Just finished: “The Planets”

The Planets
Dava Sobel

from the back cover:

With her blockbuster New York Times bestsellers Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter, Dava Sobel used her rare and luminous gift for weaving difficult scientific concepts into a compelling story to garner rave reviews and attract readers from across the literary spectrum. Now, in “The Planets,” Sobel brings her full talents to bear on what is perhaps her most ambitious subject to date – the planets of our solar system. The sun’s family of planets become a familiar place in this personal account of the lives of other worlds. Sobel explores the planets’ origins and oddities through the lens of popular culture, from astrology, mythology, and science fiction to art, music, poetry, biography, and history. A perfect gift and a captivating journey, “The Planets” is a gorgeously illustrated study of our place in the universe that will mesmerize everyone who has ever gazed with awe at our night sky.

It’s difficult to summarize a book like this any further, so I’m letting the back-cover blurb do my talking this time.

The prologue to this book describes the author’s solar-system diorama for the third-grade science fair; my sister and I made a similar project. This brief, engagingly written book will draw in anyone who’s ever had an interest in astronomy, as Dava Sobel gives each planet a chapter to discuss its physical attributes, its history, mystery, and discovery by humans on Earth, and its unique character in our Solar System. The book touches on the controversy over Pluto’s planetary status, but was published prior to its reclassification, and talks about ongoing exploration of our planetary neighbors.

This is a quick read, especially considering the complexity of the subject, and the presentation is very approachable but never dumbed down. I enjoyed it very much.

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