Universe Today’s resident book reviewer, Mark Mortimer, recalls his favourite space and astronomy books of 2007.
Books inflame the imagination or flame into ashes. Such is their lot. A bookseller, complaining about the inability to even give away books, torched his stash this year. Whether to generate advertising or clear storage space, he barbecued away. I’m a book lover and this image frightens me. Though the Internet is an amazing electronic library, I prefer the sensuous nature of the pages, the soft glow of the ambient light and the quiet strains of music drifting across the room. I need the solidity of paper and the warmth of my reading environment to help channel the authors’ ideas. Books are precious, have done much to raise our civilization and are worth all the respect we can muster.
During this calendar year, over 200 000 books were published in North America. I read only a smattering of these, though I felt well rewarded upon completing each. Some of these were large tomes that addressed broad ranges of recent scientific results. In others, though technically detailed, equations were few and far between. This is a shame, as many paragraphs may be necessary to fully explain the equivalent of a couple of simple mathematical relationships. Yet, I suspect this reflects more the publisher’s impression of the readership than the author’s ability. This reflects a fundamental divide in the books I reviewed. Some authors expect their readers to have sufficient background information or initiative to learn, and so write accordingly. I also suspect these fascinating but technical books suffer in the sales department. Such is the fate of many science books.
My favourite of the year surprisingly has less to do with outer space or astronomy. Gotz Hoeppe’s book, Why the Sky is Blue says so much about how regular people did and still can add to science that I highly recommend it.
Michael Michaud, in his book Contact with Alien Civilizations also wonderfully keeps the reader thinking, but pushes them into realms well off our planet.
For those readers who enjoy the rewards of science and may not have the training, there’s Lives of the Planets by Richard Corfield. In it, he succinctly tells the reader why we benefit from the research that’s gone before us and why we might benefit in the future.
And, as if to emphasize the need to keep going, there’s A.J. Meadows’ book The Future of the Universe within which he really lays out how our specie’s survival is more fortunate than predetermined. These, and the remainder, have all been a joy for me to read.
I have one honourable mention that wasn’t reviewed for Universe Today during the year. I greatly enjoy science fiction, as writers have no limits on the worlds that base their story. The annual anthology The Year’s Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois is a regular treat for me. In it, are his selections of short and medium length stories from a variety of sources. All stories are ‘hard’ science in that the physics is often as fascinating as the characters. Enjoy!
Again this year, comets have dazzled our skies and robots have scurried across foreign landscape. In additional to the superficial enjoyment of these events, we’ve used them to build upon our knowledge of our existence and where we may be heading. Books distill this into common lore according to the author’s prerogative and for the benefit of the reader. To all, happy reading and let’s keep the flames upon the candles and off of the books.
Just in case you want to go back through all of Mark’s reviews, you can access them all here.