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The Planets

A book by Dava Sobel

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Imaginative and engaging

  • Aug 24, 2008
I've read and been delighted by "Longitude" and "Galileo's Daughter" so when I came across "The Planets." I was intrigued and wanted to read it. I knew even before I bought the book that it would be nothing like the other two by Dava Sobel, but by now she has established herself as a great writer and I trusted her and her instincts. If she wanted to take an unorthodox trip across the Solar System, I was all too willing to buy a ticket for the journey. And it was a refreshingly new look at the landscape that I thought I had already known all too well and have become a bit jaded with. Part informative, part imaginative this book both entertains and educates. It is well suited for both young and old readers. Each planet gets its own "voice" and is approached and dealt with from a unique point of view. The two works of art - one in fiction one in music - which this book reminds me of are Italo Calvino's "Cosmicomics" and Gustav Holst's "The Planets." Like Calvino and Holst, Dava Sobel possesses a rare gift of imagination and skill to bring a potentially dry subject and weave it into something that entices us and enthralls us. That's why I decided to recommend this book to my college Astronomy class that I teach this year.

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review by . September 15, 2010
If John Lennon were alive today to read Dava Sobel's "The Planets", I've no doubt he would be pleased to call it "a magical mystery tour".      I've always enjoyed reading popular science but, frankly, some of it is turgid, dry-as-dust commentary that is far more soporific than informative. By contrast, Sobel's "The Planets", a whirlwind tour of some of the most fascinating features of our very own solar system, waxes lyrical, indeed, …
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I am a benevolent rascal. I love lounging in bed on a Sunday morning. Rainy days make me melancholy, but in a good kind of way. I am an incorrigible chocoholic. I hate Mondays, but I get over it by Wednesday. … more
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Starred Review.Sobel's purpose in this lovely and personal volume is to show us the planets as she sees them. Writing in quite a different mode than in her best-sellingLongitudeandGalileo's Daughter,Sobel offers intimate essays inspired by the planets in our solar system, which she describes as "an assortment of magic beans or precious gems in a little private cabinet of wonder—portable, evocative, and swirled in beauty." She frames each essay in a different light, using a particular planet as a stepping stone toward a discussion of larger issues. Her "Jupiter" essay becomes a meditation on astrology, while her essay on the Sun, which relates the actual birth of the universe seemingly ex nihilo, evokes the Genesis account of creation in both its themes and the cadence of its language. Put simply, Sobel's conceits work (even, remarkably, the essay on Mars written from the perspective of a Martian rock) because each beautifully frames its planet. An essay that begins with the story of Sobel's grandmother coming to the United States as an immigrant, for example, sets up the author's musings on the odd nature of Pluto as somewhere in between "planet" and "other." This resonant and eclectic collection—informative, entertaining and poetic—is a joy to read.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.--This text refers to theHardcoveredition.
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ISBN-10: 0142001163
ISBN-13: 978-0142001165
Author: Dava Sobel
Genre: Science
Publisher: Penguin
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