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A Short History of Nearly Everything | [Bill Bryson]

A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything is Bill Bryson's quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization. He takes subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry, and particle physics, and aims to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science. In the company of some extraordinary scientists, Bill Bryson reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.
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Publisher's Summary

A Short History of Nearly Everything is Bill Bryson's quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization. He takes subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry, and particle physics, and aims to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science. In the company of some extraordinary scientists, Bill Bryson reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.

©2003 Bill Bryson; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (602 )
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4.4 (257 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Denis Mt ElizaAustralia 06-24-08
    Denis Mt ElizaAustralia 06-24-08
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    "A Short History of Nearly Everything"

    This is a well researched and entertaining story. Bryson has an absolute knack for turning the boring into the interesting. It is clear that his interest and passion for this enormous subject grew during the construction of the book. Its a different Bill Bryson and I like it. BUT I am not a fan of the reader. OK I'm from Australia but I enjoy a lot of american reads. This one is very difficult to put up with for long stretches. It needs to be read with a fun lively attitude. Sadly this one did not. I have the printed book too which I love to pick up and read. If you can stand the reader, get the audio book!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donn Edwards Johannesburg, South Africa 09-08-05
    Donn Edwards Johannesburg, South Africa 09-08-05

    Donn Edwards

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    "Thorough, and thoroughly enjoyable"

    I found the abridged version fascinating, and enjoyed the unabridged version even more, even though it is quite a marathon. The narrator does tend to be a bit dry, but not unbearably so.

    I found it extremely fair and did great justice to the Creation vs Evolution debate, and covers and explains a vast array of human knowledge in a few hours.

    My own conclusion is that the universe was created, AND it evolved, much in the same way as light is both a particle AND a wave. To insist on one or the other is simply bad science. Bill Bryson's book is well written and well read, and I'm glad I bought it.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rajesh Johanneburg, South Africa 06-18-05
    Rajesh Johanneburg, South Africa 06-18-05

    Listening since 2004. Mystery, thrillers and anything that can blend with a walk, jog, exercise, long drive or a wait at the airport.

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    "Not for all"

    You will need a sharp memory to remember all the bits of information so that you can feel smart. And if you have a sharp memory it will make you an interesting conversationalist around a dinner table, the only advantage I see out of this book. The history of the earth cannot be heard effortlessly by folks like me accustomed to listening to Dan Brown of Grisham! Folks who watch National Geographic are welcome here. Well read, well written and interesting information but just not for all.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keagan 02-17-15
    Keagan 02-17-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Really stunning "

    An amazing synopsis of the evolution of scientific thought combined with profound insights about the probable future. Bryson touches on both the glory and the folly of man.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah Tel Aviv, Israel 10-21-14
    Sarah Tel Aviv, Israel 10-21-14 Member Since 2014
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    "This was written back when Pluto was a planet..."

    I am no scientist but I could tell that at least a couple of topics were not up-to-date, which made me wonder about the rest.

    It's an interesting listen on the most part. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on space and the universe, and later on in the book, on how humanity came to be. Many of the facts are astounding. Some parts are a bit tedious... there is a lot of gossip-column-worthy information about many of the scientists, which I could have done without.

    Warning: if you're not a germaphobe, the chapter on bacteria might turn you into one.

    The narrator is good, besides when he's trying to do an Australian accent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael 07-16-14
    Michael 07-16-14 Member Since 2012
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    "great precursor to understand the universe"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Short History of Nearly Everything to be better than the print version?

    yes read and listened prefer to listen


    What was one of the most memorable moments of A Short History of Nearly Everything?

    too many to list


    What about William Roberts’s performance did you like?

    easy listening


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Did you know?


    Any additional comments?

    great starter for anyone wanting to know more about the world and universe

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian Whakatane, New Zealand 02-15-14
    Ian Whakatane, New Zealand 02-15-14 Member Since 2009
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    "An amazing blend of history and scientific facts"
    What did you love best about A Short History of Nearly Everything?

    I have just finished this book and I am about to listen to it for a second time which I have never done with a previous book. So many interesting facts and figures that they don't all sink in the first time. For anybody with even a passing interest in science and global warming this is a must read. William Roberts breezy style of reading is just right to keep the listener interested through what is quite complicated subject matter in places. I wish my science teachers at school had made the subjects this interesting.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elisabeth 01-29-14
    Elisabeth 01-29-14
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    "a bit shallow"

    I would guess that this is a good book, for someone who is not too much (or too deep) into science and wants to get an rough overview about various sciences and their development throughout history. However, for myself I found, that most of the facts and insights explained here I already knew from school. It covers only very, very basic principles. What I did like were the anecdotes about some of the important historic figures. That's why I gave it 3 stars: a bit shallow, but still a well written (and well read) book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    sme Cape Town, South Africa 02-09-13
    sme Cape Town, South Africa 02-09-13 Member Since 2010
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    "A 5 star book made into a 6 star audio"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Outstanding research, enormous breadth without compromising on requisite detail, rounded off with sublime narration. This is a top 10 audible book to be kept and re-listened to over years.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam Roscrea, Ireland 01-30-13
    Adam Roscrea, Ireland 01-30-13
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    "Not read by the author, but still worth it"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely. It's endlessly fascinating and brilliantly put together. Alas, I first purchased the abridged version, read by the author so this version sounds strange to me. Bill Bryson has a much more pleasant reading voice.


    Would you be willing to try another one of William Roberts’s performances?

    Perhaps


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 47 results PREVIOUS1235NEXT
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  • Mr. M. Curtis
    Bristol UK
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "This book has made me a nerd..."

    I am someone who listens to Lee Child's and pretended to be Jack Reacher when my family wasn't watching. I really don't know why I chose to download it, science ain't my thing! Or should I say wasn't, my friends think I've gone mad. Conversations are now punctuated by "did you know..." Or "I've just discovered...."



    What's happened to me? The simple pleasures of Jack Reacher bashing up baddies just isn't enough any more. So be warned this book is a virus that will grip you, cause you to delay reaching your destination, and probably make you want to befriend bacteria. Don't get me started on how far things are and how small we must be....



    Health warning: the genius and wonderful engaging pace of this book will leave you wanting more even after the hours and hours it leaves you hiding in a quiet spot gripped by its wonder. Use wisely and with caution.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    10/9/11
    Overall
    "Entertaining"

    I've enjoyed a number of Bill Bryson books and found this book generally entertaining. It's the kind of book I usually relish with lots of interesting facts and figures. I thought the first third of the book about cosmology worthy of 5 stars, but I got a bit glassy-eyed with the stream of facts and figures in the middle of the book dealing with taxonomy, which even I found less than riveting. Most of the physics and chemistry was familiar to me, but not the biographical stories about the scientists who made the discoveries with their revealing and all too human foibles. Surprisingly, I found the parts dealing with my field of expertise, biochemistry and molecular biology, some of the least inspiring and sketchy such that I think many wouldn't get just how exciting it can be. The last third or so of the book about the evolution of humans was again worthy of 5 stars.

    There are some gaps in what he included, for example, mathematics, the basis of so much in science, was barely touched on and one would get the impression that only scientists in the West made all the discoveries, whereas we now know that many were already made in China and India, to name but two Eastern Civilizations.

    I've see other reviews that have been critical and pointed out errors in the narrative. I detected a few, but generally thought, that for a layman, Bryson did a very good job of covering an enormous sweep of science and making it entertaining.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Mike
    Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom
    1/4/07
    Overall
    "AMAZING - What else can one say"

    A book that has to be put forward for the Booker prize of the year.

    I can only agree with all the critics that say this book should be put onto School and University curriculam's - A riveting read

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • A. E. Ackroyd
    Leeds, U.K
    2/2/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Can't stand the narrator"
    If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I love Bill Bryson, but cannot abide William Robert's jaunty, sing-song delivery.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I listened to two or three minutes and switched it off, never to listen again.


    How could the performance have been better?

    I have a large number of Bill Bryson audiobooks and return to them again and again; Home, America, A walk in the Woods, The Thunderbolt Kid, but all read, exactly as they should be, by Bill Bryson himself.


    You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    For me, William Robert's readings have nothing to redeem them. I so want to listen to this book, but read by Mr. B.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Gregorious
    UK
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Interesting"

    The audible book was very interesting but a lot of information in actually quite a small period of time even though the book is 20 hours long. Multiple listens are required really to get a better understanding of all the material. I quite enjoyed listening to the narrator as his voice inflection made it more interesting.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Jim Vaughan
    Malvern, UK
    12/26/12
    Overall
    "A brilliant Bryson travelogue through Science."

    This is a delightful, funny, Bill Bryson travelogue through the history of the Cosmos, and how we got here. It's full of interesting discoveries, from the Big Bang, to the evolution of Victorian shooting parties dedicated to hunting rare species to extinction. In true Brysonesque manner, it is peppered with funny anecdotes about the often weird and wonderful characters behind each discovery - like the dinosaur hunters; Marsh and Peabody, who's competitive hatred of each other spurred them to such frenetic heights of palentology that between throwing rocks at each other (literally!) they discovered most of the dinosaurs the average person can name. Or the villainous Richard Owen who's seated statue used to preside in the Natural History museum, who suppressed, erased and stole other people's discoveries to claim the credit as his own.



    One recurrent theme of the book is how often important scientific insights have been ignored or suppressed by those with influence. Lord Kelvin, though a great scientist retarded a true appreciation of the age of the Earth, because of his insistence that it could not be more than a few hundred thousand years old. Plate tectonics was dismissed as ridiculous for decades, despite mounting evidence and the obvious visual and geological jig-saw fit of the continents.



    This is a delightful "Cooks Tour" of almost every aspect of Science, and of scientific history, covering a huge range of disciplines, and with Bill Brysons characteristic wit and charm. I love his travel books, and this audiobook - journeying through time and nature is no exception.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Christopher
    Levittown, PA, United Kingdom
    6/30/11
    Overall
    "Absolutely Delightful"

    I know Bill Bryson has somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 books on here but this was my first listen. I was quickly captivated - - William Roberts narrates like an ol' time Disney cartoon character...you know, the Disney cartoon shorts that usually began with a duck professor pulling out a projector and screen and "teaching" something - - those style Disney cartoons are what I thought of as soon as I heard his voice. That hooked me right from the outset and I found it easy to visualize what Bryson wrote and Roberts narrated in splendid cartoon imagery. I took this audio on a business trip, shut off the t.v., turned off the lights and let this book talk to me until I fell asleep; promptly rewinding in the morning to the part I last remembered.
    Beyond the narration, the book provides a lot of interesting information - many concepts I haven't heard of or thought about before, answers to questions I had but never looked up, and people and events I rediscovered in a new way. I, probably like you, buy audio books to help me think, expand my ideas, and for enjoyment - this book nailed it! I have had many interesting talks with my son and daughter discussing various topics from this book - fantastic!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Liselotte
    Silkeborg, Denmark
    6/20/09
    Overall
    "What a pleasure!"

    Bill Bryson does a marvellous job packing all that information into his book and making it so immensely readable for people like me who tend to shun anything to do with physics and natural science. And the narrator is simply wonderful: 19 hours and not once does one tire of his voice, he manages to make one want to keep listening with his lively yet never forced way of narrating.
    Liselotte Horneman Kragh, Silkeborg, Denmark

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Keith
    1/3/09
    Overall
    "Not really easy listening ..."

    To be fair, I usually listen to fiction, but have read and enjoyed a number of Bryson's travelogue-type books. However, I found this audiobook hard going - I had to be in the right state of mind to listen, with nothing else going on around me and not in the least bit tired. The moment your mind wanders, you have missed something and the next 10 minutes may well become meaningless.

    I also couldn't get our of my head, a basic objection to what Bryson was doing. He starts by telling us that he hates the fact that scientists tell us things without explaining how they know it to be true ... and then spends the rest of the book spewing out a fantastic array of 'facts' which we are just expected to believe. I'm sorry, but I just didn't buy it!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Rick
    Stockport, Cheshire, United Kingdom
    2/10/11
    Overall
    "Dizzying amount of facts to take in in one go"

    Everything you want to know about everything, well researched beautifully written and very well read too.

    I really enjoyed this and will be listening to it again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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