A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
This book was a suggested read by the ‘book club’ at work. Frankly, I don’t get what was supposed to be so great about this book (or maybe I do). First off, I found the writing style chatty and sophomoric (and in some cases annoyingly so). The way that much of the material is dealt with many times focuses more on the controversy around a given topic or some gee-whiz statistics than on actual substance and understanding.
While I was tempted to give up on the book about 100 pages into, I told my wife that I was going to force myself to finish it, in an ultimately vain effort to find out why it was so highly recommended. The only conclusion that I could come to is that the readers were really only interested in the sound-byte qualities of the book — something that they could chirp in on during a lunch conversation or over drinks.
In comparison, I found any number of books by Simon Winchester, such as Krakatoa, The Map That Changed the World, and The Professor and the Madman to be much more compelling and ultimately satisfying.