My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It took me more than a month to read this book and it was worth it.
This year I have decided to read more non-fiction and only a handful of fictions. This was my first non-fiction of the year. With this book, I was touching a science book after almost 10 years. With the last 10 years spent reading literature and devoted to arts, it was a pretty bold move on my part. But as someone who aspires to become an author, I believe it is important to read about every aspect of life around you whether from a scientific point of view or sentimental.
This is certainly a great book, but if you pick it up thinking it will help you learn scientific concepts then you would find yourself disappointed. The book does explain a lot but also explains how scientific discovery progressed through ages. I don’t remember every bit, but certainly appreciate the wonder that is life (not just human life) more and now have a better understanding of how arrogant humans can be.
A few things that would stay with me are:
1. That we know infinitesimally less about our planet and life on it.
2. Human nature is prone to eccentricity to such an extent that we can not fathom.
3. There’s still so much to learn about the world about and beyond but we seem to be focusing on things which may eventually lead to extinction of many species on earth.
4. Scientific community has not been very kind to women.
About the fourth point mentioned above.
In a book which is more than 500 pages long of which about 420+ are text to be read, there is only a handful of women scientists and discoverers mentioned. The number of male scientists and discoverers is, obviously, aplenty. It is only a wonder that in the last few centuries there have been so few female scientists worth mentioning. I refuse to believe that women were not involved in scientific researches or did not conduct independent inquiries, it’s just that they have not been credited enough.
It is worth noting that for someone as as thorough as Bill Bryson could not mention as many women scientists as men in his book. It is not his fault. The fault lies in the adversity women still face when they choose to enter sciences. In the book he has tried to capture the attitude of the scientific world toward women until recently. An example, a passage from the book (about Rosalind Franklin whose images of the DNA would help establish and prove the structure of a DNA was double-helix) below shows the kind of rejection/opposition women faced when venturing into a field which is still regarded as a field fit only for men:
Anyway the book is delightful read. You may to retain every word you read, but you will end up wiser, more sensitive toward the world around you and more thankful for your existence.