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The Planets by [Sobel, Dava]
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The Planets Kindle Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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'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

Sunday Times

'...a rich tapestry of poetry, history and anecdote...also a glittering anthology...in which science and scripture are mingled.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 402 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0670034460
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (28 April 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #308,731 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
A brave attempt to bring science to a lay audience.
The bibliography leaves no doubt about the depth of the research which has gone into this book, but I ended up feeling that I had learned more about Dava Sobel's immense skill as a writer than I had about the planets as such. She is particularly impressive when she gives her imagination free rein, as at the end of the chapter on Mars, and her fascinated enjoyment of the subject and admiration for those who have helped to develop our understanding of it over the centuries are obvious.
Ultimately, however, the marriage between readability and the need to convey complicated scientific concepts is not an altogether happy one. The book ends up falling between two stools, not offering enough new for the specialist but being too detailed for the layman.
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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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Format: Paperback
As someone who'd thoroughly enjoyed 'Longitude' I'd greatly anticipated reading Dava Sobel's take on our extended home. Not that new scientific revelations had been expected, no, but simply a well-written and entertaining new slant on what countless Horizon programmes and suchlike had already amply illustrated in recent years.

Just scanning the table of contents had me frown. Just a little. Chapter two, 'Genesis' - mmh... Could it be? Yes, it could! Before you can say Creationism, we meet the "architect", his subtle but all-pervading presence insidiously slipped in between romantic hogwash about the formation of our early solar system. 'Let there be light...', 'The Book of Genesis tells...', and perhaps most gallingly, when the chapter draws to a confused close on the subject of solar eclipses and marvels at the matching relative size of moon and sun, '...is this startling manifestation of the Sun's hidden splendour part of a divine design?'

Never before have I tossed a book in disgust. I have now. Expecting an if not scientific then at least factual account based on current understanding, what we get is a book that could easily be thrust in your face by those persistent, motormouthed disciples after ringing your doorbell on Saturday afternoons. Sadly, these days one cannot be sure if this abomination of science is Dava Sobel's own doing, or indeed was foisted on her by money-grabbing US editors, along with the generally bloated style of writing that milks the more romantic aspects of our solar system until the udders hurt. Given the currently raging US-based controversy re. the His Dark Materials movie, the latter seems more likely.

Conclusions: don't bother reading this book, unless sickly sweet writing and the notion that our world was created in a handful of days don't offend you.
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