In a Nutshell:
Bill Bryson took over a year and followed all kinds of scientists, physicists, religious leaders among others and basically after interviewing and learning from them, made all of our scientific discoveries to date easily understandable and digestible in this book. What he finds most interesting is not just the historic facts of when so and so discovered this or that, but really the humor in how we as a human race discovered things, and figured things out. He elaborates on science's most embarrassing moments and funniest feuds in a sarcastic humor that only Bill Bryson can bring. Each chapter covers everything we know to date, from geology to fossil discoveries to understanding the universe. But instead of a school science "textbook read", he puts things in easy to understand analogies and humorous anecdotes that makes this book far from boring. In fact it is fun and educational at the same time. I have read that some schools now want to add this to the mandatory reading curriculum, and I don't blame them. I wish I read it in school, too. I might have remembered or understood more of my Science and Natural History classes!
I am still making my way through this book. It is incredibly juicy. It is chock full of amazing information, served up in Bill’s light, funny voice. I recommend this book, but it is not fiction. You will learn a lot and it will open your mind to many things. One of my favorite chapters so far is the universe chapter. He really blows your mind as he gets the reader to understand the distance and depth of the universe itself, and how far things are from one another. The fossil chapter was a really fun read as well. Basically, a feud between two scientists pretty much drove them to the biggest era of fossil discoveries to date. And it was really amazing that fossils in general were discovered not to long ago if you think about it. Some of this knowledge we have today we take for granted, but what Bill uncovers for you is that it took the inspiration, drive and ingenuity of many different people to garner the knowledge that is just a fact of life today. No chapter explains that more than the chemistry chapter. In Bill's light and funny voice, he explains how many a scientist met their end by ingesting or breathing certain chemicals or minerals so that we would have a better understanding of our own periodic chart today! As I said, I am still making my way through this book. Because it is non-fiction, I am mixing it in with my fiction as I go. It is well worth the read. Some stuff will just blow your mind and make you laugh at the same time. Who can say no to that? (and imagine how smart you will be when helping with science homework?)