100 books like A Short History of Nearly Everything

By Bill Bryson,

Here are 100 books that A Short History of Nearly Everything fans have personally recommended if you like A Short History of Nearly Everything. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

Keith Heyer Meldahl Author Of Rough-Hewn Land: A Geologic Journey from California to the Rocky Mountains

From my list on geology that tell great stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I first crossed the American West nearly 4 decades ago in my ’67 Chevy, it changed my life. I had never imagined mountains built of contorted rock shoved miles into the sky, faults slashing like fresh scars across the landscape, and starkly beautiful deserts where people seemed an afterthought. After many happy years of researching and exploring the West with my geology students, I knew I wanted to tell the story to a larger audience. The result has been three books: Hard Road West, Rough-Hewn Land, and Surf, Sand, and Stone. 

Keith's book list on geology that tell great stories

Keith Heyer Meldahl Why did Keith love this book?

Written with the clarity and zest of Bryson and McPhee, but with the added benefit that Hazen is a professional geologist. I like this book because of how Hazen takes the reader into the process of how a geologist works and thinks. Hazen’s specialty is mineralogy, and his main thesis—that living organisms and minerals evolved together with each shaping the other’s future—makes for a unique and thought-provoking take on the history of our planet. 

By Robert M. Hazen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story of Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed by The New York Times for writing "with wonderful clarity about science . . . that effortlessly teaches as it zips along," nationally bestselling author Robert M. Hazen offers a radical new approach to Earth history in this intertwined tale of the planet's living and nonliving spheres. With an astrobiologist's imagination, a historian's perspective, and a naturalist's eye, Hazen calls upon twenty-first-century discoveries that have revolutionized geology and enabled scientists to envision Earth's many iterations in vivid detail-from the mile-high lava tides of its infancy to the early organisms responsible for more than two-thirds of the mineral varieties beneath…


Book cover of Annals of the Former World

Keith Heyer Meldahl Author Of Rough-Hewn Land: A Geologic Journey from California to the Rocky Mountains

From my list on geology that tell great stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I first crossed the American West nearly 4 decades ago in my ’67 Chevy, it changed my life. I had never imagined mountains built of contorted rock shoved miles into the sky, faults slashing like fresh scars across the landscape, and starkly beautiful deserts where people seemed an afterthought. After many happy years of researching and exploring the West with my geology students, I knew I wanted to tell the story to a larger audience. The result has been three books: Hard Road West, Rough-Hewn Land, and Surf, Sand, and Stone. 

Keith's book list on geology that tell great stories

Keith Heyer Meldahl Why did Keith love this book?

Every geology book collection should include this Pulitzer Prize-winning classic. McPhee travels with four different U.S. geologists, visiting their outcrops and laboratories while tracing the evolution of geologic thought and discoveries. McPhee has the eye of a scientist, the soul of a poet, and the pen (keyboard?) of a master author. The result is fluid and beautiful writing about science and those who practice it. 

By John McPhee,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Annals of the Former World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Pulitzer Prize-winning view of the continent, across the fortieth parallel and down through 4.6 billion years

Twenty years ago, when John McPhee began his journeys back and forth across the United States, he planned to describe a cross section of North America at about the fortieth parallel and, in the process, come to an understanding not only of the science but of the style of the geologists he traveled with. The structure of the book never changed, but its breadth caused him to complete it in stages, under the overall title Annals of the Former World.

Like the terrain…


Book cover of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sarah McArthur Author Of The AMA Handbook of Leadership

From my list on working together towards a bright future.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a lifelong student of philosophy, leadership, and principled living. Having worked with great leaders of today and being an editor-in-chief of a leadership journal (Leader to Leader), I experience how their leadership continues the principles set forth in days long past, and I publish works by authors who are keeping these principles alive in their writing. I am grateful for the opportunity to recommend books that might help others as we grapple with how to be in the world today to create value for all.

Sarah's book list on working together towards a bright future

Sarah McArthur Why did Sarah love this book?

I'm not sure when I have learned more about humanity than with the books of Yuval Harari.

I recommend this book as it is the first of the series, and I could read it over and over and still not have captured everything that Yuval Harari explores and teaches us.

A great historian who uses history to explore our future, Yuval Harari is one whose books I read every chance I have.

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked Sapiens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the…


Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Anna E. Hampton Author Of Facing Danger: A Guide Through Risk

From my list on navigate danger in humanitarian work.

Why am I passionate about this?

I went to Afghanistan under the first Taliban government as a humanitarian aid worker. During the following decade, I experienced inadequate emotional, mental, and theological support from those who had sent me out. I began to research the field of risk and found a wealth of literature on how humans make decisions, how we see (or don’t see) danger, how to manage risk and fear, and more. We ignore the best practices and common sense of these fields to our peril. I am passionate about helping people not feel isolated and alone when they choose to serve in dangerous situations.

Anna's book list on navigate danger in humanitarian work

Anna E. Hampton Why did Anna love this book?

I laughed at Kahneman’s straightforward explanation of how my brain works without making me feel stupid. Apparently, humanness is normal, thank goodness.

He explains the complexities of System 1 and 2 thinking through storytelling, demonstrating what he is teaching about how our brains work. Even though I’d learned about these concepts through academic reading, I now feel like I “get it,” although even that statement is a product of both System 1 and 2 thinking and availability bias. Key takeaways: Intelligence and rationality are not the same, and the research is so substantial in how Systems 1 and 2 work that disbelief is not an option!

By Daniel Kahneman,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked Thinking, Fast and Slow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The phenomenal international bestseller - 2 million copies sold - that will change the way you make decisions

'A lifetime's worth of wisdom' Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics
'There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Thinking, Fast and Slow' Financial Times

Why is there more chance we'll believe something if it's in a bold type face? Why are judges more likely to deny parole before lunch? Why do we assume a good-looking person will be more competent? The answer lies in the two ways we make choices: fast,…


Book cover of Rough-Hewn Land: A Geologic Journey from California to the Rocky Mountains

Sam L. Pfiester Author Of Solomon's Temple: Musjid-i-Suleiman

From my list on earth history.

Why am I passionate about this?

For most of my career as an oil explorationist I have worked with geologists, an exceptional group of men and women who, from observing earth’s surface as it is configured today, can decipher earth’s history. By understanding how rocks were originally formed and how in subsequent millennia rocks have been buried, transported warped, eroded, re-deposited, and altered by high pressures, high temperatures, hot water, and all the tectonic forces of nature that have formed the surface as we see it today, they believe, really believe, that they can visualize the subsurface.  It’s a fascinating four-dimensional detective story. 

Sam's book list on earth history

Sam L. Pfiester Why did Sam love this book?

Meldahl’s book describes more than 100 million years of North America’s history. For laymen, it is the best geologic field guide to understanding the tectonic forces and subsequent erosion which formed the western United States. The photos, maps, and illustrations depict how the rivers, mountains, and plains are where they are and why. Anyone who drives from California to the Great Plains, or in reverse, should carry this book in your car. Even though millions of people love history, few understand earth’s history, which stares in the face of all of us and, for those who are curious, reveals “the hidden poetry of our mutable earth” (Richard Fortey).

By Keith Heyer Meldahl,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rough-Hewn Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Unfold a map of North America," Keith Heyer Meldahl writes, "and the first thing to grab your eye is the bold shift between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains." In this absorbing book, Meldahl takes readers on a 1000-mile-long field trip back through more than 100 million years of deep time to explore America's most spectacular and scientifically intriguing landscapes. He places us on the outcrops, rock hammer in hand, to examine the evidence for how these rough-hewn lands came to be. We see California and its gold assembled from pieces of old ocean floor and the relentless movements…


Book cover of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of Their Lost World

Michael J. Benton Author Of Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World

From my list on dinosaurs from a palaeontologist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been mad about dinosaurs and ancient life since I was seven. I have been amazingly lucky to be able to develop a career as a professional palaeontologist and to be able to research and talk about the subject. We were first to show the original colours of dinosaur feathers, and this discovery provides a perfect way to open the discussion about how palaeontologists know what they say they know. In my books, I seek to amaze, amuse and inform. I have written many books, including pop science, textbooks, technical-scientific works, and books for children, and every year brings new discoveries to be transmitted to the world.

Michael's book list on dinosaurs from a palaeontologist

Michael J. Benton Why did Michael love this book?

The best seller of all time, a lively romp through dinosaur research (and researchers).

This is for all readers, and you’ll be hooked by the lively, pacy text by Steve, as he hurtles from continent to continent, digging up bones from China to Poland, working on Tyrannosaurus rex and other great beasts in the basements of the world’s museums, and sharing with readers what it’s like to be a working paleontologist.

For aspiring young bone-diggers, this is an inspiration, although it’s not like this all the time: paleontologists also sometimes have to mark student essays and fight with university systems to get their field trip costs refunded!

By Steve Brusatte,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Times Science Book of the Year.
A Sunday Times Bestseller.

66 million years ago the dinosaurs were wiped from the face of the earth. Today, Dr. Steve Brusatte, one of the leading scientists of a new generation of dinosaur hunters, armed with cutting edge technology, is piecing together the complete story of how the dinosaurs ruled the earth for 150 million years.

The world of the dinosaurs has fascinated on book and screen for decades - from early science fiction classics like The Lost World, to Godzilla terrorizing the streets of Tokyo, and the monsters of Jurassic Park. But…


Book cover of Earthquake Storms: The Fascinating History and Volatile Future of the San Andreas Fault

Keith Heyer Meldahl Author Of Rough-Hewn Land: A Geologic Journey from California to the Rocky Mountains

From my list on geology that tell great stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I first crossed the American West nearly 4 decades ago in my ’67 Chevy, it changed my life. I had never imagined mountains built of contorted rock shoved miles into the sky, faults slashing like fresh scars across the landscape, and starkly beautiful deserts where people seemed an afterthought. After many happy years of researching and exploring the West with my geology students, I knew I wanted to tell the story to a larger audience. The result has been three books: Hard Road West, Rough-Hewn Land, and Surf, Sand, and Stone. 

Keith's book list on geology that tell great stories

Keith Heyer Meldahl Why did Keith love this book?

The title is a bit misleading. This book is more of a history of thinking and discovery about seismology—the study of earthquakes—with a focus on the San Andreas fault. What I like best is how Dvorak weaves the personal stories of scientists into the geologic story. Too often in textbooks and general-audience books, scientists don’t exist as human beings with foibles, preconceptions, and occasional bursts of insight. I wish that other books presented the human side of science as effectively as Dvorak. 

By John Dvorak,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Earthquake Storms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

Ben Stanger Author Of From One Cell: A Journey into Life's Origins and the Future of Medicine

From my list on science written by scientists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Harvard- and MIT-trained physician-scientist, and I am drawn to research problems that bridge the basic and the practical – how a better understanding of cells and tissues can inform new therapies for cancer and other diseases. As children, we are all scientists – mini-hypothesis generators trying to make sense of the world. I suppose I never outgrew that curiosity. My list of best science books credits writers who bring to life the excitement that comes from looking at the natural world in a new way, a spirit that I try to emulate in my own writing. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!

Ben's book list on science written by scientists

Ben Stanger Why did Ben love this book?

I can’t think of a better tale of discovery written by a scientist than Shubin’s engaging account of the unearthing of Tiktaalik, the first fish to walk on land.

I remember reading about the find on the front page of The New York Times, and this book is the backstory. By weaving his own boots-on-the-ground experience as a paleontologist with a highly approachable background on the relevant biology, Shubin us a front row seat to one of the most important events in evolution. 

By Neil Shubin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Your Inner Fish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The paleontologist and professor of anatomy who co-discovered Tiktaalik, the “fish with hands,” tells a “compelling scientific adventure story that will change forever how you understand what it means to be human” (Oliver Sacks).

By examining fossils and DNA, he shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our heads are organized like long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genomes look and function like those of worms and bacteria. Your Inner Fish makes us look at ourselves and our world in an illuminating new light. This is science writing at its finest—enlightening, accessible and told with irresistible…


Book cover of Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

Telmo Pievani Author Of Imperfection: A Natural History

From my list on the fact that evolution didn't predict us.

Why am I passionate about this?

Telmo Pievani is Full Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Padua, where he covers the first Italian chair of Philosophy of Biological Sciences. A leading science communicator and columnist for Il corriere della sera, he is the author of The Unexpected Life, Creation without God, Serendipity, and other books.

Telmo's book list on the fact that evolution didn't predict us

Telmo Pievani Why did Telmo love this book?

I loved this book because I think it is a masterpiece on the contingency of evolution and our presence.

Rewind the tape of life and times and you will get different endings: that’s a great message of freedom for me. The epic of diversity that led to the explosion of multicellular life forms in the early Cambrian concerns us too. Unmissable.

By Stephen Jay Gould,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Wonderful Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

High in the Canadian Rockies is a small limestone quarry formed 530 million years ago called the Burgess Shale. It hold the remains of an ancient sea where dozens of strange creatures lived-a forgotten corner of evolution preserved in awesome detail. In this book Stephen Jay Gould explores what the Burgess Shale tells us about evolution and the nature of history.


Book cover of Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law

Ginjer L. Clarke Author Of Animal Allies: Creatures Working Together

From my list on nonfiction about fascinating animal behavior.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m secretly eight years old inside. I love fascinating animal and science stuff, especially cool, weird, and gross facts. Readers of my children’s books see this passion in action. My best-selling and award-winning nonfiction animal books have sold more than 3 million copies worldwide since 2000. I focus particularly on reaching reluctant, struggling, and English-language-learning readers by packing my books with lots of action and high-interest topics to keep them turning pages. I’m recommending these top-five narrative nonfiction animal books for adults because these authors have influenced my research and thinking—and because they’re terrific stories!

Ginjer's book list on nonfiction about fascinating animal behavior

Ginjer L. Clarke Why did Ginjer love this book?

After hearing Mary Roach describe research for this book during an NPR interview, I couldn’t wait to hear more of her bizarre, funny, sometimes unbelievable stories about animals “breaking the law.”

These are human laws, of course, that animals are heedless of and not bound by; however, human-animal conflicts are on the rise, and we must be aware of how to lessen negative interactions as we continue to move into territory where animals previously roamed freely. Humans are more often the problem in these encounters, but we can provide solutions too.

A must-read for all who love wildlife and spend time in nature!

By Mary Roach,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Fuzz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What's to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. These days, as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.

Roach tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and "danger tree" faller blasters. Intrepid as ever, she travels from leopard-terrorized hamlets in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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