A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is an introduction to the history and evolution of science for non-scientists. The book is long for the modern audience that is used to consuming “bite sized” information, but it keeps you engaged with humour and the short chapters that enable you to consume it in small chunks.
Over six broad parts, with several chapters in each, Bryson explores the formation and nature of the cosmos and the Earth, the laws of physics and the elemental particles, the dangers that our planet faces, biology and the rise of life, and how humanity came to be. Byrson handles the difficult to grasp science with simple explanations and metaphors that speak a thousand words.
Bryson does well in revealing the drama of the hidden side of the history of science filled with accidental discoveries, false credit for discoveries, petty rivalries and lifelong feuds, as well as the failures and missed opportunities of those who history has forgotten and those who we know for their successes.
The book could do with a revised edition to address some of the more recent world events–like the Japan earthquake of 2014–that were suggested– in Part IV Dangerous Planet–as overdue. Fortunately, some of the other civilization ending events that are “overdue”–like asteroid impacts and ice ages–has not occurred.
This would be a great read for a teenager who has a budding interest in science or for anyone who likes their history to be fun.
Shopping from Canada, like me? Check out A Short History of Nearly Everything on Amazon.ca