Since this is what I’ve been doing for most of my free time this week, I’d better post one.
*A Short History of Nearly Everything
By Bill Bryson.
It’s time to scrap our science textbooks. Not only are they wrong–and they know they’re wrong–but they’re bad. Electrons do not swirl around the nucleus of an atom like planets, but it’ll take you until you’re in college or the hands of a subversive high-school physics teacher to find out. Formulas considered too complex for a teenager to learn are dumbed down. Facts are left out, distorted, glossed over: theories are presented as laws, despite any contrary facts. Mostly what you learn from science classes until you hit college is to sit down and shut up.
It’s an exciting time to learn science; the only problem is, you have to learn it in spite of your education.
Well, here you go. Bill Bryson won’t tell you the real formulas, won’t give you the true truth as concealed by highschool textbooks everywhere, but he will tell you how complex the situation is. And he’ll put in the little, human details about scientific history that will make you laugh and shudder with how little we know, and how lucky we are to know what we do know.
I recommend this book to anyone who won’t be angry about it, that is, the people who already know so much about science that this stuff will be old hat. Most of this stuff was old hat for me, but it was so well written and so well questioned that I enjoyed it anyway. Especially it seems like a good (if long!) idea for anyone in high school that’s struggling with science. Why? They ask. Because, their teachers answer. Bill Bryson isn’t a science writer–he mostly writes travel books–and makes things interesting and easy to grasp for the layman.