Bill Bryson A Short History of Nearly Everything

Last updated date: July 19, 2019

DWYM Score
8.8

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We looked at the top 1 History Books and dug through the reviews from 11 of the most popular review sites including Good Reads, Kirkus Reviews, Book Reporter, Universe Today, The Hope Chest Reviews, The Loopy Librarian, Serious Reading, Dr. Mani, AHA UW Madison, Geeky Library, Compulsive Reader and more. Through this analysis, we've determined the best History Book you should buy.

Overall Take

In our analysis of 77 expert reviews, the Bill Bryson Bill Bryson A Short History of Nearly Everything placed 6th when we looked at the top 10 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note July 2, 2019:
Checkout The Best History Book for a detailed review of all the top history books.

Expert Summarized Score
8.6
11 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.2
2,837 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What experts liked
Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads. Loads of good explaining.
- Kirkus Reviews
By the time I'd finished the Prologue, I was running to my husband exclaiming how incredible this book was going to be. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the content, but written the way it is, it undeniably makes learning fun.
- Book Reporter
January 23, 2011 | Full review
Bryson isn’t a scientist, he’s a writer, but he clearly did his homework over the course of the three years he took to put this book together. The writing is clear, entertaining, and never slips into industry jargon – if anything, Bryson underestimates the reader and explains some concepts a little more than he needs to.
- Universe Today
September 26, 2003 | Full review
I had several good laughs at the factoids about various scientists which seemed to bring a whole new meaning to the phrase, "mad scientist." The author has a great knack for finding all the silly little stories that really make history and science interesting and fun.
- The Hope Chest Reviews
I hate science, but thanks to Bill Bryson, I devoured a 500 page book about it. Humorous anecdotes, eccentric scientists, fascinating footnotes, and a delightful way with words and images that engage and amuse. Bryson writes to the reader who comes to the table with no aptitude for science just a desire to learn.
- The Loopy Librarian
September 8, 2014 | Full review
A Short History of Nearly Everything is for everyone who know very little of science but is eager to learn. With a well-written prose, lively and informative concepts, thoughts and wittier lines that will keep the readers intrigued and entertained, A Short History of Nearly Everything is a must-read for all.
- Serious Reading
This is a truly humbling read. One that’ll knock the hot air out of you – and prepare you to view our universe with awe, respect, and yes, a little fear, too. It’s incredible that Bill Bryson manages to do all of this without drowning a reader in arcane technicality or dull lectures, but instead through the use of gripping personal stories and amusing anecdotes that humanize intellectual giants.
- Dr. Mani
A Short History of Nearly Everything is a must read book for anybody with an interest in history or science. Aimed at the general public, he manages to explain complex theories very fluidly and comprehensively. Being a non scientist himself, A Short History Of Nearly Everything is an excellent effort at educating people about science and how we got here.
- AHA UW Madison
September 17, 2016 | Full review
The humor that is used to employ learning is not always apparent until after you read a chapter or two. You are always in a learning mode when reading this book. Either to enforce what you already know or dispelling fiction,it is a good read.
- Geeky Library
A Short History of Everything is a remarkable book, not because it illuminates anything about science which isn’t more or less commonly known. What makes it wonderful is that it is a humanistic book, written so well that by the time the reader puts it down, the impact of science on life as we know it, and don’t yet know it, will become a part of self-awareness.
- Compulsive Reader
What experts didn't like
One issue that I had with the book is that subjects were not given equal time. Electricity was given a lot of writing space, but others were not, like evolution.
- Geeky Library

From The Manufacturer

An Overview On History Books

  • You’ll likely choose a history book based on an event you simply want to learn more about. If you’re fascinated with the history of man, Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” will appeal to you. Gregory A. Freeman’s “The Forgotten 500” focuses on 500 specific men, covering Operation Halyard, which was part of World War II. Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” homes in on American history, tossing out the history taught in schools with the goal of teaching the unvarnished truth about our country. Donnie Eichar’s “Dead Mountain” tells the fascinating story of nine experienced hikers who died mysteriously after inexplicably exiting their tent during a camping trip.
  • Readability is huge with a history book, especially if you prefer a more casual, laid-back approach to storytelling. Gregory A. Freeman’s “The Forgotten 500” reads like a suspense novel, taking you along on the adventure. Donnie Eichar’s “Dead Mountain” is also immensely readable, retelling an already riveting story based on years of research. Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” on the other hand, is 464 pages and does tend to read a bit like a textbook.
  • The best history books go beyond merely telling a story, instead conveying a theme that can serve as a mirror of what humanity is going through today. Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” poses questions that make readers think. The author explores the reasons behind humans building large populations, compared to other primates that keep things small.
  • Some historical novels are worth reading simply because they tell a story that’s long overdue to be told. Gregory A. Freeman’s “The Forgotten 500” brings to light the men who had to fight hard to get back to their families, also acknowledging those who died for their right to do so.
  • Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” is not objective, but that’s part of the book’s charm. With passion, the author tells the stories of the Americans often forgotten in history books — namely women and people of color, as well as factory workers and immigrant laborers.
  • Donnie Eichar’s “Dead Mountain” tells the well-known Dyatlov Pass mystery, which has yet been solved. Although Eichar does detail the facts leading up to the hikers’ mysterious sudden departure from their tent into the blustery cold, snowy night, the rest is his own theory into what happened. He does pull as many facts as possible into making those statements, and his theory is better than most of the others that have been proposed in this case.
  • As valuable as all the other factors are, if the historical novel you’re reading isn’t accurate, it isn’t worth reading. Even when a book is accurate, though, you’ll usually find the author has no choice but to occasionally inject a personal opinion or two. In Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” for instance, the author structures an argument that the agricultural revolution was one of the biggest mistakes in history. Gregory A. Freeman’s “The Forgotten 500” shows a bias toward Draza Mihailovich, who was a Yugoslav Serb and friend of the U.S. during World War II. Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” does assert heavily that the ruling class’s oppression of a part of the population is to blame for everything that has happened in America. In Donnie Eichar’s “Dead Mountain,” the author offers a scientific, weather phenomenon-related explanation for nine people rushing from a tent, separating and later being found dead in various conditions.

DYWM Fun Fact

There have been many theories about the Dyatlov Pass Incident since it happened in 1959. The tent had been cut open from the inside, and there were eight to nine sets of footprints leading to the edge of the nearby woods. What caused the hikers to cut a hole in the tent and run? All nine had died from hypothermia, but why they ran, and why they couldn’t make their way back to the tent later, remains a mystery. Some experts have theorized an avalanche, but there were no signs that an avalanche had happened. Experts have explored the possibility that the team stumbled into a radioactive weapons testing area and were forced out of their tent due to that. More recent theories have dismissed those, using what science knows today to provide a more plausible explanation for what happened there.

The History Book Buying Guide

Writer and philosopher George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But before you can remember the past, you first must know about it. History class probably taught you all the basics, but it’s up to you, as an adult, to take a deep dive into various events.

The history section of a bookstore is as diverse as any other genre. It captures a span of centuries and events, covering everything from mysterious happenings to war heroes. As you browse, you’ll likely be drawn to the type of subject matter that best suits your interest. But more goes into a good historical novel than the topic it’s covering.

With any historical telling, you’re getting one person’s perspective on the events. A good author will conduct thorough research and even conduct numerous interviews in order to present all the facts to the reader. But many historical books are written with at least a little bias, as the author can’t possibly provide every single perspective. Make sure before you read that you’re going to get as accurate a portrayal as possible, rather than simply reading an author’s thoughts on what happened.

That said, there are some history books that require a bit of speculation. Even historical experts sometimes contribute their thoughts to these books. If you’re reading about a war, for instance, you may only get one side’s perspective, requiring you to pick up another book to get the full picture.

In the end, though, whether a history book is enjoyable or not will have a lot to do with how it’s written. Some history books are very straightforward, like a textbook, but many others inject humor or the author’s unique voice into the writing to keep you turning the page. Read a few pages of the book before you buy to make sure the writing suits your own personal tastes.