I have a recently rediscovered passion and interest for History, absorbing many tomes over the past few months, my favourite being brief surmises of ‘all of History’.
Possibly it’s laziness or a fear of delving to deeply into specific areas of History so early into my enthusiasm, or perhaps a desire to get an overall picture of the state of the world before specialising. Whatever the reason Bill Bryson’s infamous book that comes highly recommended from many sources is nothing to do with human history as such, rather a history of how we got here in the first place. 574 pages (plus 110 pages of notes and indices) dealing with weighty topics such as the creation of the universe, scientific pioneers and Evolution with an enthusiasm and clarity so often missing from such volumes, not only dealing with the issues but also revealing some of the fascinating characters and lives behind infamous discoveries.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects is the stories behind such familiar names, sometimes you hear so much about historical characters and their achievements you forget that they also suffered struggles, had lives, relationships and personalities. The book is a pleasure to read, you learn so much without it flying straight over your head or sending you to sleep, despite it’s topics you find the book hard to put down, eager to discover what happens next or what crazy ideas scientists came up with next.
It’s simultaneously scary and refreshing to realise that we actually know very little about the world around us and that so much of what we think we know has been discovered relatively recently. Likewise a lot of our assumptions and conjectures on the universe are based on such little evidence; there are many tales of completely and utterly ridiculous mistakes, but who’s to say that our assumptions now are any more accurate.
Life is fascinating, complex and confusing, full of amazing coincidences and mysteries, if you have even a modicum of interest in who we are and how we got here then I heartily recommend Bryson’s extraordinarily accessible book and challenge anyone not to learn at least a handful of captivating facts to conjure up during drunken late night conversations.