The Planets – Dava Sobel

The Planets – Dava SobelThe Planets by Dava Sobel
Published by Penguin Books on October 31st 2006
Pages: 288

With her bestsellers Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel introduced readers to her rare gift for weaving complex scientific concepts into a compelling narrative. Now Sobel brings her full talents to bear on what is perhaps her most ambitious topic to date-the planets of our solar system. Sobel explores the origins and oddities of the planets through the lens of popular culture, from astrology, mythology, and science fiction to art, music, poetry, biography, and history. Written in her characteristically graceful prose, The Planets is a stunningly original celebration of our solar system and offers a distinctive view of our place in the universe.
* A New York Times extended bestseller * A Featured Alternate of the Book-of-the-Month Club, History Book Club, Scientific American Book Club, and Natural Science Book Club * Includes 11 full-color illustrations by artist Lynette R. Cook BACKCOVER: "[The Planets] lets us fall in love with the heavens all over again." -The New York Times Book Review
"Playful . . . lyrical . . . a guided tour so imaginative that we forget we're being educated as we're being entertained." -Newsweek
" [Sobel] has outdone her extraordinary talent for keeping readers enthralled. . . . Longitude and Galileo's Daughter were exciting enough, but The Planets has a charm of its own . . . . A splendid and enticing book." -San Francisco Chronicle
"A sublime journey. [Sobel's] writing . . . is as bright as the sun and its thinking as star-studded as the cosmos." -The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"An incantatory serenade to the Solar System. Grade A-" -Entertainment Weekly
"Like Sobel's [Longitude and Galileo's Daughter] . . . [The Planets] combines masterful storytelling with clear, engaging explanations of the essential scientific facts." -Physics World

This is one of those books that’s been on my shelf for a while. I know this as I’m told we bought it in Boston in 2013. That’s only three and a half years but it was well worth the wait. Dava Sobel is the bomb of creative non-fiction. I’m going to paraphrase the quote from the front cover ‘The Planets lets us fall in love with Dava Sobel’s writing all over again’.

What is so right about it?

Almost everything. Sobel starts by talking about her planet fetish which began in the third grade. She makes the planets easy to understand by comparing them to a family of siblings and mentions her brothers in high school. So, in the first paragraph I’m absolutely hooked.

Later on comes the chapter on Mars. She talks about Mars from the point of view of a rock that had been sheered off Mars and fallen to Earth. Essentially she’s taken all my Mondayitis articles and thrown them into the depths of the fires of Mordor by creating her own absolutely perfect chapter. Just with this chapter alone she’s using all my lessons on Creative Non-fiction that I’m studying right now at uni and putting them all into practice. The only difference is she does it perfectly.

Later on she takes on the challenge of teaching us about Uranus and Neptune by writing a letter from Caroline Herschel to Miss Mitchell. It’s the sort of letter designed to encourage any female in a masculine domain while entertaining the reader.

What don’t I like about it?

There are typos. Only a couple of them but they grate on my nerves and I’m not ignoring them any longer. I’ve heard Stephen King has a couple of typos in his new books and I’m not happy with this, it is not progress, it is degeneration. I’m making a stand. And of course, the moment I make a stand on this topic someone finds a typo in my work. It’s karma.

Do I recommend it?

Of course. I recommend anything by Sobel. She’s the master of this genre and I bow down at her feet. Here’s a link so you can buy your copy. It’s cheaper than travelling to Boston but not as much fun. And when you buy I get a handful of cents bringing me closer to my $10 goal.