Book Notes – A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

I’m calling this series ‘Book Notes’ because ‘Book Review’ sounds scary. Book Review suggests a thorough examination of the good, the bad and the ugly and then a careful critique of the book. My book notes are going to be a lot of random rambling. As I said in my previous post, I have embarked on a journey to read through this list. I began at the beginning with this book, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson and boy am I glad I did.


This book hooks you in from the word go and does not let you go. There were nights when my eyes were burning with sleep but I kept reading anyway. I will note here that I tend to get overexcited about a lot of things but I have never been so caught up by a non fiction book. This book is about the history of our planet. So in a way you could say that this is probably the greatest story ever told. And it is told so well. It just flows from page to page and the humour is just brilliantly done. Don’t worry I’m not giving away any plot twists, but you have to hear a few of my favourite lines from this book.

When talking about Mitochondria, the power house of the cell, “We couldn’t live for two minutes without them, yet even after a billion years mitochondria behave as if they think things might not work out between us. They maintain their own DNA, RNA and ribosomes. They reproduce at a different time from their host cells. They don’t even speak the same genetic language as the cell in which they live. In short, they keep their bags packed. It is like having a stranger in your house, but one who has been there for a billion years.”

Here’s another wise observation about bacteria: “Bacteria may not build cities or have interesting social lives, but they will be here when the Sun explodes. This is their planet, and we are on it only because they allow us to be”

I just love how this book covers so much ground, without ever leaving the reader feel breathless. You read with fascination about the quirks in Albert Einstein’s and Isaac Newton’s personalities which somehow helps to understand a little better the work that they did. I don’t know why that should be the case but it is. School textbooks should really take a leaf out of this book. My biggest complaint when studying the sciences was always that the way things were written in the textbooks were so unsatisfactory and choppy. I vaguely wondered about the connections between subjects but never seriously enough to find out more about it. If you have ever been in that position, I promise you this book will make your eyes pop and your heart sing. The author explores the history of the entire planet through the eyes of the pioneers of every field, giving fresh life to the dusty and musty impression most of us have of ‘history’ in the first place.

It also helps put things in somewhat more perspective than we are used to in our everyday lives. Time and space across the universe are such vast concepts that our minds are not even capable of grasping most of it. And we puny humans have been around for only the blink of an eye and for all we know that is about as long it would take to wipe us off for good. So the next time you’re running late for a meeting or irritated with the traffic on the roads or just grumpy because you haven’t had your morning coffee; instead of invoking the wrath of the gods, just relax and tell yourself that none of it matters anyway. We exist by accident; we’re not even as special as we think we are; and one day when we die, the universe will very efficiently break us down leaving no trace whatsoever.

I do hope you read and enjoy this book as much as I did!


PS # It is not a book for the fainthearted though, 575 pages with another 100 odd pages of reference notes if you like that sort of thing.

28 Days of February

I used to be fascinated by the concept of the leap year: one extra day every 4 years! Of course once you understand the logic behind it, it’s not that fascinating but it’s still kind of thrilling. It’s not as if I did anything special on the day except finish reading a very fascinating book so I guess that counts.

I have never been a fan of reading lists. Whether they are ‘classics’ or ‘must read’ or ‘super funny’, I never paid attention to these bits of collective wisdom from strangers. I know what you’re thinking. The next thing she’ll say is that she is now a convert. Well I’m not yet a convert but a list that I found recently has seriously given me reason to hope. It wasn’t so much the list but the brilliancy of the books themselves that shone through. Hats off to the creator of the list to describe them just right to catch the attention of the reader. The article declared as it’s heading: 7 Best Books That Will Radically Shift The Way You See The World and I must say that it seems to be keeping up it’s promise so far. I would highly recommend it to everyone purely based on the first one. It has actually got me thinking. Once I finish this list (and it will take some time, no worries about that), I intend to seek out more such lists. More books that will radically shift the way I see the world. Suggestions are welcome!

In other news, I watched the Oscars this year. I remember the first and last time I watched the entire ceremony while it aired. It was in 2008 and the ‘Best Original Song’ was won by this hauntingly beautiful song called Falling Slowly. To this day, I have the song in my phone and I listen to it often. I also remember that at that time, I hadn’t seen any of the movies that were up for nominations. Looking at the list now, I am happy to report that I have seen most of them and enjoyed them a great deal. From this year’s Oscar nominated crop, I had only seen La La Land and Moana and there were both a treat. How Far I’ll Go from Moana really should have won the Best Original Song Award.

Well that’s all for now. Wishing everyone happy reading and humming and a great month ahead.


The World of Ms. Jane Marple

So I did what I set out to do. A marathon reading spree of all of Agatha Christie’s Ms. Marple books. It was a heavenly experience and I’m almost tempted to re-read all her other books as well, but I thought I should take a detour into a different genre first (more about that in the next post) and then read the books she wrote under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. I’ve always shied away from them before because they aren’t the murder mysteries that we love but I think it’s time I gave them a chance.

While I read the books in the order they were published, the last book really does not belong in the end. For the uninitiated, this is the order I would recommend you read the books.

  • The Thirteen Problems (Collected Short Stories)
  • The Murder at The Vicarage
  • The Body in The Library
  • The Moving Finger
  • A Murder is Announced
  • They Do It with Mirrors
  • A Pocket Full of Rye
  • 4.50 from Paddington
  • Sleeping Murder
  • The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side
  • A Caribbean Mystery
  • At Bertram’s Hotel
  • Nemesis

There were a few things that really struck me while I was reading the books this time around. There are some aspects of that bygone era that I had only half understood when I first read the books years ago and never bothered to find out more about later. I was content to let them take whatever shape they chose in my subconscious. But this time, I indulged my long ago curiosity and googled such words as ‘chintz’, ‘scullery’, ‘Yorkshire pudding’, ‘scones’ and well the rest of the list was mostly more food stuff. But you know what I mean right? There is always this tug of war inside, to leave things to the imagination or ruin the mystery by looking it up. Speaking for myself, I did a lot of looking up and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The other thing that struck me was the power of suggestion. Every time they sat down to tea, I longed to have a cup myself. Finally, this weekend, I decided to do it in style. I walked over to TWG and ordered myself a nice cup of earl grey tea and tea cakes (they did not have scones alas). It was a beautiful afternoon, after which I even condescended to click a few pictures of the truly breathtaking array of tea that one could buy there. See for yourself!


Until next time.