Book Reviews 2006 (12)

Our Twelfth book of the year is a non fiction book.
A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson.

A Short History of Nearly Everything
Bill Bryson is the author of a few non fiction books, on topics ranging from etymology to travelogues. In A Short History of Nearly Everything, he takes on a wide swath of stuff, in a Cosmos-like sweep of topics. He begins with particle physics, and jumps to topics ranging from geology to human evolution. Granted, he does take a lot of shortcuts and makes a lot of simplfications. Its clear he doesn’t have a technical education. For example, he eschews using scientific notation throughout the book.
On the other hand, where Bryson shines is not in the scientific knowledge he conveys, but in the illumination of the luminaries and the personages we meet in the text. He brings to life Darwin, Alvarez, Huxley, and many others I had never heard of before. This is the strength of the book, and the primary reason why I recommend it as a relatively easy read for anyone with a basic liberal arts education. Science geeks might wince at the simplications like I did , but for most readers, this flaw is outweighed by the text’s virtues.