If I wasn't well educated before I picked up this book, I can now consider myself truly well-informed. I give the book a star (*) because I don't think such a tough subject matter could have been dealt with any better.
The book wasn't what I expected it to be but I'm not really sure what I was expecting. It started off with a topic I don't really care much about: cosmology but that was honestly the only subject I didn't like.
You can expect a little bit of everything just as the title suggests:
What I enjoyed the most was Bryson's research on the people behind scientific discoveries. For instance, Henry Cavendish's life as a recluse was truly intriguing; I was also surprised that Antoine Laurent Lavoisier and his wife were both scientists at a time when women were so severely subjugated - they tinkered away in their own kitchen. I also had no idea that Einstein was a clerk at some Government office earlier in his career or that radioactive material hasn't always been considered to be dangerous.
I felt like a little kid finding all this 'new' stuff out for the first time. Did you know that the brain is 2% of an average man's body mass but uses 20% of the average man's energy! Also, the brain completely refuses to use fat as an energy source - "it won't touch the stuff". It wants glucose only!
The book showed me how far we've come with science especially during the 20th century but importantly, how much farther we still have to go.
According to Bill Bryson, scientific discovery generally involves three stages:
1. Everyone denies something is true
2. Everyone denies something is important
3. A discovery is attributed to the wrong person
This book is perfect material for an audiobook, I don't think I would have finished it in any other format because it would have been far too much work!
One final thing, the narrator of the book was extremely engaging. So much so that when I wanted to download Bill Bryson's other history book in audio, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, I didn't like the sample of the narration so I stopped right there! It sounds awful but having a good narrator makes such a difference to my enjoyment of an audiobook.
Time allowing, I love to read. If I read anything interesting, I will blog about it here.