This book’s strengths and weaknesses balance very well with those of Hawking’s older work, A Brief History of Time, making this an excellent companion to the latter. Where A Brief History is old and short on illustrations, The Universe in a Nutshell is updated (2001) and illustrated in a style that can only be described as luxurious. Additional topics covered include a chapter on the future of biological and technological innovation, as well as a chapter on p-branes.
Despite these improvements, the layout of the new book feels uncomfortably disjointed for the subject matter – the meaty parts of the text are interrupted by large pictures, captions and info boxes. I actually prefer the drier, straightforward presentation of A Brief History. Additionally, I feel that many parts of this book are not as clearly communicated and I missed the tone of charming humility and open-mindedness that was evident in such abundance in the older version.
The illustrator’s website is definitely worth a look.
[Why I read it: I was looking for a more modern Hawking book with which to follow the aged A Brief History of Time.]