Book 5: The Story of Astronomy by Peter Aughton

The Story of Astronomy by Peter Aughton (2011, Quercus)

Finished reading on August 27, 2012

Rating: 9/10

If you’d happen to read just one book about the history of astronomy, then this is the perfect book for you!

It covers all the essential astronomers, discoveries and gives it all a little background as well.

First when I started reading it, I didn’t have high hopes, as in the end of last year I read “The Story of Astronomy” by Patrick Moore and in the end of June Fred Watson’s “Stargazer”, so I’ve had quite a lot of history of astronomy for some months, and already with “Stargazer” I got a little bored because of having read about most of the topics covered there.

However, as I was beginning to read Aughton’s book, there was a nice surprise – some people, events and discoveries which hadn’t been covered in the books I had previously read. It got really interesting quickly, and it’s not one of those history books where the author lingers on one event for about as long as it took for the event to actually happen, no, it’s fast-paced though still managing to give all the necessary details.

I simply loved it. It would have gotten 10 points if it had been my first book on the history of astronomy.

Book 4: Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

“Beatrice and Virgil” by Yann Martel (2010, Canongate)

Finished reading on 25.08.2012

Rating: 7 out of 10

When I started reading this book I had no idea, what I was going in for. Having read “Life of Pi”  a few years back, I didn’t really remember the style of Martel.

In the beginning it was great, funny, a little odd, but still impressive and interesting, the first dialogues between Virgil (a monkey) and Beatrice (a donkey) were just right – seemingly philosophical and deep and the you think back and realize they’re talking about food… and you haven’t eaten breakfast yet…

There are two Henry’s in this novel, one is a successful writer, and the other one is a taxidermist, who’s writing a play, where the main characters are a monkey and a donkey. The two Henry’s meet. The taxidermist needs the writer’s help on his play, and the writer is happy to help, although the taxidermist seems a little odd.

There’s a twist in the end, which kind of ruined it for me, but otherwise it was a good read.

Book 3: How to Become an Intellectual by Nick Kolakowski

  “How to Become an Intellectual” by Nick Kolakowski (2012, Adams media)

Finished it on 21.08.2012

Rating: 7 out of 10

Anyone up to reading a little training manual for becoming an intellectual? Anyone? Anyone at all?

Well, it was fun, as it was supposed to be. And it did help a lot that I’ve apparently been following many of the “maxims” in the book anyway, so I know I’m at least doing something right, even if the goal seems unreachable and to be honest, I thought becoming an intellectual might be like climbing a mediocre mountain, just pull yourself together, be in the right place at the right time and go! But instead you’d find yourself at the foot of Olympus Mons and start wondering how did you even end up on Mars anyway…

So back to the book. I liked it, because it basically tells me to do almost exactly what I’ve been doing for my past 22 and a half years of life, for example, it tells you to:

“Read and comprehend (nearly) everything”

“Buy books by the foot”  This one is something to worry about a little, since my earnings seem to go straight to the book-stores…

“Choose your favourite philosopher”

I guess if someone would really aspire to be an intellectual, then this book would be the perfect reading material to start off on the journey. And as a bonus it also seems realistic and in principle shouldn’t give anyone the impression they’re going to be trying to climb the highest mountain in the solar system.

Go ahead! Read it!

Book 2: The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq

Pilt“The Possibility of an Island” by Michel Houellebecq (2006, Vintage international)

Finished reading it on 21.08.2012

Rating: 7 points out of 10

This book sat on my bedside table for weeks and it also occupied my desk and and my bag and it basically ended up coming with me to a lot of places and being undeservedly left unnoticed, because I’d almost always have a non-fiction book with me, which would win over it every time.

And then it got a little more interesting. The plot isn’t bad, I’d say it’s actually good, maybe just a bit unusual at times.

It goes about Daniel and his clones that come after him and are writing Daniel1-s life-story. It does make one think. “Would you want to be immortal?” might be one of the questions you’d end up asking other people trying to figure out an answer for yourself.

And also, since some parts of the novel take the reader to a dystopian future, make one think that right now might actually be one of the high points of human civilization. I’d rather prefer it not to be so, but it would be a better option than having it in the past.

I think it is worth reading, even if it might seem a little disturbing at times.

Book 1: Civilized Life in the Universe by George Basalla

“Civilized Life in the Universe. Scientists on Intelligent Extraterrestrials” by George Basalla (2006, Oxford University Press)

Rating: 8 points out of 10

I’d highly recommend this book to any alien-enthusiast, just so they’d lose faith in UFO-s, alien-abductions and perhaps even crop-circles. By the latter I mean connecting crop-circles with some extraterrestrials sending messages to the poor humans inhabiting this planet.

The book is good. Especially, if it’s a first introduction to the topic, it makes a reader more sceptical about all the other nonsense one might find.

It naturally starts out with life on the Moon, goes on to Mars and then further to other star-systems. As far as the Moon and Mars goes – those are an old and popular topic, and one might read about it just about anywhere, where it goes about history of planetary astronomy and selenography.

However, when it continues on to 20th century, SETI etc, it gets more interesting, although at least to me it left the impression as if Percival Lowell, Carl Sagan and Frank Drake would have been the only scientists interested in the topic, as Basalla focuses on them the most. Others do get mentioned, but that’s about it.

There were some interesting tidbits I hadn’t read about before, like Michael Papagiannis’ sugesstion that extraterrestrials were inhabiting the asteroid belt – why not, really?  and Shklovskii’s attempt to explain the orbits of Phobos and Deimos by concidering them artificial satellites, possibly libraries or museums. As long as scientists couldn’t explain the behaviour of the moons of Mars better, it was a good thought. Just imagine how many books one could fit inside Phobos for example!  It’s mean radius is about 11 kilometres, which is about twice the radius of my home-town, so if it even had just one long row of books across – well, there’d be a place I’d lke to go for a walk.