Who was reading: An old man whose skin was crinkled and yellowing like an ancient scroll. He wore a hempen button-up patterned with new-agey swirls resembling paramecia, and sweaty coils of graying chest-fur peeked out from the V where the top buttons joined. An arm dangled listlessly across his lap like a sleeping baby.
Why anyone would leave their baby in a petri dish of paisley paramecia... is beyond me. Maybe it toughens up the immune system?
Anyway, that book title seems a little over the top, no? In fact it takes pride of place among the great deceiving titles of our day, a venerable list that includes such varied tomes as A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and The Neverending Story.
They should have called it "All the Ways the World Can End." That's the major takeaway I got from the book in any case; that life on earth is perilous and accidental—constantly on the brink of collapse—yet at the same time humorous and fascinating.
Especially (and this is the key) when you filter it through the droll voice of Mr. Bill Bryson. That man writes nonfiction like it's a pop song. Catchy.