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The Planets Hardcover – 11 Oct 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books (11 Oct. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670034460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670034468
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 14.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,442,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'An enchanting book. In prose that is by turns lyrical and wry, and always filled with an infectious sense of wonder, she moves engagingly through our solar system … Sobel's enthusiasm for her subject is absolute and she succeeds in transmitting it to the reader, quite a feat when the subject matter can be so tricky to grasp. Much of the passion feeds directly from the astronomers themselves, their great discoveries and their endless yearning for understanding.' Sunday Telegraph

‘In this enthralling, accessible book, bestselling author Dava Sobel provides a detailed portrait of each heavenly body. Drawing on myth and history, astrology and science fact as well as science fiction, she tells a story that will have you gazing up at the night skies with renewed fascination.’ Daily Mail

'If you like your science lyrical Dava Sobel is the author for you.’ Independent

'It is science that excites Sobel. There's a real gee-whizzery about her treatment of telescopes and space probes and their many astonishing discoveries in recent years. It is hard to imagine a better picture of the dangerous and inhospitable nature of our solar system, where the existence of any form of life, let alone one capable of travelling to other worlds, is nothing less than a miracle. The book is also a timely reminder of the fragility of the little green spacecraft on which we are all passengers.’ John Moorish, Independent on Sunday

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Dava Sobel, a former New York Times science reporter, is the author of ‘Longitude’, a prize-winning international bestseller, and ‘Galileo's Daughter’, which was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. She has co-authored six books, including ‘Is Anyone Out There?’ with astronomer Frank Drake, and ‘The Illustrated Longitude’ with William J. H. Andrewes. Dava Sobel has won a number of awards for her outstanding contribution towards public understanding of science. She lives in East Hampton, New York.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth," the first book of the Bible recounts. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
This charming guide to the solar system explains the planets in everyday language while drawing on history, myth, science fiction, art, literature and the latest scientific advances. It discusses the ongoing discoveries in our planetary system, dealing with every body from the sun to Pluto. The writing style is accessible and highly engaging.

The chapter Genesis deals with the sun and the formation of the solar system, Mythology is devoted to Mercury and astronomers like Tycho Brahe, Copernicus and Kepler, and Beauty is reserved for Venus, where the poetry of amongst others, Blake, Wordsworth, Oliver Wendell Holmes and CS Lewis is quoted. Earth gets its turn in Geography (On Becoming a Planet), and the Moon in the chapter Lunacy.

Jupiter and the Galileo spacecraft are investigated in Astrology, whilst Music Of The Spheres is about Saturn and the music of the planets as represented by Holst in his Opus 32 and Kepler's book Harmonice Mundi in which he interpreted their motions as music. Uranus and Neptune are discussed in the chapter Discovery, and Pluto in UFO where the controversy on whether Pluto really is a planet is explored.

The concluding chapter Planeteers discusses the Cassini spacecraft and the Huygens probe which landed on Saturn's moon Titan in January 2005. The author concludes with the observation that the planets have always been stalwarts of human culture and the inspiration for much of mankind's higher-minded endeavor. The book concludes with a glossary, notes by chapter and a bibliography. There are black and white illustrations, photographs and maps throughout the text.

The PS section at the end contains an interview with the author by Travis Elborough, Sobel's favorite books and writers, Other books by Sobel and books she recommends, and an essay about the New Horizons spacecraft launched on 19th January 2006 on its 10 year journey to Pluto.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By L. Hogan on 16 Nov. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a lovely book. Rather than being a hard core, scientific tome, it is an affectionate and slightly quirky look at our neighbours. Sobel uses a number of literary devices to give us an overview of the history of the solar system. I think reviewers who complain about the chapter that mentions astrology are missing the point slightly! Astrology was regarded as a science for hundreds of years. This book charts the history of the planets, not just from their own perspective, but from ours. So it would be difficult to write such a book without including some reference to astrology. I thought it was nicely and quite playfully done. I notice that there are no references made to the first chapter, which worried me at first, because it tells the story of the formation of the planets in terms of the genesis creation myth. My first thought was "Oh no! Have I wandered into some sort of Intelligent Design book". But I soon realised the Sobel is trying to give the reader a view of how the planets, and our knowledge and perception of them has changed through history, so including a creation myth is a vital part of the story, as this is where some of our earliest ideas about the universe around us came from.

This is an affectionate portrait of the solar system, full of interesting detail and asides. It is a much more personal book that Ms Sobel's previous work and you feel you are getting a closer view of the author herself. I would especially recommend it to people who dont usually read popular science and to fans of more rigourous books. Its a gentle introduction to this type of book and certainly leaves you with the feeling that Ms Sobel is passionate about her subject.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Martin Ohara on 27 Sept. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have enjoyed any of the other Dava Sobel books, please avoid this. It is devoid of all the features that have made the other books so successful; personality, human triumph over aversity and scientific discovery. This is a mish-mash of science, psuedo-science and romantic nonsense in a disconnected series of chapters, none of which deliver the same type of story about their respective planet. Exceptionally dissapointing, it is difficult to know how such an accomplished author fell to these depths, it's almost as if this is a rushed text to meet some publishing deadline, hence cobbled together from half finished notes and musings. There are some good bits, but they are so difficult to find as to not be worth looking. There are some significantly better books available on the same topic, save your money for them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J.S Baddeley on 16 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
Sobel skilfully completes the often-difficult task of presenting factual scientific information in an enthralling and page turning format. She does this by using different styles of writing to describe each of the planets for example mythology for mercury, science-fiction for Mars. This resulted in some controversy particularly in the chapter on Jupiter where Sobel brings in astrology, but, as Sobel has subsequently defended, this is more about relating human culture and how the planets have been viewed in the past as a reference point for understanding how we view them today. Thus Sobel's pursuit is definitely a scientific one, whilst still allowing room for other cultural interpretations of the planets to be aired.

If you have any interest in our planetary neighbours this is a superb introduction that will leave you wanting to find out more.
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