The thought of reading a book on science is unlikely to fill people with joy. After all, science is supposed to be heavy and often rather dull reading. Reading that does not appeal to everyone. It is kind of a niche, almost technical, highly specialised segment. Well, that is because Bill Bryson has not written books on science.
By Bill Bryson, we mean THE Bill Bryson, the author known for his entertaining travelogues and books about the English language. Bryson’s gift is his narration, which can make just about anything and anyone seem interesting to the reader. And it is a gift that he brings to the rather elaborately named A Short History of Nearly Everything. No, it is not a book on history. It is in fact, a book on science. The history of science actually. This is Bill Bryson’s look at how science evolved to get us where we are today. It covers everything from the Big Bang to the theory of Relativity.
And take it from us, it is a bucketload of fun. For Bryson does not spend time on abstract theorizing and diagrams, but instead brings science to life with characters and incidents. You get to read as much about Newton and Einstein as their scientific work. Bryson packs the book with truckloads of trivia and discussion points, and the best part is that at no time does he ever get too academic. No, if you like Bill Bryson and most people do, you will like this book. A Short History of Nearly Everything reads like a typical Bill Bryson book – knowledgeable, full of information, and most importantly, loaded with humour. You will find yourself smiling again and again as you read Bryson’s story of science, whether he is talking of evolution or of earth’s place in the universe or why it took so long for astronomers to figure out the fact that what they thought was the planet Pluto, was actually Pluto and a massive moon! This is not about theorems and principles, but about understanding how science works. And having fun understanding it.
Which is why A Short History of Nearly Everything needs to be compulsory reading. It is how science should have been taught. Alas, the schools have still not figured it out. Bill Bryson has. Read it. Understand. Laugh. Because that is what learning should be about.