May 6, 2003
Bill Bryson is one of the world’s most beloved and bestselling writers. In A Short History of Nearly Everything, he takes his ultimate journey – into the most intriguing and consequential questions that science seeks to answer. It’s a dazzling quest, the intellectual odyssey of a lifetime, as this insatiably curious writer attempt to understand everything that has transpired from the beginning to the rise of civilization. Or, as the author puts it, “… how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us, and also what happened in between and since.” This is, in short, a tall order.
To that end, Bill Bryson apprenticed himself to a host of the world’s most profound scientific minds, living and dead. His challenges to take subjects like geology, chemistry, paleontology, astronomy, and particle physics and see if there’s in some way to render them comprehensible to people, like himself, made bored (or scared) stiff of science by school. His interest is not simply to discover what we know but to find out how we know it. How do we know what is in the center of the Earth, thousands of miles beneath the surface? How can we know the extent and the composition of the universe, or what a black hole is? How can we know where the continents were 600 million years ago? How did anyone ever figure these things out?
On his travels through space and time, Bill Bryson encounters a splendid gallery of the most fascinating, eccentric, competitive, and foolish personalities ever to ask a hard question. In their company, he undertakes a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only this superb writer can render it. Science has never been more involving, and the world we inhabit has never been fuller of wonder and delight.
Bill Bryson’s bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods, I’m a Stranger Myself, In a Sunburned Country, and Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words. He lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with his wife and children.