Penguin: A Short History of Nearly Everything

For this brief its really important to know the book you’re working with, this is why I need to look further into it and see what it’s about. So to start with, A Short History of Nearly Everything written by Bill Bryson was first published in 2003. It has since had numerous awards and had numerous favourable reviews including Aventis Prize for best general science book,  EU Descartes Prize for science communication, shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and being on the Sunday Times Bestseller list. It is said to be the bestselling popular science book of the twenty-first century.

In summary, Bill Bryson challenges himself to take subjects that are so complex and perhaps boring to read about, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and write about them in a way that is accessible and interesting for the general public to understand. “It’s not so much about what we know, as about how we know what we know.” (Penguin, 2020) Questions such as, how do we know what is in the centre of the earth or what is a black hole?, are just some of the questions that are explained in this novel. Throughout his travels he encounters a collection of “astonishingly eccentric, competitive, obsessive and foolish scientists” (Penguin, 2020) who help as Bryson reveals things that otherwise, we the public, may never have comprehended.

“Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can’t contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization – how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.” (Penguin, 2020)

After listening to the audio book, Bill Bryson’s novel is incredibly informative and witty. He speaks about topics from physics, chemistry, geology and many more. The title really does stand up to the content, the huge amount of history covered in the book is amazing. The way Bryson manages to put these complex theories or workings into a comprehendible way is brilliant. It is accessible to everyone which I think is a really important factor in the book and its why this novel has become such a well loved book. I also found it to be incredibly inspiring, to see how much effort and dedication some researches put into one subject. These people have done so much for science and some are not even known about today. Overall, this novel has certainly given me a good overview of many thought provoking topics. It certainly helped that it was written in a humorous and personable way.

From carrying out this research, there are some important aspects that I think I need to include when creating the cover. For instance the tone of the novel, which is informative and scientific yet comprehensive and humorous. It is a mix of these that are so indicative to this novel that I feel should be represented on the cover. In the novel Bryson doesn’t just focus on one subject so I think it’s important to show that and not favour one over the other. I will need to remember the title of the book and keep that in mind at all times as its a perfect explanation for the contents. This research has given me lots to consider when thinking of initial ideas.


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