I listened to the audiobook version of this while commuting to work. It’s a fascinating book, and I would often find myself sitting in my car in the carpark at work, reluctant to get out and start the day because I wanted to keep listening. I love the way Bryson has managed to take all these disparate ideas and historical scientific figures and bring them together and connect them in a meaningful way. He also manages to take complex scientific ideas and break them down and present them in a way that is easy to understand. And, of course, there is the gentle humour that runs through all of Bryson’s writing.
There are numerous anecdotes about scientists that provide a fascinating insight into the personalities behind their science. My favourite one was about Hennig Brand, a German alchemist who was trying to turn urine into gold but ended up inventing matches instead. One of the themes running through the book is just how much scientific knowledge has been acquired by accident.
There is much information contained in this book, and Bryson conveys an appealing sense of wonderment at what we know about the universe in which we live. But perhaps the most prominent theme running through the book is the idea that despite all our technological and scientific advances over the past few millennia, what we do know is still vastly, unimaginably outweighed by what we don’t know.