Picks and Pans Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything

updated 05/12/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/12/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Bill Bryson

Bryson has made a career writing hilarious travelogues, and in many ways his latest is more of the same, except that this time Bryson hikes through the world of science. Here are answers to the stupid questions you were afraid to ask in school, such as what would happen if you stared at the sun for several minutes (Isaac Newton tried it, and went blind for a few days). He peppers the book with wit and great details: Marie Curie's cookbooks are still so radioactive you have to wear a protective suit if you peruse them. But Short History is a nice way of saying long summary, and that catchall quality keeps the book from being quite as entertaining as his others. (Broadway, $27.50)

BOTTOM LINE: Science with a smile

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