Shockingly, the book lives up to its pretentious title. Bryson, an accomplished travel writer and memoirist explains, with complete lucidity, the history of science. He starts with the Big Bang and proceeds through the history of the earth, discovery of chemicals and cells, the physics of gravity, and the evolution of all living things. Not once does he veer toward textbook droning; in contrast, his accounts read like mystery stories replete with unsual characters with full personalities (like Einstein, Newton, Crick, and Darwin) and what in any other setting would seem like random trivia, but in Bryson’s able hands feel like important anecdotes. All of his skills as a master storyteller are brought to bear to sift through what for most of us would require a lifetime of research. March 2008.