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The Planets Paperback – 3 Jul 2006
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Audio Download, Unabridged
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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
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.
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The Kindle edition of this book, however, is poorly converted. Quotations are badly formatted and the illustrations are completely missing. If you want to read this book and enjoy it as it was meant to be read, buy the print edition.
(The print edition, which I bought when I have up in the Kindle edition, deserves four stars.)
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.
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.
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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A great introduction to the planets.
Enjoyable reading! *