Loving Bill Bryson

15 December 2005
I've been reading Bill Bryson'sA Short History Of Nearly Everything this week, it would have to be one of the most amazing documents I've ever read in my life. Exactly as has been said, it will change the way you look at the universe forever (sounds like a cult or self-help book doesn't it?) It's taken me nearly all week to read, because I have to keep stopping to think about what I've read (just imagine me with eyes trained over a thick paperback, looking up, staring glassy-eyes into middle distance for some seconds, then saying softly "...wow". I'm normally a speed reader - I once memorably read IT in six hours on New Years Day a few years ago - but this, I need to take my time over. I feel like I've learned more in a few days of reading this book than I did in seven years of high school science classes (which wasn't a great deal, though admittedly I did biology rather than physics or chemistry for HSC. In any case, I can't remember much of high school at this late stage).

There's only one criticism I can make of the book, and it relates to the language, not the science - I'm in no position to criticise the science! Anyway, I'm referring to Bryson's excessive use of the phrase "not incidentally". It crops up so often that if you read more than about a chapter of the book at a time - sometimes not even that - you become painfully aware of it, and everytime you come across it, those words jolt you out of the text, disctracting you from what you are reading. There is only one occasion in the book where Bryson uses a substitute for "not incidentally": in one case he says "it happens that..." - but even that is in a footnote. I wonder that no copy editor ever picked up on this.

Okay, that's me sniping when I have no business to (having never written a book myself; at least not yet) done with for today! Seriously, I highly recommend you read A Short History. It's scary, funny, fascinating and enlightening - everything a book should be, especially if you are, like me, not a great reader of fiction, but would rather learn something whilst you read. If you do, drop back here, and leave a comment telling us what you thought...


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