©2003 Bill Bryson; (P)2003 Books on Tape, Inc. Published by Arrangement with Random House Audio Publishing Group, A Division of Random House, Inc.
"Not to be missed." (AudioFile)
"Destined to become a modern classic of science writing." (The New York Times Book Review)
This was the first audio book I?ve purchased on Audible and I must say that the experience was surprisingly pleasant.
Being a bit of a science geek, yet not nearly smart enough to understand all of the detailed ins and outs of the various disciplines of study, I have spent the last several years of my college career picking up bits and pieces of science information from whatever web sites I?ve stumbled upon. Combining that with my general understanding of the way the world works, most gleaned from sleepy days in high school science classes, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what this planet is all about.
Much to my surprise, this book filled me in on so much more. The shear details of discovery that I had obviously slept through in high school blew me away. The way this author ties in what you already know, what you think you know, and what you are totally clueless on made listening to this book very enjoyable.
Admittedly, there were a few times when the book seemed to drone on a tiny, tiny bit but I found myself only facing this when there was a subject touched on that I wasn?t previously interested in (such as a bit of Geology). That, too, soon turned from a boring piece of the book into something very interesting (the details about Yellowstone and the ?Super Volcano? ideas).
I must say that if I were to recommend this book to anyone, it would probably help if they had a curiosity in Science and they weren?t terribly bored by some background on the scientists who discovered this or theorized that. I?d suggest the unabridged version, of course, but to help push someone (a student?) into a more curious approach to science, perhaps try the abridged version first.
Over all, I give it a 5 of 5 because I learned a lot, had a great time listening, and this is one of the few purchases I have made in recent years that I haven?t suffered from a neurotic, immediate, and enduring dose of ?buyer?s remorse?. This book was a lot of fun!
I loved the abridged version so much I just had to get the unabridged version when it became available. The abridged version is a very good abridgement, probably contains enough detail for most, and Bill Bryson's narration of it is the icing on the cake for sure. The unabridged version offers a fuller explanation of many points and so exposes the listener to more stories and Bryson wit which is always enjoyable. Richard Matthews does a great job narrating although he's not exactly Bill Bryson, he's sounds a lot like him and is a good second choice. If you can't get enough of Bill Bryson, you're best bet is the unabridged version. You won't get bogged down with unnecessary scientific detail--it's all very enjoyable listening. If you just want to learn about the subject quickly, the abridged version is lots of fun.
This book does something that few others do. It gives just enough information (without being too much) and makes it absolutely spellbinding. I don't want to know about cosmology, chemistry, and/or physics in minute detail, but I want a conversational knowledge of these and many other things scientific. Bryson provides that in an extremely entertaining, interesting manner. Although it is long, I whole-heartedly recommend the unabridged version.
I am a scientist, and I feel that Bryson has a keen eye for what is important. His book is crammed with wonderful concepts and observations from a remarkable breadth of fields. It is always easy to understand, yet consistently mind-boggling. I personally found the stories of scientists' escapades captivating: it is so healthy to be reminded that science is a human endeavor. These stories of ruthlessness and heartbreak along the path of discovery are exactly the things that elevate this book above textbooks. Also, the narrator does a wonderful job of giving the author's words their intended voice, be it profound, tragic, or comic.
I cant say enough about this book! I was introduced to Bill Bryson while incarcerated. And might I just say that even hardened criminals could not get enough of this book. I made most of my money by renting out this book. The demand was so great that I had another copy mailed to me. I have since lent a copy to many friends, and have yet to have most of them returned. The only one which was returned was because that person bought their own copy so that they could highlight it. This book is infectious! My only regret is that I havent been able to aquire an illustrated version. This book does indeed feel like a short history of nearly everthing. But everyone I have ever ask about this book says that it only makes them want to know more about one or more of the topics in the book. That has been the case with me as well. I have gone back to school in order to learn more about the subject matter within the pages of this life altering book. Read this book, it will open new worlds and inlighten old ones
Almost passed up this book based on a review which mentioned that frequent readers of lay science books wouldn't learn anything new---glad I didn't!
True, there were a couple sections that quoted books and ideas I was already familiar with, but Bryson's books encompasses SO much ground that there were also many areas which were new to me (in this level of detail) and they have actually encouraged me to seek out some of the books he refers to. In addition, like all of Bryson's books, his point of view is frequently hilarious, and always fun reading. An outstanding book.
I never thought plate tectonics, atom smashing and trilobites could be so entertaining - there were times I actually chuckled. The author presents what could be a series of tedious lectures about dry subjects in a very understandable way. By using humor, he makes the subjects user-friendly without talking down to his audience.
I can't remember all the names mentioned and how to pronounce some of the terms used but I now look at clouds differently, am a little afraid of Yellowstone blowing up and think some scientists were really brave, creative and a little looney.
The narrator is great. In fact, I may purchase more books just because he narrates. I think he has a lot to do with my enjoyment of the book, capturing the tone I think the author intended.
I usually read fiction, particularly mysteries and thrillers but this was an excellent departure from that. I think anyone with a passing interest in how our world works would enjoy this book - not to mention discover things like: Newton pushed pointed objects into his eye sockets just to see what happened; heat is simply a matter of molecules banging into each other; Yellowstone is actually a volcano. Who knew!
I'm sorry for the folks who bought the abridged version of this title. Opting for Bryson abridged is pointless. His prose is already polished to a pearly economy.
If you can listen to the final 22 minutes of this book without cringing, crying, or resolving to affect change in the way all of us treat this magnificent and mysterious planet; you are a hard, hard case. With disciplined but entertaining prose, Bryson surveys the branches of science that explain who we are and how we got to wherever it is we are. Spectacular!
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."
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