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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

May 10, 2008

If you only read one book about science in your life, it should be this one. Though if you read this book, I guarantee it won’t be the only science book you ever read. Bryson has a knack for pulling the interesting out of the mundane, and he does that here in spades.

This is not just a book about science, it’s a book about the scientists, about the people who shaped our scientific thinking and disciplines even today. From Isaac Newton and his contemporaries, to scientists still alive today, Bryson traces the history of their discoveries, mistakes, flaws and arguments.

The stories that come through are incredible. No hero ever defeated odds as great as those faced by our own species. Just to be here now, reading this blog post, has required enormous skill, fortitude, determination, and luck, on behalf of our ancestors. If you were to run the evolutionary clock back a few million years, then let it run forward again, there is no guarantee humanity would be here.

Not just humanity and palaeontology are covered here, also physics, right down to the sub-atomic level, as well as space – the formation of the universe, the sun and planets, and of course the Earth.

This is a book that lives up to its title, nearly everything is in here. It’s also comparatively short, so there is plenty of scope for further reading. The story of what simply happened is the most intriguing story of all.

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