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The Faber Book of Science [Paperback]

John Carey
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 15.99
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Book Description

17 Mar 2005
The Faber Book of Science introduces hunting spiders and black holes, gorillas and stardust, protons, photons and neutrinos. In his acclaimed anthology, John Carey plots the development of modern science from Leonardo da Vinci to Chaos Theory. The emphasis is on the scientists themselves and their own accounts of their breakthroughs and achievements. The classic science-writers are included - Darwin, T.H. Huxley and Jean Henri Fabre tracking insects through the Provencal countryside. So too are today's experts - Steve Jones on the Human Genome Project, Richard Dawkins on DNA and many other representatives of the contemporary genre of popular science-writing which, John Carey argues, challenges modern poetry and fiction in its imaginative power.

Frequently Bought Together

The Faber Book of Science + The Faber Book of Reportage + The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939
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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (17 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571179010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571179015
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 103,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

About the Author

John Carey is an Emeritus Professor at Oxford University. His books include studies of Donne, Dickens and Thackeray, The Intellectuals and the Masses, What Good Are the Arts? and a life of William Golding., John Carey is an Emeritus Professor at Oxford University and a Fellow of the British Academy. His books include studies of Donne, Dickens and Thackeray, The Intellectuals and the Masses, What Good Are the Arts? and a life of William Golding.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is the Science Anthology for you 11 Oct 2003
By Keith Appleyard VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
If you're interested in Science, but want to study some new topics, meet some new people, reading about their achievements in their own words or of their contemporaries, then this book cannot be surpassed.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read 27 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the sort of book you can leave on a coffee table or in the lu - handy to have around
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Try the article from Rachael Carson on tides, or Isaac Azimov on the planet Earth. You will not be disappointed!
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4 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars INTRODUCTIONS 29 Jun 2004
By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
This book is edited (with introduction) by John Carey, and that ought to trigger a few responses in people who have been around. Professor Carey is an all-purpose media intellectual, much in demand for elevated discussions of more or less anything. He was formerly Professor of English at Oxford, and here he is guiding us around 'science'. I recall the answer of John W Campbell Jr when asked what was the place of science fiction in English literature. Campbell responded that science fiction is a genre taking in everything from the primal egg to the heat-death of the universe, so to try to place it within English literature is a bit of an odd question.
Carey clearly views this anthology as 'literature' rather than as some kind of reference book. On the one hand he gave thought to the sequencing of the selections, and I may say I read the volume from cover to cover as sequenced. On the other hand one of his main criteria for inclusion is that the pieces that qualify should be well enough written for him to want to read them twice. This is where I start to have problems with his approach. Given the significance of most of the subject-matter, my own reason for wanting to read any given piece twice would be that I had not understood it the first time. I am only too grateful for the quality of readability, but when confronted with relativity or quantum theory or black holes or seismology or nuclear fusion or fractals or genetics I can only find a preoccupation with literary aspects to be the most despicable footling. That said, the literary quality is pretty good, as of course one would expect.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A SUPERB GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE MAGIC OF SCIENCE. 2 Sep 1996
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"The most incomprehensible thing about the universe," wrote Einstein, "is that it's comprehensible". Comprehensible to scientists, anyway -- most of the rest of us abandoned the scientific method back in high school, along with the periodic table and pickled frogs. Today the general reader needs the mediation of a thoughtful, lucid guide to make sense of it all. Luckily there are plenty of good science writers around , and even some scientists, who have a gift for communicating their stories with childlike wonder intact. These authors can not only make the universe comprehensible to us, but enchanting.

Good scientific prose is more than a minor literary genre; it's genuine magic realism. The Faber Book of Science has a cast of characters no less colourful than those from the pens of the Latin American fantasy-weavers: black holes and battling ants, quarks and quasars, and a man who mistook his wife for a hat.
"Like any anthology," editor and Oxford professor John Carey writes in the introduction, "it is meant to entertaining, intriguing, lendable-to-friends and good-to-read as well..." Readers need not worry about mental meltdowns. Carey spent five years reading "many books and articles, ostensibly for a popular readership, which start out intelligibly and fairly soon hit a quagmire of fuse-blowing technicalities, from which no non-scientist could emerge intact." These, along with the articles he felt he'd never read twice, were "instantly rejected."

The result is a guided tour through the best articles, essays, and memoirs of scientists and science writers, from the Renaissance on. The chapters are brief: Carey is following the toxin principle of anthologies -- a trace amount of a technical topic is a stimulant, anything more is deadly. The book begins with a few pages from Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical notebooks, and then we alight on Galileo's reflections, and just as quickly are into Anton Von Leeuwenhoek descriptions of the tiny "animalcules" discovered by microscope in a drop of water. Carey inserts biographical information and other asides throughout each chapter, breaking up the material and giving continuity to the journey. He's along as a guide, nudging the reader's interest and sharing in the discovery of the unexpected.

Some of the selections seem a little odd (Freud seems out of place here, as does Orville Wright). And why the inert gas of Isaac Asimov, at the expense of better storytellers of science -- Timothy Ferris, Dianne Ackermann, or Heinz Pagels? Still, The Faber Book of Science will have you digging in for weeks for the many little treasures within, particularly the selections from the past quarter-century. In Italo Calvino's The Gecko's Belly, the author constructs a meditation on a tiny creature that slowly moves from literary-scientific inquisitiveness into a Zenlike awe. And in an excerpt from Primo Levi's writings, we follow the progress of a carbon atom:
"It was caught high by the wind, flung down on the earth, lifted ten kilometers high. It was breathed in by a falcon, descending into its precipitous lungs, but did not penetrate it s thick bood and was expelled. It dissolved three times in the water of the sea, once in the waster of a cascading torrent, and again was expelled. It travelled with the wind for eight years: now high, now low, on the sea and among the clouds, over forests, deserts, and limitless expanses of ice; then it stumbled into capture and the organic adventure..."

Magic realism indeed!

John Updike has his famous "Cosmic Gall" here, a poem about subatomic particles called neutrinos. Every second, hundreds of billions of these neutrinos pass through each square inch of our bodies, coming from above during the day and from below at night, when the sun is shining on the other side of the earth.

Neutrinos, they are very small./
They have no charge and have no mass/
And do not interact at all./
The earth is just a silly ball/
To them, through which they simply pass,/
Like dustmaids down a drafty hall/
Or photons through a sheet of glass.... /

"Not many poets have written about atomic particles", Carey approvingly adds.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of interest to anyone with an enquiring mind. 12 Sep 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I must confess it is over a year since I read this book but it has to be one of the best I've read in several years. Its ability to give an insight or recount an incident helps us look not only at the world in a new light, but also the people who brought about the advances.
The range of history and the range of topics is very wide and it should appeal to anyone with an enquiring mind, whether or not they have a science background. I would strongly recommend it and have already lent my copy to several people
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wanna read some love stories? 21 Oct 2010
By Nexus7 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book contains a very entertaining selection of stories, all of which happen to be true. It is a compilation of writings by many authors, but the editor's footnotes are just as entertaining, and also happen to be true (and apt). What stood out for me was that there are some stories in there, yes, about scientists and discoveries and all that dry stuff, but which are some of the greatest love stories ever told! You may be not be the Harlequin romance reader at all, but these stories suck you in and it's only afterwards that you realize you got conned into reading a love story.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is the Science Anthology for you 30 Oct 2003
By Keith Appleyard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you're interested in Science, but want to study some new topics, meet some new people, reading about their achievements in their own words or of their contemporaries, then this book cannot be surpassed.
3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars INTRODUCTIONS 30 April 2004
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is edited (with introduction) by John Carey, and that ought to trigger a few responses in people who have been around. Professor Carey is an all-purpose media intellectual, much in demand for elevated discussions of more or less anything. He was formerly Professor of English at Oxford, and here he is guiding us around `science'. I recall the answer of John W Campbell Jr when asked what was the place of science fiction in English literature. Campbell responded that science fiction is a genre taking in everything from the primal egg to the heat-death of the universe, so to try to place it within English literature is a bit of an odd question.

Carey clearly views this anthology as `literature' rather than as some kind of reference book. On the one hand he gave thought to the sequencing of the selections, and I may say I read the volume from cover to cover as sequenced. On the other hand one of his main criteria for inclusion is that the pieces that qualify should be well enough written for him to want to read them twice. This is where I start to have problems with his approach. Given the significance of most of the subject-matter, my own reason for wanting to read any given piece twice would be that I had not understood it the first time. I am only too grateful for the quality of readability, but when confronted with relativity or quantum theory or black holes or seismology or nuclear fusion or fractals or genetics I can only find a preoccupation with literary aspects to be the most despicable footling. That said, the literary quality is pretty good, as of course one would expect. This is obviously a book for amateurs not for professionals, and speaking as an amateur I felt helped to retain my fumbling but determined grasp on, say, particle physics as well as getting a genuinely better perception of, say, chaos theory and natural selection. Readers inclined to a religious outlook will probably not find much to bolster it here, and whether that represents some bias on the part of the editor or whether it is simply in the nature of the case I am unable to judge.

It's a clever production by a very clever editor, but I'm still suspicious of him because of his background. I have never really been convinced that reading books in one's own mother tongue amounts to a respectable academic subject. So far as I could tell, the way they got around this perception at Oxford was to make the subject artificially difficult, demanding a ludicrous amount of reading and assessing the products of their grisly ergastulum on their capacity to make clever-clever observations provided these stayed within the party line adopted by a fearsome and condescending thought-police. That anyone who had gone through this particular mill retained any literary sensibility whatsoever seems to me as good an argument for a benevolent deity as I have encountered. Professor Carey is clearly alive to this problem, but after my own struggles with establishing Greek and Latin texts, or with the subtleties of vowel-gradation in the Indo-European languages, I don't like being lumped in with his lot as an `arts' graduate, standing in the same relationship to the larger sciences as they do. There are sciences and sciences. The one I studied was a minor one, the contemplation of the structure of the cosmos is ultimately what it's all about. How good a grasp of it I shall ever get I don't know, but this book has not hindered that purpose for all the `literary' fooling that goes with it.

I see that Professor Carey has written a book called `The Intellectuals and the Masses'. I don't have the courage to read it, but I think I might have been able to invent the title if I had not been told of it. I wish him a long and productive life. It may be that we shall yet see some Faber Book of Introductions, edited (with introduction) by John Carey.
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