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WEDNESDAY

If you think you’re smart, there’s no book more humbling than The Way Things Work, wherein David Macaulay uses deceptively cute drawings to propagate an inferiority complex among those who don’t understand, say, the xerographic process. Bill Bryson’s new tome, A Short History of Nearly Everything, may not have any pictures, but it’s still bound to become a classic in the genre of mental emasculation. Fortunately, the author has the keen business sense to know that the dumbass reader doesn’t want to hear a big smartypants gloat, so Bryson explains that he, too, was once an idiot. He doesn’t just focus on the what of all he learned about paleontology and particle physics and Pangea, and that’s what makes A Short History a success. In the easygoing prose that he’s honed through years of travel writing, Bryson explains scientific historiography as if it were a walk on the beach. In the end, his command of the colloquial is the reader’s salvation. He’ll make it real easy to understand how dumb you are at 7 p.m. at the National Press Club’s Ballroom, 529 14th St. NW. $5. (202) 347-3686. (Josh Levin)