Bill Bryson has been a favourite non-fiction author or mine for the last 20 years since I read a Walk in the Woods in school. He’s got the touch and can pass on information in a way that is entertaining and relaxing but somehow manages to give you the important facts as well. I was aware of A Short History since it was published in 2003 but I never quite managed to sit down and read it. Audible held a sale of their best sellers recently and I snagged it up. It’s been a relaxing night time listen for the last month.

The book’s title actually sums up the contents well. Bryson covers the size of the universe, atoms and subatomic particles then geology, biology and the origins of life. He then charts the evolution of life from its simplest form to us and then picks up on some of the biggest events in history such as meteor strikes and the Yellowstone supervolcano. This is all sprinkled with background and stories about the scientists who discovered the events and their eccentricities. Bryson wrote the book in 2001 and there are unfortunately a few inaccuracies that have crept in since, but they are generally easy to look past.

Product Information

Retailer: Audible or Amazon +

Price: ± £18 – £22 or one Audible credit.

About Bill Bryson

William McGuire “Bill” Bryson is a best-selling Anglo-American author who has written a number of non-fictional books that are often semi-autobiographical and have an undercurrent of humor. He had his first success in 1993 with Neither Here Nor There detailing his travels in Europe in the 1970s and has produced a best seller every few years since.


The book is read by William Roberts who manages to produce a voice that fits Bryson’s writing style perfectly. He’s done voice acting for both audiobooks and games for around 25 years.



One Audible credit costing between £6 or £8 depending on your plan is a decent price for a near 20-hour audiobook. It’s also been available on sales on Audible twice this year for £3 so if you’re not in a rush it’s worth waiting for.


Written by: Bill Bryson
Narrated by: William Roberts

Listening length: 19 hours and 2 minutes
Pages: 672 pages
Available formats: Unabridged Audiobook, Kindle Edition, Paperback, Hardcover, Audio MP3 CD
Publisher: Black Swan
Release date: 2003 – 2006
Language: English


Audible App or a MP3 player.


Two mornings ago at 4 am our five year old snuck into bed. She’d had a restless night and couldn’t sleep. She was still too tired to do anything and a little cranky but wanted to be entertained. I grabbed my phone from the side table and loaded up Audible. We shared earphones and I played her a random chapter from a Short History of Nearly Everything. Fifteen minutes later I was having a discussion about the makeup of cells and she was feeling much better, entertained and educated.

Everyone should have an idea of how the universe came to be and where we as a species came from and are likely to go. Bryson’s friendly and humorous way of writing makes complicated things understandable and combined with Robert’s reading it is a very relaxing and informative book. My five year old was able to understand the concepts being talked about and I’d recommend it for anyone wanting to expand their knowledge of the way things work. Recommended.

Ergohacks Essential

The review is based on the Audible version of A Short History of Nearly Everything. This article was first published on 10 September 2016 and last updated on 14 November 2016.