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April 15, 2004

A Short History of Nearly Everything

What I'm reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
New York : Broadway Books, 2003.
544 pg.

I've already commented on this book before, but now that I've finished with it, I've got to give a proper review for it. What a great book. Right now all 55 copies of this book are on hold at the Hennepin County Public Library which is a testament to what a popular book this is. The title A Short History of Nearly Everything is actually a rather poor title for the book since it is really a short history of scientific discovery. Bryson has this to say in the introduction concerning why he wrote the book:

"I didn't know what a proton was, or a protein, didn't know a quark from a quasar, didn't understand how geologists could look at a layer of rock on a canyon wall and tell you how old it was, didn't know anything really. I became gripped by a quite, unwonted urge to know a little about these matters and to understand how people figured them out."

And that is what he has done, he has taken everything from the beginning of the universe to the advent of man and tried to explain it all in a way that you and I can understand. And he's done a find job of it. I can't really do the book justice in this little piece since it really touches upon everything. Did you know that Yellowstone National Park is actually one huge volcano? Or that Manson, Iowa is actually the site of a huge asteroid impact that would dwarf the Grand Canyon if millions of years of passing ice sheets hadn't smoothed it over? Or how about this:

"[Y]our mattress is home to perhaps two million microscopic mites, which come out in the wee hours to sup on your sebaceous oils and feast on all those lovely, crunchy flakes of skin that you shed as you doze and toss. Your pillow alone may be home to forty thousand of them...Indeed, if your pillow is six years old - which is apparently about the average age for a pillow - it has been estimated that one-tenth of its weight will be make up of 'sloughed skin, living mites, dead mites, and mite dung.'"

Isn't that awesome? This book is full of stuff like this. It was fascinating, disgusting, awe inspiring, and just plain fun. This book covers the solar system, cells, taxonomy, Einstein, dinosaurs, asteroids, Java Man, DNA, and much, much more. Do yourself a favor and check it out from your local public library.

Posted by snackeru at April 15, 2004 10:20 PM | Books


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