Book Reviews: Bryson Passport to Knowledge

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), June 7, 2003 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews: Bryson Passport to Knowledge


Byline: CATHY MAYER

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Published (hardback) by Doubleday. pounds 20.00

IF the thought of reading a book on geology, particle physics or the peculiarities of bacteria sounds like a shortcut to boring yourself to sleep, you're probably not alone.

But unlikely as it sounds, Bill Bryson's new book, A Short History Of Nearly Everything, manages to tackle all these topics and more in a genuinely enthralling way.

Starting from the premise that no-one had ever satisfactorily satisfied his curiosity over questions like how does anyone know what the earth weighs and what was the start of the universe really like, Bryson decided to answer them himself.

Taking in everything from the Big Bang to quantum theory, and dinosaurs to the dodo, he attempts to answer these questions and more, all with the trademark amusing anecdotes, wry asides and wide-eyed incredulity which fans will have come to expect.

While you might expect the quantity of facts and figures - including plenty in the trillion billion, or the tiniest fractions of millimetres - to be overwhelming, Bryson manages the difficult balancing act of simplifying everything without being patronising. …

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