Posted by: Matt | December 12, 2007

A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything
Bill Bryson
478 pgs. (excluding endnotes)

This book had been on my list for years, from about the time it was released. I finally got around to reading it recently and I’m glad I did.

The “Everything” in the title means life, the Universe and Earth. Obviously this is a lot of material to cover and done in a pretty respectable number of pages. One of the most fascinating things I discovered in this book, however, is what we don’t know. There is so much we don’t understand about human life, let alone the Earth or the Universe. Theories that are widely believed today were thought to be nonsense just a decade or two ago. It causes me to wonder how foolish our current “knowledge” will look a century from now.

But what we do know, or think we know, is quite fascinating. My recent explosion of interest in astrophysics, evolution, the brain and other science was a product of reading this book. If that isn’t a stunning endorsement for a book I don’t know what is. A Short History of Nearly Everything epitomizes what I love about reading non-fiction. That “wow” feeling that causes me to pester my wife with “did you know”.

I do have a small complaint however. As the book progressed it seemed to slow down, though this may be attributable to my personal interests. It didn’t seem quite as interesting at the end as it did in the beginning. Admittedly it would be hard to retain that level for nearly 500 pages.

Despite this I do not hesitate to recommend this book to everyone. If you have any interest in how humans came to be on this ball of minerals lost in the vastness of space you should pick up this book. It might just get you excited about learning! I’m giving this one a 5, partially because it has so inspired me to learn.

Rating: 5.0



  1. Wow, a 5! I’ve got this book around somewhere….

  2. Have you read Bryson’s other work? I wonder if the humor he so often writes with is in this book as well, given the subject. I’ve often thought of reading this myself…my husband has listened to it.

  3. Stefanie – I really did enjoy it and found it to be so interesting, and Bryson does a good job of keeping it entertaining.

    tara – This is the only Bryson book I have read but he did occasionally use humor in the book to keep things entertaining.

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