Bill Bryson – A Short History of Nearly Everything
A history of science that is accessible to nearly everyone. This would be an excellent gift for a bright middle schooler or high schooler who is interested in science, or for adults who enjoy trivia. Bryson covers all the main sub-disciplines, including cosmology, geology, chemistry, biology, archaeology, anthropology, and more. He also tells some stories about the scientists behind many major discoveries, but without overdoing it—ahem, Neil Degrasse Tyson. The breadth comes at the expense of depth, but that is not the worst of sins for a book like this. Interested readers can find plenty of additional reading for topics that spark their interest.
Bryson is a bit of a sensationalist, leaning heavily on apocalyptic scenarios wherever possible, from the odds of meteor strikes to catastrophic earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. This worst-first tendency harms his credibility as a narrator and gives off a bit of a boy crying wolf vibe, but one understands the strategy as a way to create excitement for younger people and scientific novices.