©2003 Bill Bryson; (P)2003 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
"To read Bryson is to travel with a memoirist gifted with wry observation and keen insight that shed new light on things we mistake for commonplace. To accompany the author as he travels with the likes of Charles Darwin on the Beagle, Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton is a trip worth taking." (Publishers Weekly)
"Stylish [and] stunningly accurate prose....Brims with strange and amazing facts...destined to become a modern classic of science writing." (The New York Times)
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"Science made palatable"
Bill Bryson is one of my favourite contemporary writers. He makes his own experiences come to life in a light hearted and extremely entertaining way. He has done it again here - I dutifully decided that I needed to know about the world we live in and expected it to be interesting. It is -so much so that I am listening to it for the 3rd time. It is also very funny. I thoroughly recommend it.
The only slight niggling worry about this very entertaining and informative book is the accuracy of some of the facts. For example when discussing the reduction of air temperature with height (lapse rate) he says (from memory) 1.4c reduction per 1000m, when in fact the true figure is more like 6.5c per 1000m. Now i'm a pilot so i know that one....makes me doubt the ones i don't know.
That said, otherwise its excellent.
"nice read for the moderately scientific"
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's like an epic. Only it's on life. And it made me care about areas of science which I had very little regard for prior to (paleontology schmaleontology no more!).
But it is a marathon read... many trips to the gym, in my case. One suggestion for those attempting this book: have a notepad or something handy to jot down names and things that interest you for further study.
"a fascinating journey through science"
Bryson delivers a truly mesmerising account of scientific exploration and the people behind it in this fantastic work. All of the areas one would expect are covered, with cosomology, astronomy, geography, geology, and biology all given comprehensive cover.
That Bryson is not a scientist undoubtedly helps him cover such a wide range. His tone is that of man on a voyage of discovery himself (as he surely was) and not as an academic in an ivory tower. This abstraction allows for touches of Bryson's humour to shine through when similar texts from within science would perhaps be a little dry.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of 'A Short History' is the attention given to the human stories behind the great discoveries discussed; we are given insights into the minds of Darwin, Newton, Lyle and countless others that fascinate, inform, and leave you grasping for the nearest pen as you feel the need to track down that certain biography or key text. This move lightens the factual density nicely and allows us to see another aspect of science. This imposing, faceless entity that is 'Science' is not the clean, crisp discipline its practitioners would wish, but a place filled with all the deceit and vengeful intent of your average episode of Eastenders.
For my money, Bryson spends a little too long discussing the catastrophic (although this is probably reflected in science itself) without putting his facts it into context, and this is perhaps the books greatest flaw. Still, 'A Short History' is peerless and certainly warrants your attention. I would also implore you to listen to this unabridged version. While the abridged version is read by Bryson which is an appeal, the narrator here is fantastic and certainly does the book justice. The chapters last around 40 minutes meaning that while the sum total is large, each segment can be easily digested. If you do choose the unabridged version; you are in for a 20 hour treat that won't easily be forgotten.
"Ambitiouse and worthy"
What a simply fantastic read!!! Well read and succinctly put - a true 'travelogue' of scientific discovery. Bill does here what he does best and this history is all the better for it. It makes surprisingly easy reading for the 'layman' and should be appluadid as such - Oh, how we wish for more!!! Here`s truly hoping that Bill turns his talents to other scientific, astrologicall plus cosmological ideologies & facts etc, very soon - for all the world should benefit from such.. Please write more, in this style soon!!
"Tedious, but helps to drift off to sleep!"
When I bought the book I didn't realise it was going to be so draining to listen to, quite unlike Bryson's previous offerings. I was determined to reach the end, but, ultimately felt I'd wasted a considerable amount of time getting there!
Perhaps change the title to A Short History Excluding Most Things or A Short History Of Limited Interest Subjects.
"Good summary of science for the non scientist"
Enjoyable meander through most realms of scientific discovery. Its historical perspective and lack of true scientific meat will frustrate those with scientific knowledge.
"ok but not gr8"
i would change the fact that mr bryson completely dismisses string theory and laughs of other solid theories as mere flights of fancy
yes i would and have done so and have enjoyed other titles in different fields
his voice is suited to a book like this
the fact the book is dated already doesn't help and that in part isn't his fault as science can move very quickly,like the Higgs boson
He seems to almost laugh off many theories or facts because he doesn't understand it
Couldn't recommend it to anyone. I had never readd any Bill Bryson but knowing him to be popular I gave it a rry
Performance was OK, it was the text I found irritating in that it tried to cover too much ground so you really didn't learn about anything
It sent me to sleep
Shan't feel I have to try any more of his books
"Turned it off after 30 minutes"
Im obviously the tiny majority on this one, and although normally I'm an information nerd, this was just tooooooo much :(, the narration was flat and it just seemed like an onslaught of 'stuff'
sorry Guys I know im probably on my own, but I just didnt get this one
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