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VINE VOICEon 29 May 2006
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)!
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on 30 April 2017
This is a most excellent book, and I wish I could either carry it with me always or simply absorb all the knowledge in it because it's fascinating stuff. Clouds! They're pretty and they're interesting and science knows a lot about them - but not everything. And I have always been a cloudspotter, but this book made me love them even more. Couldn't recommend this more to anyone interested in the skies above.
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VINE VOICEon 12 April 2008
This is a delightful book, written for enthusiasts, but containing enough good science to satisfy more expert readers. It does this and manages to be thoroughly entertaining too. The author's text is eminently readable and the technobabble is negligible and is augmented by clear diagrams and photos.
Interspersed throughout are digressions, discussions, cloud-lore and experiences relating to clouds, whether it be Turner's paintings or the effects of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Some of these asides do tend to be somewhat whimsical, but fit in with the overall style of the book. The star anecdote has to be the experience of the jet fighter pilot who had to eject into the middle of a cumolonimbus thundercloud and lived to tell the tale.
The only thing missing is loads more colour photos.
A fun and informative read.
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on 25 May 2011
You will see from the small number of one and two star reviews of this book that there are people who wanted a really boring technical manual about clouds, but were disappointed. I am glad they were as I would never read such a book if it was more than ten pages long. This book is both entertaining and interesting - fascinating in parts. The references to aviation, literature etc. bring the subject alive - let's face it - there was endless scope for creating an excruciatingly tedious tome. I've studied navigation so I know. It is the only completely understandable writing on this aspect of the weather I have come across. I particularly recommend it if you are planning on travelling or taking part in some outdoor activity, when there is an opportunity for gazing upwards.
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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.
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VINE VOICEon 14 February 2009
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.
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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.
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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.
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on 9 May 2009
Witty and funny but also full of information about how to get the best out of something so simple. Mr Pretor-Pinney manages to strike just the right balance. Not a serious in-depth look at the science of clouds but a helping hand for those who share his love for the beauty that is free for all to enjoy.
Get a copy, get out there, find a nice high place on a warm summer morning, read a few pages and then sit back and just dream. Bliss!
Can't wait for the Cloud Collectors Handbook to be published.
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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!
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