A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

This is a marvellous book chronicling the history of science. The journey is fraught with heartache and tragedy, as it is an oft-repeated theme that scientists who have made great discoveries were never properly recognized in their lifetimes and died broken and unhappy. It is also an expose of the scientific world that debunks its reputation for cool impartialities; the scienctific world is in fact rife with ego, pettiness, and cutthroat competition. And while the author acknowledges how little we know about the origins of things, like most atheists he never questions the assumption that the universe popped into existence out of nothing or that life randomly assembled itself by pure accident. This book is not just a history of science, it is also a deconstruction of the scientific personality, which seems to be a combination of brilliance, dogged devotion, and sheer pig-headedness.

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