A layman’s guide to the history of the world

I’ve spent the past few days devouring Bill Bryson’s latest work: A Short History of Nearly Everything. It’s an incredible read and reinforces how amazing the history of the earth really is. Bill’s wit and comedic timing that has made all his previous travel books instant classics is absent, but it has been replaced with an enthusiastic and somber tone that is just as interesting to read. I’ve enjoyed all his previous books, but I like this one just as much, even though it’s a bit of a departure.

Bryson took three years to research the book by conducting interviews and reading lots of history and it comes through in the text. You almost feel like you were in the room with Bill, following prominent scientists around, asking newbie questions. Bryson comes off as genuinely enthralled by the subjects at hand and you learn new things along with him. The narrative reminds me a great deal of James Burke’s books and Connections TV series. Bryson not only tells the tales of how things came to be, but he’s constantly weaving a link between all the various stories and pulling similar themes out.

It’s a fantastic book and reminds me why I was so enamored by science in school. It also drives the point home many times that we are very, very lucky to be standing here, doing what we do everyday. The chances that the universe came together to enable it are insanely slim for all sorts of reasons as you will quickly find out.