"A history of why the world is like it is"
This is a book with an astonishingly wide scope which it covers admirably. Never during its 19 hours was I bored and it remains accessible throughout. It's packed full of things you never even knew that you didn't know!
The fact that it's described as a history may suggest that it's all about things that happened in the past and indeed much of the book does cover events from Big Bang through to recent history. But in covering such history it also explains much about how the world is today.
This is a fascinating book that will interest a wide range of people. You don't need to be an expert historian or scientist to understand and enjoy this book. I'd definitely highly recommend it.
A word about the narration also - I've listened to a number of Bill Bryson books narrated by William Roberts and he is always an excellent narrator. The way he narrates the book just adds to what is already an excellent book and ensures that one's interest is not lost for a second.
This is an excellent novel which is gripping from beginning to end. Each of the twists and turns draws you further into the story.
It is enhanced further by the way that it is interweaved with real historical events and characters, creating a convincing and compelling alternative historical scenario.
The narration is also excellent and complements the book well.
All in all, highly recommended.
I wouldn't usually buy books of this genre, but I thought it sounded like an interesting prospect so I decided to give it a try. It didn't win me over to the genre, though I did buy the sequel, 'The Copper Bracelet' (although I haven't actually had the inclination to listen to it yet!) So as you can see, I have mixed feelings about this book.
You have to take this book for what it is. If you're expecting a great thriller then you'll probably be disappointed. Of course the way it has been written doesn't lend itself to being a literary masterpiece. But if you accept that and take it as a bit of a novelty, an experiment, then it's reasonably enjoyable to listen to.
Yes, it doesn't always flow well. Yes, authors tend to do all the things you might expect - change the character's personalities, put in dubious twists, kill off some characters and invent other new ones. But in my view these issues are not as serious as some other reviewers suggest.
There were chapters I really enjoyed and chapters I didn't like at all.
All in all, take it for what it is. It's not a great novel, but it's an interesting experiment, different to most of the other books you read/listen to. If you're up for that, give this book a try.
"If you like the TV series, you'll like this"
This book is of course linked to the BBC2 TV series of the same name. The title of the series (and the book) is somewhat of a misnomer - I think that it is called 'An Island Parish' so that counts towards the BBC's quota of religious programming! As someone with no interest in religion at all I very much enjoy the TV series, which is much like a soap opera but with real people.
The book is very much in the vein of the TV series, and will certainly appeal to fans of the show. It doesn't really duplicate the TV series to any major extent and therefore is a welcome extra while the show is off the air. Of course having seen the show will allow you to put faces to some of the names in the book, but it's certainly not necessary to have seen the show to enjoy the book.
This audiobook was enjoyable throughout and well narrated. Recommended.
"A bit outdated but still fascinating"
If you're like me you probably use a search engine numerous times a day without really thinking about it. Yet they are such an important part of the Internet - a gateway to all the content out there on the web.
This is a fascinating history of search engines, from the early days through to about 2005. It is a bit outdated now as things in the search engine world, just as with the rest of the Internet, change and develop constantly. However, this is a minor niggle with what is otherwise an excellent book.
It focusses inevitably on Google, but is by no means exclusively about Google. It's amazing to think that only 10 or 15 years ago the Internet as we know it was in its infancy. The book goes back to the very first search engines and traces the rise and fall of some sites you will have heard of and some you may well not have.
It also takes a look at the future of search, much of which is still relevant despite the date of the book, and puts search in a wider context, referencing events such as the Dot Com bubble.
It's well written and well read throughout. The author has clearly been paying close attention to the evolution of search since early on and has spoken to many of the key people involved at various times during the period covered by the book.
Very much recommended.
"A history of America through its language"
As a native Brit I wondered how interesting a book about American English would be to me. I was also rather concerned about the scope of this book - how on Earth could Bill Bryson fill such a long time with what seemed like such a limited topic?
My concerns on both counts were unfounded. It turns out that most of the Americanisms that Bill Bryson covers in his book are so embedded in British English now that we don't even think of them as Americanisms any more. Interestingly it also works in reverse - many things we think of as Americanisms actually started out in Britain!
On the second count, Bill Bryson does far more than just list words that are Americanisms and research their origins. He puts them in their cultural context, and indeed in some ways this book is more of a history of America told through the development of its language. Indeed, at some points the link between the topic being covered and the development of American English is distant to say the least.
Despite its considerable length, this book kept my interest throughout. The only issue I can really highlight is that it does get a bit confusing sometimes when words are being spelt out, but this happens only occasionally and is not a serious issue. Apart from this, the narration is brilliant and adds to what is already an excellent book.
All in all, a highly recommended book.
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