Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

This book, first published in Britain by Doubleday in 2003, has only recently come to my attention. I am a great if jealous fan of Btyson, feeling that, if only I had his talent and energy, I could have made a better job of his books than he has. So I am naturally delighted not to join in the chorus of praise for A Short History of Nearly Everything. For a start there are no pictures. The index is a disgrace: there is, for example, no mention of the apple tree in connection with Isaac Newton, and the reader will look in vain for information about either Ike or Tina Turner. In short, a better title would have been  A  Short  History of Virtually Nothing.

But these are mere quibbles. My main issue is with the clear, if unstated, promise to bring the world of science within the reach of the layman, to make it amenable to dummies. Well, I have to report that the book left this particular dummy gasping for breath, in the sense that by the time I reached the end of the paragraph I had already forgotten what we were supposed to be talking about. Is this the fault of Bill Bryson or of this particular dummy? I think we all know the answer to that question.

To sum up: some excellent anecdotes spoilt by rather boring and largely incomprehensible passages about galaxies and the like.


  1. Reviews of books written years ago are always useful. Also I agree that the whole concept of the book is rather lame: a bit easy to take 3 years off to try and understand how the world works and then write a book about it. Anyway, "Everything" is a bit of a niche subject that only experts are bound to appreciate. My personal advice to Bronson: get a life.

    1. Who is this Bronson of whom you speak so highly?!

  2. why, the author of that stupid book of course. Can't be bothered to remember his name properly.


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