i‑Learner Education Centre

Teacher Diaries

Teacher Diaries: Ms. Lydia – Non-Fiction

A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson

“Take a moment from time to time to remember that you are alive. I know this sounds a trifle obvious, but it is amazing how little time we take to remark upon this singular and gratifying fact. By the most astounding stroke of luck an infinitesimal portion of all the matter in the universe came together to create you and for the tiniest moment in the great span of eternity you have the incomparable privilege to exist.”

― Bill Bryson.

Bill Bryson is, and will always be, my favourite writer. And not just writer of non-fiction, writer full stop. I spent some time trying to work out what it is exactly that I love about his books and I think it is simple  he makes everything seems so familiar.

He started as a travel writer who never found it in him to write about the ‘exotic’ lands of India or China or Brazil where most Americans find adventure. He focuses instead on the people and places of the English-speaking world and his place within it. But his work is incredibly moral without feeling moralising, simple without being simplistic.

In this book, he switched track and focused on something largely unknown to him – science. Inspired by his complete and utter ignorance of the natural world he decided to teach himself, and us, about its many creations and complexities.

But all the topics are conveyed in such a simple and familiar way – he allows you to fully digest large amounts of information on history, science and culture about things you never even knew existed, without you ever feeling like you’re having a lesson.

To allow for this easy digestion, he seasons the facts with his own,  very individual, very unapologetic, sense of humour and ethics. See above and below.

“To my mind, the only possible pet is a cow. Cows love you. They will listen to your problems and never ask a thing in return. They will be your friends forever. And when you get tired of them, you can kill and eat them. Perfect.”