What I am reading this week should be what I am reading this month. The book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, is … understandably … not short. When you write a book and purport to explain “everything,” you need a long book to do so. Bill Bryson’s monumental effort is commendable and a very enjoyable read. Christians, who believe in a young earth model, will find his conclusions difficult to agree with. As you would expect from a science book today, Bryson accepts Darwinian evolution as fact.
It will surprise you as you read this book that the author, Bryson, is not a scientist … apparently he is a well acclaimed travel writer. Perhaps this is his advantage since he attempts to explain some very complex topics in lay person’s language. He explains the purpose for his book: “I didn’t know what a proton was, or a protein, didn’t know a quark from a quasar, didn’t know how an atom was put together. . . . How can scientists be clever enough to know how the continents were arrayed six hundred million years ago . . . but can’t predict an earthquake or tell us whether we should take an umbrella with us to the races next Wednesday?”
The book has that perfect blend of both explaining the macro events of our universe but also providing specific human interest stories to keep you interested in the subject matter. His gift in writing is that he provides countless stories that illustrate the oddities, peculiarities and even stupidity of some of history’s most prolific scientists. You will learn that phosphor was discovered because a scientist was attempting to turn urine into gold. How else would you know such a thing? And doesn’t a story like that make a discussion on the discovery of the elements so much more interesting? Then there is the story of Isaac Newton who stuck a needle in his eye just to see what would happen. Fortunately, nothing happened.
I consider this an extremely interesting book. The wit of the author will at times makes you laugh out loud. I don’t remember laughing as I have read science text books at other times in my life. I am going to have my kids read this book as they go through their high school studies. This book is more interesting and more informative than most science books or classes.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know.