A Short History of Nearly Everything

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A Short History of Nearly Everything

Postby Da Gamer » Tue Aug 24, 2010 7:17 pm

Has anyone else read 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' by Bill Bryson it took me a long time and contained so much information to digest but it was definitely worth it and I would recommend it to anyone interested in science and the world around you.
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Postby raisindot » Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:29 pm

Disclaimer: I love Bill Bryson's travel books, finding them to be a much more humorous and sunny alternative to the dour and cynical travel books of people like Paul Theroux. However, I find some of his "histories" to be problemmatic.

"A Short History" is one of his better non-travel books, although it really is a Cliff's Notes guide to the history of major developments in the fields of astronomy, physics, biology and geology.

My main problem with it is that it tells the story of scientific developments without actually providing real insights or understanding of the science it's documenting. Bryson will be the first to admit this, brushing away an much-needed explanation of a difficult concept with a "we don't have time or knowledge to explain it here." It's always easy to tell that Bryson's research is based on secondary sources, which he doesn't footnote. Some of his scenes are little more than rewritten versions of content in other books I've read.

Still, as a one-volume, breezy overview of the history of science it's quite good, although one would be better off reading single volume histories of a particular field written by experts in their field. (I don't have the Bryson in front of me, but I think he has a good bibliography here)

In any case, the book is a hell of a lot better than his absolutely terrible "biography" of Shakespeare.

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Postby Dotsie » Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:58 pm

I really enjoyed ASHONE, I could quite happily read it again some day. Even if he doesn't go into detail sometimes, that's fine - too much detail makes for a very dry book, and isn't necessary anyway. I haven't read anything else he's written, just because the content doesn't really appeal to me.
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Postby michelanCello » Wed Aug 25, 2010 1:50 pm

Have only read Neither Here Nor There, but I liked it really much! :D
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Postby Da Gamer » Wed Aug 25, 2010 3:23 pm

Well although they don't delve too much into the scientific research it gives a great overview of things especially for someone who does not know too much about science.
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Postby raisindot » Wed Aug 25, 2010 7:37 pm

Dotsie wrote:I really enjoyed ASHONE, I could quite happily read it again some day. Even if he doesn't go into detail sometimes, that's fine - too much detail makes for a very dry book, and isn't necessary anyway. I haven't read anything else he's written, just because the content doesn't really appeal to me.


Hmmmm...I want to make it my mission to entice you to read some of his other books. You may at least want to give "A Walk in the Woods" a try. His hilarious narrative of his half-assed effort to walk the entire Appalachian trail, with his slovenly friend sometimes in tow, would appeal to those who enjoy some of the better Colon/Nobby exploits.

:o

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Postby Dotsie » Thu Aug 26, 2010 8:23 am

You don't have to make it your mission :lol: I've just had a quick look at my library website & they have it in, so I'll pick it up when I have the chance. I'm very open minded when people recommend books :wink:
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Postby raisindot » Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:08 pm

Dotsie wrote:You don't have to make it your mission :lol: I've just had a quick look at my library website & they have it in, so I'll pick it up when I have the chance. I'm very open minded when people recommend books :wink:


Mission accomplished. If you don't like it, I'll take the blame. :D

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Postby Quark » Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:33 pm

I've not read all of this yet, but I'm enjoying it so far. A good read of the history of all things scientific - so long as you concentrate on the history, not the science :wink: . I also read Bill Bryson's 'Down Under' - A real insight into how Australia is perceived from an outsider's point of view.
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Postby raisindot » Thu Aug 26, 2010 6:52 pm

Quark wrote:I've not read all of this yet, but I'm enjoying it so far. A good read of the history of all things scientific - so long as you concentrate on the history, not the science :wink: . I also read Bill Bryson's 'Down Under' - A real insight into how Australia is perceived from an outsider's point of view.


In the state's it's called 'In a Sunburnt Country." Also well done.

Bryson likes to play up his "outsider's image' in his travel books. He say legitimate reason to--although America, he lived in Britain for many years and he made coming back to live in the States the subject of his book "I'm a Stranger Here Myself."

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Postby Beautiful Dirt » Sun Sep 19, 2010 9:25 am

I found this book enjoyable, Bryson has a knack for putting a light comic spin on the story he tells. I don't think detailed scientific explanations would of suited this particular book. Would of made my holiday read less relaxing for a start :)
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Postby Annebn » Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:57 pm

I haven't read A short history... (it's somewhere in my much to big "to read" pile), but I enjoyed both Neither here nor There and Notes from a small Island a lot.
"But you read a lot of books, I'm thinking. Hard to have faith, ain't it, when you've read too many books?"
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Postby Tonyblack » Wed Sep 22, 2010 6:33 pm

Annebn wrote:I haven't read A short history... (it's somewhere in my much to big "to read" pile), but I enjoyed both Neither here nor There and Notes from a small Island a lot.
Good to see you here again, Anne. :D
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Postby Dotsie » Thu Sep 23, 2010 6:46 am

Hi Anne - did I see you at the con? I'm sure I saw your badge whizzing past.
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Postby Annebn » Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:25 am

Thanks for the welcome back Tony- i'll try to stop by more often.
Yes Dotsie, I was indeed at the con. But there were so many people!
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