It’s time for another set of flash reviews! Today, I’m focusing on nonfiction science, specifically books about space. Now you may know that I’m completely obsessed with space. If I had the right kind of brain, I would have been an astronomer. However, I’m more of a reader than a scientist, so instead of studying the stars I read science fiction and popular science by authors like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage by Carl Sagan
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 11 August 1983 (physical), 30 May 2017 (audio)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This review is for the audiobook version
Cosmos is one of the bestselling science books of all time. In clear-eyed prose, Sagan reveals a jewel-like blue world inhabited by a life form that is just beginning to discover its own identity and to venture into the vast ocean of space. Featuring a new Introduction by Sagan’s collaborator, Ann Druyan, and a new Foreword by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos retraces the fourteen billion years of cosmic evolution that have transformed matter into consciousness, exploring such topics as the origin of life, the human brain, Egyptian hieroglyphics, spacecraft missions, the death of the Sun, the evolution of galaxies, and the forces and individuals who helped to shape modern science.
Cosmos, both the television show and the book, are probably what Carl Sagan is most famous for. The book and the show go hand in hand, with 13 chapters to compliment the 13 episodes in the original series run. I confess that I’ve never seen the show, however I love popular science that really breaks down difficult concepts and makes them consumable for regular people like me. Cosmos is one of the earliest and most famous books to do this.
I listened to the audiobook of Cosmos, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. The Trekkie/Reading Rainbow fanatic in me absolutely adored the fact that LeVar Burton narrates the majority of the book. Not only does he have a lovely and expressive voice, he really captures the wonder, hope, and joy that Sagan poured into the pages.
Although somewhat out of date now — the book was written in the 80’s — I found that most of what Sagan had to say remains relevant to our world today. I can’t express how highly I recommend this book, particularly for anyone interested in space. I absolutely adored Cosmos.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Publication date: 02 June 2017
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.
But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.
While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.
Neil deGrasse Tyson may rub people the wrong way, but no one can deny his important role in modern science. He’s one of the people fighting for science and making it accessible to the average reader. He runs StarTalk, a smashing podcast, and is very much in the public eye. He’s brought back Cosmos, the television series, and is the author of many popular science books. I think he’s great.
I confess that despite being a huge fan of Tyson’s, I had never read any of his books. When Astrophysics for People in a Hurry came out, I snatched it up. It’s a tiny book, just over 200 pages, and I was deceived into thinking that I could breeze through it. It ended up taking me several weeks to read it though!
While Cosmos takes some of the more basic concepts of astronomy and gives the reader a base to work from, Astrophysics is more of an intermediate to advance level book. Tyson is much more technical than Sagan in this book — he uses more difficult terminology. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand how dark matter and dark energy work, but I think Tyson has gotten me the closest I’ll ever be.
Astrophysics is a deceptively difficult book — although it shouldn’t be deceptive at all because it’s literally about astrophysics — and I would recommend spending a lot of time on it. It’s worth a go, but I’d perhaps recommend starting with something easier like Cosmos. I ended up giving it 4 out of 5 stars because while I really enjoyed it, it just didn’t have that five-star quality I expected.