Here’s Lauren Baratz-Logsted on a book that’s been causing quite a stir on planet Earth lately:
The Planets, Dava Sobel. Whence Dava Sobelâ€™s obsession with the planets? Whence mine? OK, I canâ€™t speak for her, but I know where mine comes from: it comes from the fact that, last holiday season, my daughter and I assembled a model of the Solar System to hang over her bed and ever since then, Iâ€™ve been trying to find something that will help me explain more about them to her. This has resulted in me reading many books on the subject this year of which I have not understood word one. So thank heavens that Ms. Sobel, author of the wonderful historical memoir Galileoâ€™s Daughter among other books, has come along to save me just in time with a book that is both accessible and fun. Everything I remember from my brother making me as a child learn more about astronomy is here as well as much of the material I understood just well enough in college to keep my D in Astronomy 101 from being an F. Itâ€™s heady stuff, reading about the discoveries of each of these planets, imagining how headier still it must have been for each of their discoverers. Thereâ€™s my old good bud Saturn â€“ what is it about those rings? Thereâ€™s the info on the moons of Uranus being named after my beloved Shakespeareâ€™s characters. Maybe I can start Jackie on Shakespeare next? And there is tiny Pluto â€“ as Ms. Sobel says, â€œPeople love Pluto. Children identify with its smallnessâ€ â€“ being still for the most part treated like the planet I so romantically want it to remain. And then thereâ€™s the penultimate paragraph to this lovely book, which reads in Ms. Sobelâ€™s simply elegant prose: â€œIf reading these pages has helped someone befriend the planets, recognizing in them the stalwarts of centuries of popular culture and the inspiration for much high-minded human endeavor, then I have accomplished what I set out to do.â€
note from Michelle: if The Planets is your cup of intergalactic tea, check out Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog.