bill bryson

Booking Through Thursday: Eternity

This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks:

“What book took you the longest to read, and do you feel it was the content or just the length that made it so?

I think the longest time it took for me to read one book was with A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. The Lord of the Rings complete trilogy took the longest time but that’s  three books in one edition so it’s not applicable.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is a fairly big book. My edition runs over 600 pages and is divided into 6 parts & 30 chapters. It took me a while to finish it but not because it’s boring or difficult. Time constraint was a major factor. Plus, this is one book you cannot skim over. Most of it has to be read with careful attention.  So, it was basically a combination of length and content.

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Musing Mondays (Feb.20)

This week’s Musing Mondays from Should Be Reading asks…

“This week’s musing asks…

What is the last book that you learned something from? What book was it, and what did it teach you?

Although I am not a major non-fiction reader, last year A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson was one of the few non-fictions I read and that did teach me a lot of things about this universe of ours. The book does touch upon an astonishing variety of topics, from Quantum Physics, Geology, Biology to Palaeontology, the origin of human beings and theories on mass extinction. Some of it I knew from before and some of it was news to me. Overall, A Short History of Nearly Everything was quite educational and entertaining.

My Top Ten Books 2011

I am normally very sure about what I like and what I don’t. So, doing top 10 best reads is usually a cinch for me. But last year was such a whirlwind! Also, my reading experiences were a bit of a mixed bag. There were a lot of books that I didn’t love but didn’t hate either. Thus, putting together a top 10 was more difficult than it usually is. Anyway here is my Top 10 Books for 2011 with excerpts from my reviews (Click on the titles for the full reviews),

1. 

Detective Stories. Philip Pullman.

The collection starts with The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle. The story was first published in the Strand Magazine in 1892. Panic grips a lonely woman when she starts to hear the same late night whistling noise that her twin sister spoke of in her dying moments…

2.

Very Good, Jeeves. P.G. Wodehouse.

Jeeves and the Song of Songs (1929) has Bertie right in the middle of Tuppy Glossop’s tangled love life as he is forced to sing at a concert for Beefy Bingham. Anyone who has seen the 1990 series Jeeves and Wooster will appreciate this story even more. I recently watched a re-run of the show (I am too young to remember its original run) and thought  Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were absolutely marvellous in it!

 3.

 
Rebecca. Daphne Du Maurier.

For me, Rebecca is about Rebecca. Long after the book ends her laughing, beautiful, cruel face stays vividly alive. She wins, as always, even in death.

4.

The Diary of a Nobody. George Grossmith.

I found several parts of the book quite funny. Like Lupin recklessly driving a pony-trap and causing general havoc in the streets while Mr. Pooter being seated at the back has to bear the wrath of  ‘a gang of roughs in a donkey-cart’. Or Mr. Cummings becoming ill and being angry at his friends for not reading about his illness in ‘The Bicycle News’. And Mr. Pooter getting annoyed after having to eat the same blanc-mange repeatedly.

5.

A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill Bryson.

I really liked how Bryson talks of the people behind the science. The lives of known and unknown people behind some of the greatest discoveries come alive through Bryson’s narrative.

6.
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. Liz Jensen.

Louis Drax is an accident prone boy. Ever since he was a baby he has been involved in more than his fair share of near fatal accidents. But so far they have all been just that, ‘nearly’ but not wholly ‘fatal’. On his ninth birthday, however, things may change for the worse. Louis may never come out alive from this ‘accident’.

7.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Haruki Murakami.

Sprawling, odd, complicated, scary, these are the words that come to my mind when I say the name, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I tried to keep an open mind and take it all in. But still at times I had to stop and think,

‘What on earth is this?’

8.

The Inimitable Jeeves. P. G. Wodehouse.

In Introducing Claude and Eustace and Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch, Bertie’s cousins, Claude and Eustace, come home with a top hat, several cats and a Salmon. Meanwhile, Sir Roderick Glossop, the noted nerve specialist, comes to lunch and questions Bertie’s sanity.

9.
Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings. Charles Dickens.

After Mrs. Lirriper’s drink loving husband perishes in an accident, Mrs. Lirriper starts to take in lodgers to make ends meet and also to pay off Mr. Lirriper’s debts. Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings describes some of her experiences as a lodge keeper… I liked how Mrs. Lirriper keeps addressing the reader as ‘My Dear’, as though she knows us all and is having an ordinary conversation with us. It is sort of comforting somehow.

&

 
Mrs Lirriper’s Legacy. Charles Dickens.

Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy is a worthy conclusion to the story of Mrs. Lirriper.  The hopefulness of the first book comes to fruition in the second one.

10.

It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock – A Personal Biography. Charlotte Chandler.

I like the cover of the book. It is striking. As I read this book en route to my workplace many people asked me what book I was reading and they seemed genuinely interested in it.

Chunkster Challenge 2011 – Completion

I usually read quite a few books that would easily fit in to the category of ‘chunkster’. But each year I shrink from taking up the ‘Chunkster Challenge’. What if I can’t finish it? But I took the leap this year. My new job became  a serious  impediment to my finishing this challenge. Anyhow, at long last managed to finish it.

I participated under the “The Chubby Chunkster” participation level of the 2011 Chunkster Challenge, the challenge was to read four books of adult literature (fiction or nonfiction) of 450 pages or more between February 1, 2011 and January 31, 2012.

Thanks to Wendy of Caribousmom for hosting this challenge. I enjoyed participating in it.

Completed Books: 1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Haruki Murakami.

2. Barchester Towers. Anthony Trollope.

3. The Shadow of the Wind. Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

4. A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill Bryson.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

In the introduction to this book, Bill Bryson explains why he decided to write a ‘popular science’ book. Bryson felt that most text books are needlessly complex and in general kind of dull. According to him,

“There seemed to be a mystifying universal conspiracy among textbook authors to make certain the material they dealt with never strayed too near the realm of the mildly interesting and was always at least a long-distance phone call from the frankly interesting.”

Thus, A Short History of Nearly Everything was born. In it Bryson tries to explain scientific matters in a language that would be easily understood by the general populace.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson was published in 2003. It became a best seller on its publication and won several awards.

This book touches on an astonishing variety of topics. It starts with the creation of the universe, moves on to Quantum Physics, Geology, Biology and finally discusses Palaeontology and the origin of human beings. Natural disasters like volcanic irruptions & earthquakes and theories about mass extinctions are also discussed. The narrative is made livelier by interjecting it with humorous anecdotes about the people behind the science.

I really liked how Bryson talks of the people behind the science. The lives of known and unknown people behind some of the greatest discoveries come alive through Bryson’s narrative.

Bryson’s sense of humour shines through the narrative. I could quote passage after passage from the book that made me laugh.

Bryson tries his best to put the most difficult scientific terms and formulas in plain English accompanied with clever and witty examples. He does succeed to a large extent but an understanding of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics helps. I fortunately have a grasp on these subjects as they formed the backbone of my education. I am surprised at how much information I have retained from my school days! Also, I am by profession an Anthropologist. So, the chapters about fossils and the debate surrounding the origin of human beings were right up my alley.

The book does contain some factual errors but they are not numerous. Generally the book is accurate and informative.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is a fairly big book. My edition runs over 600 pages and is divided into 6 parts & 30 chapters. It took me a while to finish it but not because it’s boring or difficult. Time constraint was a major factor. Plus, this is one book you cannot skim over. Most of it has to be read with careful attention. I did skim over the final chapter entitled Goodbye but that’s because it talks about how human beings are responsible for the extermination of many species of animals. Sometimes killing them for food but mostly killing them just for the sake of fun, out of boredom and sometimes callousness. Bloodlust, cruelty and above all a general attitude callousness, it seems, is in our blood. Reading of so many instances of our cruelty made me sad. So, I skimmed over most of it.

How much my being an Anthropologist with an interest in Physics, Chemistry; etc, etc, influenced my enjoyment of the book I am not sure. Overall, I can say that I loved reading A Short History of Nearly Everything. It took me quite some time to finish it but I liked it and rarely felt bored. Recommended.

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