I wish I could put my finger on why I found this book ever so slightly disappointing.
Perhaps I was expecting too much; with the exception of A Walk In the Woods, I’ve enjoyed all Bill Bryson’s books. Or perhaps I was expecting another A Short History of Nearly Everything. I’ve read the illustrated version of that 5 times and it sits comfortably at the top of the pile of my favourite books. (And that could be another reason: the dearth of illustrations to enliven the text.)
Or maybe it just reads a little more like a lively text book than a Bill Bryson book. It’s certainly easy to read; or it is once you get past the wealth of data in the intro and the first chapter. (I actually started this three times and only succeeded on the third attempt; something that has never happened with anything else he’s written.)
I couldn’t ever quite shake the feeling that this was something of a chore for him. His research is impressive; I now know where I can find a quick, satisfying description of the eye, or the lungs, or any other part of the human anatomy. Yet it just never seems to flow like the best of his books. I’m slightly ashamed to say that I even skimmed a few pages when the detail became too overwhelming, something that has also never happened before.
It’s all a bit of a rather big Hmmmmmm.