on a chair ... standing up. We get scandal, intrigue, back-stabbing, and chance meetings that turn fortuitous. A husband and wife team makes an impression of their pet turtle's feet, and solves the mystery of a dinosaur; Marie Curie never wins a Nobel because she was having an affair ... all of this and more will keep you rewinding.
If you are the type of person who wonders, "How exactly do they measure the temperature of the earth's core?" or, "Who thought THIS up?" then you will love this book. Bryson is intelligent, wry, funny, and approachable. In addition, the reader is PERFECT for the material. My significant other has heard me listening to this day and night, and said, "You just like the sound of a Brit talking in the background." That is true -- I could listen to him read anything and find it interesting.
Altogether satisfying and a definite re-read. I feel more educated about science than I ever have.
Story matter of course, the WAY it was told, amount of info, and the narration.
Bill Bryson, Richard Matthews and the bickering ass scientists!
Mr. Matthews obviously enjoying what he's reading. You can tell a few things surprise him as he's going through the pages.
Am now a Bryson AND Matthews fan!
Only if there was more early history references and how they modified society, transportation, farming, construction, war, society, city evolutions etc......
I want more than a layman's version of history.
Amazing account of the history of major scientific discoveries and how they were regarded by society in their time. Well researched and written, there is a surprise at every turn with powerful insights into the psyches and tribulations of the personalities attributed to these world changing ideas. Great narration. Easy to pick at any point and every listen reveals new terrain.
Quite frankly, this was like listening to a long series of "Nature" programmes on the radio, except - amazingly enough - extremely entertaining. It ranged from completely disparate topics such as vulcanology (did you know that Yellowstone Park, all of it, is a huge volcano overdue for a massive blowout?), atoms and molecules (did you know we know there is mass, but not how?), viruses and bacteria (there was once a plague that gave everyone a kind of terminal apathy), and all the way to evolution and back with every sort of stop between.
If you at all enjoy science and nature shows, then this is a book for you. If you find them remotely boring, or flat, then maybe not. This was certainly some of the most fun I've had with science, but in such a scattershot way as to appeal to my "trivia" nature. If the section on cells had gone on much longer, for example, my iPod would have had a bit of a hard time skipping fast enough for my thumb-pressing.
It was fascinating (the places life manages to form and prosper), terrifying (we'd really not notice an extinction level impact heading our way until it was pretty much here), horrifying (upon being asked what he felt now that he'd just shot the last bird in an entire species, one fellow said, "joy"), and a little bit overwhelming (the names, dates, titles, and repetitious use of "we don't know"). At times, the various intrigues of the science community were by far more fascinating than what the scientists were studying themselves (who knew that Darwin liked to electrocute himself? Or that a 300 pound man who stayed in the same nursery wing of his estate and the same nursery bed his entire life - and never left home - wiped out species all over Hawaii - a place he never went?)
Is it "everything"? Well, of course not. But I daresay that my absolute amateur level of most scientific knowledge bases have improved a smidgeon. And really, how can it not be fun to tell children browsing in my store that the old-style diving suit on the cover of the Lemony Snicket book was originally intended to be used fighting fire? If nothing else, you'll get a real sense of just how much life (and I'm using the big-L life here, not just we homo sapiens) is sort of a grand series of really lucky coincidences. And how much we're mucking it up.