Friday, November 10, 2006

Dabbling in Science and Natural History

Who doesn't love Bill Bryson? And, I might ask, who doesn't love literary nonfiction? Because to love one is to love the other, at least for a little while. I just finished Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything and really found it super-fascinating. Although if he had scaled it down to A Short History of the Findings of Paleontology, Geology, and Anthropology of the Last 300 Years, I would have found it equally fascinating. Since those were the branches of science/social science that constituted my favorite parts of the book. I read of another blogger who couldn't finish it due to the scariness of certain parts regarding the possibility of earthly destruction via rogue asteroid, the eruption of the mega-volcano that is Yellowstone National Park (which would easily take out half the country and affect the whole world), and even the possible weakening of our magnetic field which we need to protect us from lethal cosmic rays from space. And yes, these sections were indeed unnerving. But also extremely fascinating.

He'll take you from a mini-crash course in subatomic particles to the amazing discoveries of women astrophysicists in the fifties to the hilarious and entertaining portraits of various scientists and historical figures to the current theories regarding the classifications of Homo erectus and the mysteries behind the tools and migration patterns of early humans. And it's all told in Bryson's conversational, clever, funny, and endearing manner.

I regaled M. with so many anecdotes, facts, and tidbits regarding everything from the blue whale to Jupiter to the structure of the atom, that he started asking me for a date when I thought I'd be finished, so he could start reading it. As it turns out, our copy fell apart and I was able to finish the last section unbound while he started the still bound part. Which I'm glad happened for that reason, and also because I now have the tantalizing bibliography to pore over full of titles like Tales of the Earth: Paroxysms and Perturbations of the Blue Planet, Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy, and Bones: Discovering the First Americans. Oh yeah, and Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz is in there, which is on my list of Winter Challenge Books, so I might just go there next.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am thinking I just added another book to the que.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Thanks for the recommendation! This sounds like a fascinating book.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Lesley said...

Since Mike and I are both fans of Bryson, we splurged and bought the illustrated version of this book (having a store coupon sealed the deal) but neither one of us has gotten around to it yet.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Camille said...

Oh, wow. I didn't even realize there was an illustrated edition. And, you know, the whole time I was reading I kept wishing for photos, illustrations, and diagrams. So much so that I sometimes looked stuff up online so I could see what he was talking about.

10:40 PM  

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