Bill Bryson: An Author Driven By Curiosity About Nearly Everything

Of the very few books that are enduring residents on my night table Bill Bryon’s “A History of Nearly Everything” sits right on top. At 500-plus pages, it’s no small read so I’ll have bedtime company for a long while. And what a read it is! You begin with “How To Build A Universe”, move through “The Size of The Earth”, and twenty-nine chapters later learn about “The Restless Ape”.

Forsaking the “writing the what you know” admonition Bryson tackled a subject about which he knew virtually nothing and penned an international best seller.

(Since number 5 in my “Maine Oceanographer Mara Tusconi” mysteries will feature sharks, a topic about which I am essentially ignorant, that’s encouraging.)

“A History of Nearly Everything” was a big undertaking,” Bryson once said.  “It required speaking to academics, scientists and researchers in those fields. The thing I found with scientists is that they really appreciate it when you ask what interests them in spending their lives studying moss or lichen or snails… when no one has ever asked them before.”

As nobody every asked me why I devoted my doctoral work to “impacts on nitrogen loading on epiphytic salt marsh algae” I can certainly relate to that.

“One of my favorite anecdotes in the book was about the contempt in which physicists hold scientists from other fields,” Bryson once said, laughing. “The Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli was floored when his wife left him for a chemist. ‘Had she taken a bullfighter I would have understood, but a chemist?’ ”

Bryson’s most recent “The Body A Guide For Occupants” couldn’t have come at a better time given the number of Corona virus myths floating around (e.g., drinking alcohol does not protect you against the virus and 5 G mobile networks don’t spread it (people really believe these things??). “The Body A Guide” explains thousands of tasks our body takes care of as we go about our day. The book has been called informative, entertaining and “sometimes gross” (kissing, according to one study, transfers up to one billion bacteria from one mouth to another, along with 0.2 micrograms of food bits).

Bill Bryson, also author of “A Walk In The Woods”, “I’m A Stranger Here Myself” and 20 or so more books announced his retirement from book writing in 2020, sadly but understandably so.

About Charlene DAvanzo

I'm a marine ecology/college professor who never, ever thought I'd write fiction. That assumption changed in an instant as I listened to another scientist - a climatologist named Ray Bradley at UMass, Amherst - describe being harassed by climate change deniers. The idea to write mysteries with climate change understories to help readers understand what's happening to our climate in the context of a fast-paced exciting story came to me out of nowhere. That's what I do in my "Maine Oceanographer Mara Tusconi" series.
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2 Responses to Bill Bryson: An Author Driven By Curiosity About Nearly Everything

  1. At 72, I’ve realized I’ll die with a monumental TBR list. It took a while to wrap my head around that, but I’m now focusing on finding a reincarnation where I have multiple independent heads and a giant book budget. Thanks for these interesting bits of Bryson.

  2. susanvaughan says:

    I read A Walk in the Woods, but didn’t know about this one. He’s an amazing writer. Thanks.

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