If you’ve spent some time on the Internet, you’ve come across the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APoD) website, run by astrophysicists Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell. Once a day they post up a space-related picture, provide a handy description. I’ve said to myself on several occasions, that these guys should write a book. Well, now they have.
The Universe: 365 Days ($20.97 from Amazon.com) is a print version of APoD, and it’s one of the most gorgeous astronomy books I’ve ever seen. Open it up to any page: on your right is a full-page photograph, and on your left is a paragraph description about the picture. That’s it, 365 pages of description/picture, rinse, repeat. Not much else to say. If you like pictures of space and astronomy, then you’re going love it, page after page.
Because there are so many photographs, the authors were able to draw from a large pool of images. So, it isn’t just the same old NASA/Hubble pictures that everyone uses, there are some from more obscure observatories and even amateur astronomers. There’s a handy index at the back so you seek out images by topic.
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I understand why they decided to go with the whole 365 days concept; it’s a connection to their website. But then, it’s not like you’re going to read the book one day at a time, like some kind of yearlong astronomical advent calendar.
Let me just stick my drooling tongue back in my mouth for a second and let you know my complaints with the book. First, the text is really small. Unreasonably small considering that it’s swimming in white space. The layout person should have been thinking about all the people who might be reading this book, and steered well away from 9 point font. My other complaint is that it feels fragile. Imagine you’re holding a stack of nearly 400 photographs bound together on the left-hand side. I’m worried that it might come apart with all the use it’ll get sitting on a coffee table. I’m afraid to let Chloe look through it, as she’ll render it into pulp in minutes.
Still, complaints aside The Universe: 365 Days is a fantastic book. Gorgeous photographs put into context by scientists who’ve had years of experience boiling complex concepts into handy, bite-sized write-ups. Hey, that’s what I do?