Dr Dave Hone, a nice chap from the University of Bristol who specializes in dinosaurs and pterosaurs, has a list of his favourite science books in the Guardian today. What caught my eye was the one he has at the top of the list …
Bill Bryson: A short history of nearly everything
Quite simply the best science book I’ve ever read. Funny, engaging, memorable and detailed, it combines the history of the sciences and how they evolved and progressed mixed in with the actual hard-won knowledge. It’s a mammoth piece, but one I’m capable of picking up again and again and it’s something that should be compulsory for those wanting to take science G.C.S.Es or A-levels.
If science was really not your thing in school and you have memories of truly dull stuff, then this is the book for you because it brings it all to life and makes it really fascinating. Mt Bryson’s style of communicating the history of the sciences and the naturally occurring events on the planet and beyond is quite frankly unmatched, for here he has weaved together a truly rich tapestry of biography and informative anecdote.
But don’t take my word for it, check out some of the Amazon reviews, for example this one …
I have never felt so compelled to write a review before; this book is a true masterpiece. Bill brings science to the masses in an entertaining and easy to understand manner. If you’ve ever wondered for example, what the theory of relativity actually means, get this book. I read it in a week, now I am going to read it again, and probably again after that! The size of the volume belies the breadth of topics covered.
Alongside the huge amount of science contained in this book, we also look back at the constant bickering, back-stabbing and fallings-out of history’s great scientists and revolutionaries and wonder how scientific knowledge managed to advance in light of this.
This is truly a magnificent achievement given the author is not a scientist, but then if it were written by a scientist, would I have understood a word of it, and would I have enjoyed it so much?
My family bought me this book for my birthday at least partly to see whether reading it might make tea come out of my nose as had gratifyingly (for them) happened with an earlier Bill Bryson book that I had anti-socially taken to the table because I couldn’t stop reading it.
It didn’t, but it did cause me to go AWOL from my domestic responsibilities for quite some time, and sometimes to stagger round clutching my head as my brain refused to assimilate any more. I enjoyed it enormously. It’s Bill Bryson’s enviable gift to be able to write so clearly and elegantly, conveying his enthusiasm without drawing attention to his erudition. The fact that you find yourself becoming passionately interested in glaciers after a lifetime of not giving them a second thought says it all. Reading this book is a moving, frightening, awe inspiring and yet curiously optimistic experience, and everyone should do it.
My only complaint is that Doubleday have chosen not to bind this book properly. Gluing books together, especially hardback books, ought to be some sort of crime.
However, my favourite review quote is this one …
“This man could research the inside of a ping-pong ball and come up with fifty amusing factual stories about it. When he’s dealing with the history of the universe… I just wish the book were longer.”
Oh and before I forget, you might like to go check some of the other recommendations that Dr Hone has, there are some other great recommendations in there as well.