In this book, Wells sets out to cover the entire history of the planet up until the 1920s (which was the present day for him). This may sound like something that would be really boring to read, but through his lovely writing style he manages to keep it as interesting as any novel all the way through.
The earlier chapters are some of the most interesting. It’s here where he talks about the formation of the Earth in space and the most primal forms of life. He then goes on to talk about the evolution of creatures up to the dinosaurs and their untimely extinction and then onto the earliest clear ancestors of humans. Sadly, with this being ninety years old, the science will not be completely up to scratch and a much more detailed/accurate picture of these very early years in Earth’s history could be painted in a modern book, but nonetheless, you still get a good idea of how these things happened.
Another thing I was particularly fond of was the way in which he covered the origins of the world’s major religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.) I found it very interesting to discover the context in which they came about as it helps to give a better understanding of them and their belief systems. I also liked that Wells was, usually, quite neutral when discussing them too, treating their beginnings simply as historical fact, rather than going into any debate about their legitimacy (although it is there very slightly, at times, but not much.)
On the whole, reading this is a very good way to give yourself a better understanding of history and the way in which things are connected. Of course, being a history of everything means it never goes into an event in extreme detail, but that’s not a bad thing, if it did, it would be an entirely different thing. There’s also the fact that some periods of history aren’t quite as interesting as others, so you won’t be enjoying it equally all the way through. Wells says that he wants the book to read in the same way as a novel, while at the same time giving us a history of the planet, and I believe that he has done that rather well. Anybody with even the slightest interest in history should read this book!