Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

Written by: Bill Bryson
Recommended Ages: 8-12

Back in 2003, bestselling author Bill Bryson published a book about life, the universe and everything called A Short History of Nearly Everything. It came in just over 500 pages and explained science in a very understandable, very readable manner...for adults. Now, he has come up with A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, which every third through sixth grade classroom should consider having on their shelves.

From it's opening paragraph, you realize you are in for a treat: "This is a book about how IT happened--in particular, 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 some of what happened in between--and since."

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything is divided into six sections:
  • Lost in the Cosmos
  • The Size of the Earth
  • A New Age Dawns
  • Dangerous Planet
  • Life Itself
  • The Road to Us

Each section then has mini chapters devoted to a particular subject. For instance, in Lost in the Cosmos, one of the chapters is called The Big Bang. Spread out on a two page layout are lots and lots of facts about the Big Bang, presented in an appealing way. For instance, eight of the facts are on eight planet-sized circles. Surrounding the planet facts, are four other paragraphs with lots more information all about the Big Bang. Here's a sample:

"Most of what we think we know about the early moments of the universe is thanks to an idea called 'inflation theory." Imagine that a fraction of a moment after the dawn of creation, the universe underwent a sudden dramatic expansion, that it inflated at a huge speed. In just one million million million million millionths of a second - the universe changed from something you could hold in your hand to something at least 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times bigger."

While I imagine there are some kids who will sit down and read A Really Short History of Nearly Everything cover to cover, I think the vast majority will use it to look things up. This is a book to have on hand as questions arise. It has an extensive index where you can find information about everything from amino acids to Fritz Zwicky (the astronomer who coined the term 'supernova'). Bill Bryson has done an admirable job of taking generally difficult topics such as Newton's Bulge Theory or Einstein's Theory of Relativity and making them understandable, and even entertaining. There are helpful illustrations and photographs that are sure to draw a reader's attention to the subject at hand.

The last three chapters are titled "Humans Take Over," "What Now," and "Goodbye." In them, Bryson talks about the impact humans have had on the planet, and reminds us to take care of it. He addresses issues of extinction, pollution and global warming, ending with this: "We really are at the beginning of it all. The trick, of course, is to make sure we never find the end. And that will require a lot more than a series of lucky breaks."

1 comment:

Jennifer K. Mann said...

Thanks!! I'm puttin' it on the holiday gift list!