Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review
The Planets, by Dava Sobel (2005)


Confession time: I originally perused this book because the cover is beautiful. 

As a child, I was fascinated with astronomy. As a college Freshman, I took an astronomy course and dropped out after a few weeks. Perhaps now I would be able to grasp the difficult mathematics required for even elementary-level space science. Perhaps. But I think I'm better off with a text like The Planets, which dives into the fascinating history (and indeed much of the science) of our solar system with a sense of whimsy and poetry. 

Unlike, apparently, some who have written reviews of this book, I read a few pages before buying it. I do that regardless of topic or genre. To begin reading something is an investment of my time and energy. I've read criticisms of the approach used here, and I don't understand how that approach wasn't apparent from the beginning. I guess this isn't my problem, but I feel a bit sad to read negative reviews by people who really are not within the intended audience here. This is beginning-level stuff, surely, for a general readership with an interest in, not an expertise with, the material.

I know I haven't retained a lot of the specifics Dava Sobel has shared here, but that's not to say I haven't learned a lot. I also have a strong appreciation for how Sobel shaped each chapter, each treatment of individual bodies of the solar system. I'm happy to have read it.

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