Beginnings

Welcome friends! I have started this entry in the global technosphere because I have been in love with books since the age of 2. Among the busy business of being a new teacher, this is my outlet for sharing thoughts on a love of reading a wide variety of books. My inspiration can be summed up with a yearbook quote from a teacher written when I was 8: "To the only girl at recess I see reading a book. Good for you!"
My blog title is quoted from a classmate who asked me this once. Believe it or not, I've also heard it as a teacher :D

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Short History of Nearly Everything- Bill Bryson

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  2003
Pages:  544
ISBN:  0385660049
Genre:  Nonfiction, Science

Start Date:  May 31, 2011
Finished Date:  June 17, 2011 (18 days)

Where Found:  Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  On my TBR list; also, I was curious about Bill Bryson's brand of nonfiction

Read For:  What's in a Name 4 Challenge (5/6)

Summary:  The origins of the Earth through the lenses of various fields of science are explained in layman's terms, laced with ironic humour and an enthusiasm for discovery.

Review:

Now this is a science book like no other.  Textbooks from science class were never this interesting.  Bryson's thesis is simple:  to explore and explain the origins of the Earth through various scientific fields of research and translate them for those of us who didn't go beyond mandatory high school science class.  These fields include astronomy, meteorology, geology, biochemistry, physics, mathematics, volcanology, seismology, cellular biology, paleontology, and anthropology, not to mention sprinklings of natural history and psychology.

The result is like exploring an unfamiliar cave with a flashlight whose bulb gets brighter as you go through it.  At first, the jargon was a bit...jarring (he he), even with Bryson's often hilarious use of analogies that could give this book the subtitle Science For Dummies (guilty as charged, says moi).  Once past the initial chapter on astronomy, which is interesting but sometimes difficult to manoeuvre, you become used to Bryson's style and even start to like his eccentric intellectual humour.

Facts are given a back story, which in turn often has a back story, with a focus on biographical information of its discoverer and his or her eccentric lifestyle, struggles for public understanding & acceptance of findings, and oftentimes, an impoverished means.  Theories are not completely diluted just to appease the reader and make us feel smart enough to understand them, but are compared to recognizable things and often analogized by scientists for pleasure, much like the hilarious meanderings of characters on TV's The Big Bang Theory.

By Part III, I was hooked and all the factoids became less random (i.e. fodder for Uncle John's Bathroom Reader) and served more of a purpose for passionate learning about the formation, gestation, and constant fluctuation of planet Earth.  Home sweet home.  It would be terrific if this book was required reading in a course for humanities undergrads needing a science credit.  Otherwise, it certainly fills many gaps in the average person's science education.  I highly recommend reading it.

Rank:  (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend

10 comments:

  1. I loved this book and felt the same that you did about how accessible Bryson made Science. I listened to it on audiobooks and Bryson was the reader. I love listening to the guy, too.

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  2. I'm glad to hear such a positive review for this book. I've wanted to read it for a while.

    I'll move it higher on my summer reading list. =) Thanks!

    -Miss GOP
    www.thewritingapprentice.com

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  3. Oh yay! This is one of my favorite books of all time. I love how excited and curious Bryson is, and how he gives the story of how things were discovered rather than just giving the facts. I always recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a science text but doesn't want to be bored.
    Great review.

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  4. Wow I loved your review on this book for a number of reasons. Firstly I am a Bill Bryson fan, and have read at least half a dozen of his books, mostly the travel memoirs - hugely funny. This particular novel is sitting on my bookshelf and I remember trying to read it, getting only a few pages in and giving up. Your review has convinced me to get into it and give it another go. Also I love your torch in the cave analogy, obviously I didn't give the poor thing a chance to warm up :) Many thanks.

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  5. My Hubby read this and really enjoyed it. I haven't gotten around to reading it though. I think I'll have to try to get to it soon.

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  6. So glad you liked it, as it's one of my favourite non-fiction books. Bryson has a gift for making the complicated easy to understand and I really liked how you could tell he was passionate about the subject. I wish I had read it in secondary school.

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  7. I guess I'll have to read this one sooner rather than later! I have it sitting on my shelf, big surprise there. Great review!

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  8. Thanks for taking this opportunity to discuss this, I feel fervently about this and I like learning about this subject.MBA College near the chandigarh

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  9. I haven't read this one but I've read nearly everything else Bryson's written. I asked for it for Christmas one year and never got it and then promptly forgot about it.

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  10. I will certainly add this to my TBR. Based on your review, it sounds like a book I can recommend to kids who always complain that science is boring.

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