Friday, August 29, 2003

A Brief History of Nearly Everything

I recently finished A Brief History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. I have mentioned before reading Bill Bryson books. He's one of the authors I make sure to read whatever new he has out. Usually, that's been some sort of entertaining travel writing (or perhaps something on language). His current book is a departure from that, which can be a dangerous thing. You don't necessarily want to see a travel writer thinking, "Hey, how hard could it be to write about science?"

As it turns out, Bryson does a pretty good job in the science popularization biz. About twenty years ago, I used to read Asimov's science popularization. It's interesting to see what's changed in the science world in the past twenty years (or more, since the Asimov anthologies tended to be dated). Also, as someone without a science background, Bryson takes a little different perspective. Fortuantely, he sticks to his strengths of finding interesting stories about the unusual personalities that the history of science has produced.

I only have two main complaints with the book. The first is the organization. It seems intended to take you from the formation of the universe up to the dawn of humanity. Somewhere in between, though, you find yourself reading about plate tectonics, entertained, but wondering where Bryson is going with all this. The second is that Bryson has a tendency to rely on secondary sources. Some things clearly get muddled along the line.

4 out of 5 stars.

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