‘A short history of nearly everything’ by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is possibly one of the most prolific authors of non-fiction that was ever born on this earth. I thought it would have been quite a miss if I didn’t read at least one of his books.

When I picked up ‘A short history of nearly everything’ at the Books For Amnesty in Bristol, a shower of comments fell on me: “He’s such a hilarious writer,” they said, or “I love his books, so interesting!”

What nobody said was: “It’s kind of daunting, gave me the creeps most of the time.”

If anybody asked me, this is exactly what I would say. Now, let me explain why.

‘A short history of nearly everything’ is everything that you read on the tin. Well, it is some 600 pages, but compared to the history of everything, we can allow that it is quite short.

The idea is that of telling the history of the world right from the beginning. along with explaining how the heck some humans from today managed to find out what happened some 14 billion years ago. As it turns out, it wasn’t easy and anyway, they’re still not so sure about it.

Past the beginning of the universe, Bill tells us about the formation of stars, then of galaxies and finally of our little, cosy solar system, where our dear Earth goes round and round the Sun. It is interesting to realise that until 50 years ago nobody really knew how old the Earth was or what was inside it.

Then, once the origin of Earth is dealt with (and it takes up something like half of the book), life comes along and if you thought geologist were a feisty species, wait to meet paleontologists! According to Bill, these rock-chasers are nothing but a bunch of drama queens. Well. He’s not completely wrong.

Finally, humans arose and chaos took over the paleontological research. We went from one to a hundred species to a few and quite bushily organised. A bit of a mess, in short.

However, it’s not this that made me call this daunting and creepy.

***WARNING*** Read this only if you’re an insufferable optimistic. And you are hard to bring down. Or just don’t read it. Unless you really want to. You might have nightmares.

There’s a number of realization that Bill was very eager to share (and very keen on insisting upon): we could die any minute, if a comet crushes on earth; the same if a meteor strikes; the same if a crevice opens in your backyard; the same if a gigantic volcano erupts; the same if Yellowstone explodes; the same if the Arctic Ice melts; the same if it doesn’t melt; the amount of lead in the atmosphere is enough to kill us all, very slowly; the amount of CFC (ozone killer) is enough to destroy the layer of ozone and have us roast into the sun radiation; even if this doesn’t happen, a solar flare might burn up our atmosphere and roast us nonetheless.

So much for enjoying our life on Earth.

Bottom line to this (the moral I decided to take home with me): enjoy your life everyday, because you never know when bacteria might decide to take over the world and suffocate you in your sleep.

Happy 2016 to everyone……….

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