A Short History

bryson-everythingI have a big stack of to-read books, some by friends. But because I’m in the midst of heavy revisions, I’m reluctant to read novels that might catch my attention and steal time I don’t have to spare.

So at night I’m reading some non-fiction. Specifically, Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. I already knew I liked the book, as I’d read at least a third of it some years ago when I was working on my master’s degree. I got too busy with course work to finish, but I always meant to, and I thought highly enough of it that I loaned it out to friends.

It’s not, of course, a history of EVERYTHING, it’s a history of mankind and science: a layman’s overview of who discovered what when, and a little bit about who those people were and what they did and how they did it, and broad discussions about different fields of science and their important discoveries. Reading just a little every night I’m now about halfway and am enjoying nearly every minute of it, enough that I’m probably going to try some more of Bryson’s non-fiction. Because my to-be-read pile needs to be deeper, naturally.

Bryson has a truly engaging style, stuffed with facts but amiable and amusing at the same time. It’s a joy to read. I love how he combines the history with the story of the people who made it. There are some truly heroic, bizarre, and occasionally dastardly people out there, and some of them were scientists.

Speaking of book reviews, I guess I better get to re-reading some Brackett before the end of the year!

7 Comments on “A Short History

  1. I’ve read a little bit of Bryson and really liked what I’ve read. Not tried this particular title, though, and I probably should since my degrees are all in science.

    And speaking of Brackett, I read The Sword of Rhiannon while traveling earlier in the week. I’m going to post a review over the weekend. Somehow I’d missed reading this one, although I’ve had a copy for years. I really enjoyed it. I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts on it.

  2. I enjoyed this one quite a bit, too. I picked it up in a quirky little used book store after having read Bryson’s delightful At Home: A Short History of Private Life.

    • Hey Ian — I was thinking about trying one of his travel guides next, but that one you mention looked pretty interesting as well.

  3. Someone bought me two of his books years ago, the one above, and The Mother Tongue. I’ve started both and like you ran out of time. I recently saw A Walk in the Clouds, starring Robert Redford, which is based on the book of the same name by Bryson, and it reminded me that I still need to finish those two books. And now your post. Something tells me I should stop stalling.

  4. Woelf, the book/movie is A Walk in the Woods, not Clouds. It’s a good one.

    I really enjoyed Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, a travelogue/history of Australia. Very informative and well researched, and quite funny, too.

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