on 7 May 2006
This book was not quite what I expected in that I thought that it would be a largely pictorial guide to clouds. In fact it's quite textual with a relatively small number of illustrations considering that it's over 300 pages long.
There is a small colour section and I would have liked to have seen the other pictures reproduced in colour also rather than in monochrome which has sometimes come out as rather flattish and lacking contrast.
That said, it's an intelligently written guide not only to the types and appearances of clouds but also to the whys and wherefores of how each type forms and what it signifies in climatic terms. Although quite scientific in places it is also filled with lighter comments and observations.
It's entirely possible to appreciate the beauty of clouds without knowing anything about the processes behind their formation but I would recommend the book to any thinking reader who wishes to be informed in better depth about what they see in the sky and why it's there.
on 21 January 2007
I enjoyed this... and I am still not quite sure why! It is a quirky idea and one that is well executed. I fear it may give rise to a load of copy-cat nooks for similarly obtuse and marginal subjects, flooding Waterstones at Xmas. But this one will remain the first of that tribe. Printed and presented in an exquisite way and written in an informative and jokey manner. This is a great companion to a train journey, looking out the window at passing clouds. Sometimes it gets a bit heavy... (there are simply so many clouds and so much science)... but that shouldnt stop the enjoyment of an innovative book!
on 1 October 2006
Witty, amusing, informative, and a fascinating read, is how I would describe this book. I loved it. I'm not even sure what attracted me to it in the first place; I think perhaps I couldn't imagine that anyone could write a whole book about clouds.
I used to admire the sky but only usually as a passenger on a train or in a car, or while sitting at the park watching my son on the swings and even then only half-heartedly. Now I am transfixed by the movements up there. The sky is truly spectacular. Why didn't I realise this before? Now I need to stop myself from gazing heavenwards while driving my car.
My only criticism of the book would be that the last chapter about the Morning Glory cloud doesn't seem to flow with the rest of the book probably because it was originally a separate article.
I loved the idea of taking a test after reading the book (placed in the middle pages). I didn't do too well though as my Latin spelling is appalling.
What an eye-opener! Or more probably, what a camera opener. All you ever wanted to know about clouds and just how and why they turn out the way they do. It possibly lacks a few more photos in the book but I accessed the author's cloud appreciation society website and found more photos than I thought ever existed. Though packed with facts, it's not dry science-speak so thank you for turning an everyday event into a extra-special sight (with much understanding behind it)!
I'm not particularly fascinated by clouds, nor have I ever lay on my back on the grass, staring at the sky, seeing them forming the shapes of faces or horses or whatever, and yet I felt curiously drawn to this book. I'd read a review of it in a Sunday newspaper, thought it sounded interesting, and when I saw it for a reasonable price I bought it.
Each chapter of the book is devoted to a particular type of cloud, and after a diagram illustrating the different types the text then proceeds to explain each, and with the exception of the curiously flat final chapter (another reviewer has commented that it seems to be a copy and paste job from a magazine or something similar, hence the change in style) the author's slightly off-the-wall sense of humour and enthusiasm comes across very clearly. The book never becomes tedious or dry, nor does it see itself as a textbook, and this is what helps to make it so accessible. There is even a short quiz where you are asked to identify some types of cloud from photographs, and the answers to these are also humorous (one is described as 'an "Abominable Snowman, who is upset that his pet seahorse is ignoring him" cloud'.)
My lasting memories of this book were of the humorous content, and also of the somewhat terrifying account of what happened to a pilot who ejected from his aircraft at the top of a thundercloud...
Interesting and enjoyable, and it has made me look up a little more frequently.
on 23 February 2006
This book is going to turn millions of people into avid cloudspotters, and for that alone, the author deserves our thanks. Some readers will rush out to start taking photographs, and others will write poems. Who knew there was so much to be said, and to be said so well, about clouds? This book will become the cloudspotter's bible for all time, and it inspired me to pen a short poem about clouds.
on 31 October 2007
Gavin Pretor-Pinner deserves praise for taking something so obvious as clouds, and writing a whole book. We tend to take the fluffy white (or bleak grey ......) objects for granted, and many know a little about what they are composed of, and where they come from. Mr P-P is obviously something of an expert in his field, and a real enthusiast, and has caused my thoughts to be "amongst the clouds", and in that the book has achieved some success. However, can I still name the 10 cloud types, and identify them? That is a different matter.
After a general introduction, there are chapters on each of the 10 (main) cloud types. In previous eras, clouds were seen to portend the weather. In the days of the 24-hour availability of detailed meteorological forecasts, that is now hard to believe. Knowledge of cloud formations is becoming something that we do not need to know. There are detailed explanations of weather fronts, (cold front, warm front and what used to be known as occluded fronts). However, there are no weather maps as a pictorial guide, with isobars. That would have been helpful.
Generally, I liked the book more as I progressed, but the subject matter is not `a story'. Gavin writes better when the detail is linked to little anecdotes, and he has a wry sense of humour, more to make the reader weakly smile that laugh. There are informative matters of detail, so that any reader will come away with items they never knew. The style brings life to the sometimes dry subject matter of condensed water vapour, which at times left me reeling with formation details and Latin names of the sub-species of clouds.
I found that some detail of the basic cloud types merged into each other, much as a blanket of Cirrostratus. But then again, I am not a paid-up member of the Cloud Appreciation Society - yes there really is such a society, and this book resulted from that organisation, with the author as its founder. Of more interest to me was the detail about halos, and other visual effects that can be seen. Before opening this book, I had never heard of a `sundog', and am now eager to see one.
Is the weather the same now as it has always been? Mr P-P talks about climate change from a different angle, bringing this in to ways in which we have changed our clouds. This has been done both consciously (Russian attempts to ensure that the weather is fine for May day parades), and unconsciously. In the latter category come the new types of clouds that are seen high in the sky on some otherwise cloud-free days - the contrails ("condensation trails") from jet aircraft. It is interesting to note the effect that 9/11 had climate on the USA, with no aircraft flying and causing contrails for 48 hours. This resulted in an increased average difference of day-time and night-time temperatures of 1.1 degrees centigrade in tem mediate aftermath.
The last chapter details a particular cloud formation, not one of the 10 cloud types, but a spectacular, localised cloud, known as "The Morning Glory". Impressive as this is, I found it has too much coverage, and there were many more illustrations than of more widely-occurring phenomena. Awe-inspiring - yes. Worth that amount of coverage - no.
One thing is certain, I walk more with my head in the clouds, looking at the water vapour above, below and around me with a little more knowledge and detail.
on 18 March 2011
Suffering from a severe (is there any other?) form of Man Flu, I picked this up and devoured it in two days. If I had wanted to write such a book I would have done just the same as Mr Pretor-Pinney using a mixture of science, religion, history, philosophy and art, well-written in a lively fashion and glued together with liberal dashes of humour. Starting with Chapter One, cumulus, my febrile brain was buffeted from children's drawings to John Constable to René Descartes to Hindu and Buddhist beliefs about elephants, learning in the process that a cumulus cloud weighs the same as eighty elephants, to lava lamps and then on and on. I felt rather like what poor Lt.-Col. William Rankin must have felt like, that is the exhilaration and not the pain, when he was obliged to bail out at 47,000 ft above a cumulonimbus in Chapter Two. Even the ostensibly boring stratus and the often frankly depressing nimbostratus managed to shine in these pages before I surged to the upper troposphere, with a detour to Billingsgate Market for the mackerel sky version of cirrocumulus, and beyond. A veritable tour de force.
Everyone who ventures outside (in these days of Play Stations and zillion-channel TV) will benefit from this delightful book. I now know the difference between a "Cumulus Humilis" and a "Cumulus Mediocris" and my enjoyment of the daily skies has been enriched. Witty explorations of the facts (and fiction) of clouds with many diagrams and pictures to help out. We could do with an expanded "Illustrated" version with better photographs, but this is a great start!
The Cloudspotter's Guide is one of those books that normally sinks without trace, but this is the exception to that arbitrary rule. The author's enthusiasm, light hearted approach to his hobby, talent with words, and his genuine depth of knowledge all combine to make this an entertaining read for those of us who have lain on the grass during a summer's day wondering if the clouds might mean rain and hoping the sun will come out again, and then noticed that the cloud has a peculiar shape, and then drifted away on dreamy speculation, still wanting to know more...
My Dad was a Meteorologist, so I had a head start with more background knowledge than most other readers picking up the book for the first time, and possibly I also had an extra bias into wanting to know more. But within a few days of its arrival here in 2006 my youngest had appropriated it, and I didn't see it again until a week ago when visiting them for Christmas. So now I have finally managed to finish the book I began almost ten years ago. It was worth the wait.
The text is the main part of the book and the illustrations are only there to support it, but then if it was full of photos I think it could have become boring, especially as I wanted to know more about where and when and why the cloud formations might happen, and the author takes us around the word to show us. The book helps to tie together deep memories (like lying on the little beach in Puerto de Andratx forty-odd years ago and wondering why the solitary wisp of cloud shading us only ever sat just above the cliff and would not go away) and explains why scientifically without drowning us in technical terms.
It will not appeal to everyone, and it might possibly still be too technical for a few of the others who really do want to know more about clouds. But I think it is definitely worth a read to broaden ones mind about the weather and why it influences our lives so much, and studying the clouds allows us to see what it is doing.