Framing the Dialogue

A Short History of Nearly Everything

“Imagine trying to live in a world dominated by dihydrogen oxide, a compound that has no taste or smell and is variable in its properties that it is generally benign but at other times swiftly lethal.  Depending on its state, it can scald you or freeze you.  In the presence of certain organic molecules it can form carbonic acids so nasty that they can strip the leaves from trees and eat the faces off statuary.  In bulk, when agitated, it can strike with a fury that no human edifice could withstand.  Even for those who have learned to live with it, it is an often murderous substance.  We call it water.”

That excerpt is from A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.  I often read that paragraph when I do workshops about water.  If you really think about water, its properties, and how necessary it is for life you get a better appreciation for the substance.  That’s how I want folks to feel about water.  Impressed with its power and concerned for it as a resource.  Bill Bryson did me a big favor.

Bryson’s book is not all about water, nor is it a traditional history book.  He delves into subjects that I have never considered.  You will learn about volcanoes at Yellowstone and the little ice age and how often (or not) asteroids strike our planet.  When you read this book you will alternate between feeling the resiliency of our planet to fear about how precarious our existence is.  This is not a book for the squeamish or light-hearted, only those who thirst for knowledge.  

Sometime after I read this book, the publisher came out with a special illustrated edition.  My family bought it for my birthday one year.  If you can afford the illustrated edition buy it.

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