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Editorial Reviews

"Imagine if you can -- and of course you can't..." is how Bryson opens his explanation of how a universe is born. And he has the uncanny ability to not say too much, nor too little; to use metaphors brilliantly but without cliché; and to sound like he's actually learning as he goes along. Like Stephen Hawking before him, Bryson skips from one BIG topic to the next with the curiosity of a child and the patience of a schoolteacher. It's like having a front-row seat to the history of the world.

With his slightly bemused English accent, narrator Richard Matthews sounds completely at home in the material, chatting knowingly and with perfect dry comic timing. For managing to cover the universe and keep it lively, this experience definitely merits as an all-time favorite.

Publisher's Summary

Bill Bryson has been an enormously popular author both for his travel books and for his books on the English language. Now, this beloved comic genius turns his attention to science. Although he doesn't know anything about the subject (at first), he is eager to learn, and takes information that he gets from the world's leading experts and explains it to us in a way that makes it exciting and relevant. Even the most pointy-headed, obscure scientist succumbs to the affable Bryson's good nature, and reveals how he or she figures things out. Showing us how scientists get from observations to ideas and theories is Bryson's aim, and he succeeds brilliantly. It is an adventure of the mind, as exciting as any of Bryson's terrestrial journeys.
©2003 Bill Bryson; (P)2003 Books on Tape, Inc. Published by Arrangement with Random House Audio Publishing Group, A Division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Not to be missed." (AudioFile)
"Destined to become a modern classic of science writing." (The New York Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.7 out of 5.0
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  • 3 Stars
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  • 2 Stars
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Story

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
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  • 3 Stars
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  • 2 Stars
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  • Overall

Encore!

All I can say is this. I WANT MORE! Simply incredibly engrossing.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Patricia
  • Barrie, Ontario, Canada
  • 08-21-08

Informative and Entertaining

This book gives you a smattering of everything, told in an enjoyable and often times humorous manner; many times I found myself laughing out loud. Not only are the subjects explained in an easy to understand manner, but you also learn about the history of these discoveries, the rivalries between various scientists (and in some instances their negative impacts to this day on certain fields) and that things aren't as cut and dried in the scientific world as you may think.

I keep recommending this book to all my friends and feel it was well worth the 2 credits.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great book

This is really not to be missed book by any scientist or anyone for that matter. Although the book does not (and can't) go into deep scientific details it apropriately describes history behind some of the great inventions and discoveries. You will learn how today's world came to be. The most important thing you will learn in this book is that in most cases the scientist or invention was misunderstood and discredited by scientist's colleagues and other people to maintain the dogmatic status quo. The narration is excellent. Narrator's voice keeps you interested, you won't get bored.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Philip
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 01-24-08

Magnificent!

This book is brilliantly written and superbly read....I am enthralled with it and.... much more impressively, so is my rather blase, teenage son!
I can see myself re-reading it almost as soon as I have finished it ...it is so crammed full of information that one read is clearly not enough...It must be the most entertaining science book ever.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very educating and witty

This book looks at the wonders of nature from a scientific prospective and does a good job of summarizing how we got here. It also points out little insightful facts like: while the earth is good at creating life, it is even better at killing it; noting that 99.99% of all species that ever existed are extinct. And that evolution is about staying the same (with what works) as much as it is about mutations that, more often than not, die off. Although a couple of parts are a little boring like the catergorizing of spores, I highly recommend this entertaining listen.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A great whirlwind tour of the universe

A friend recommended this book to me as a good thought provoking read, and I have to say that it definitely is that...Bryson does a very thorough job of not only surveying the history of the hard sciences, archeology, and cosmology, but does so in a witty and very approachable way.

If there's one knock on this book I think it would be the narrator -- I'm not sure why some audio book producers think that having someone with a British accent read their books makes them sound more learned, but it seems they do. The end result is just that you end up being distracted at times by the reading of the material and the pronunciations of some things rather than just focusing on the great subject matter. It just seems a bit affected.

All in all, a very worthy book on some very appropriate topics to consider as we speed into the twenty-first century...and a great way to pass the time in rush hour traffic. Full disclosure however: I already like history and the sciences, so if you're someone who is bored by this kind of stuff, this book isn't going to light a fire for you...it does have a few parts that are a bit slow going, but if you're interested in the subject matter these shouldn't dissuade you.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Frank
  • seekonk, MA, USA
  • 10-04-05

Awsome!!!!

I first learned of Bryson when I read A Walk In The Woods and I loved it. Then I first bought the abridged version of this audio book and listened to it at least 8-10 times and obviously loved it. When I saw that I could get the unabridged version I got that one as well This one is even better. I can't say nearly enough about it if you have even the most pedestrian interest in science or history or the folly of human nature THIS IS A MUST HEAR!!!!!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Stephen
  • Charlotte, MI, USA
  • 08-12-05

Exceptional listen!

This was one of the first books I've downloaded and I couldn't have found a better introductory volume. Hours of fascinating facts and figures that are not only incredibly well-written, but are read with a style that kept me hooked throughout. Wonderfully dry humour, intelligently paced narration and thoroughly entertaining!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Fabulously entertaining, witty and educational

What more can you ask for? It's the best book I've heard so far - and I've heard a few. Of course, for "nearly everything" read "history of science in western civilisation", but that's okay. I've rarely been so well entertained and learned so much at the same time.

As for editions: I loved Richard Matthews' British accent. Bill Bryson himself, alas, reads but the abridged version. Personally I would stear clear of William Roberts - but there's no accounting for taste... :-)

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ingrid
  • Hudson, MA, USA
  • 11-10-04

A Great Book!

I would describe this as more of a history of Science than of "everything," but that doesn't make it any less interesting. The only parts I found less than awesome were the geology segments, but I'm sure someone who like rocks more than I do wouldn't have a problem with them.

Hearing this book instantly makes you a more interesting dining partner, you will be full of little tidbits of fascinating information. Read it now and find out about the future of Yellowstone Park - that one got me through several dinners and a lunch.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful