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The Planets | [Dava Sobel]

The Planets

The sun's family of planets become a familiar place in this personal account of the lives of other worlds. Sobel explores the planets' origins and oddities through the lens of popular culture, from astrology, mythology, and science fiction to art, music, poetry, biography, and history. This intimate account is filled with fascination, beauty, and surprise.
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Publisher's Summary

With her blockbuster New York Times best sellers Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel used her rare and luminous gift for weaving difficult scientific concepts into a compelling story to garner rave reviews and attract readers from across the literary spectrum. Now, in The Planets, Sobel brings her full talents to bear on what is perhaps her most ambitious subject to date: the planets of our solar system.

The sun's family of planets become a familiar place in this personal account of the lives of other worlds. Sobel explores the planets' origins and oddities through the lens of popular culture, from astrology, mythology, and science fiction to art, music, poetry, biography, and history. Whether revealing what lies behind Venus' cocoon of acid clouds or capturing firsthand the excitement at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory when pictures from Cassini at Saturn are beamed to Earth, this intimate account is filled with fascination, beauty, and surprise.

Written in Dava Sobel's characteristically graceful prose, The Planets is a distinctive view of our place in the universe. It is that rare book that will delight the experienced astronomer and, at the same time, engage someone eager to get to know the planets.

©2005 Dava Sobel; (P)2005 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"This resonant and eclectic collection, informative, entertaining, and poetic, is a joy to read." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.4 (118 )
5 star
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3.9 (18 )
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3.9 (19 )
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  •  
    Ethan Cambridge, MA, United States 11-03-05
    Ethan Cambridge, MA, United States 11-03-05 Member Since 2000

    Audible listener since the late 1990s

    HELPFUL VOTES
    27
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    "Superb story of our changing views of the planets"

    This book is a tour of the nine planets that is equal parts mythology, history, and science. Ms. Sobel goes through each planet in order, discussing how it is has been seen throughout history, and what the latest scientific discoveries and theories about its origins and future might be. The stories she tells about the planets range from personal tales to historical or mythological incidents, and they are often highly lyrical. Mars is described from the perspective of a martian meteorite found in the Antarctic, while the tale of the discovery of Uranus is given through the letters of the sister of its discoverer. If you are looking for a hardcore science volume, you may want to look elsewhere, for though scientific facts abound, so does history and fables. If you liked Dava Sobel's other works (Longitude, etc.) or appreciate slightly more quirky non-fiction, you will like this. Wonderfully read and highly reccommended.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Byers Waterloo, ON Canada 08-23-09
    Richard Byers Waterloo, ON Canada 08-23-09 Member Since 2002
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    "Beware - as much religion and astrology as science"

    From the description, I was expecting a book mostly about planetary science and astronomy. There is some science, but it's pretty weak, and there's enough non-science presented as fact to ruin it for me. For example, she makes arguments for the factual basis of the genesis story in the bible, the legitimacy of astrology, and that the similarity in angular size between the moon and sun from earth is an act of god. Overall, not a scientific book.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Louisville, KY, USA 07-23-06
    Robert Louisville, KY, USA 07-23-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Art mixed with science"

    This is a well-narrated piece of pop-science. Hard core science junkies may want to steer clear since the robust storytelling is this audiobooks strong point. If you are not adept at astronomy but want a gentle and entertaining introduction this is the audiobook for you. An enjoyable and breezy experience for those not wanting to get mired in scientific jargon.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill Maney 08-27-10
    Bill Maney 08-27-10
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    "I'm into astronomy: Couldn't read it"

    This book was agony. I was so looking forward to it. I read Longitude and loved it. I couldn't listen to this at all. I only got about 1/3 of the way through before I gave up. It was all fluff and not much science. Nothing I found interesting.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard R 03-31-07
    Richard R 03-31-07 Member Since 2007

    richard_t

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Just Okay"

    I love Sobel's previous books "Galileo's Daughter" and "Longitude". Both took little-known slices of science history and built human drama around them. They were elegant and fascinating and superbly-written. "The Planets" doesn't quite measure up. There is very little human drama, just a workmanlike march through the planets --one-by-one-- from Mercury through Pluto. We learn about temperature and color and year of discovery, and there's a bit of the human element in the discovery of the outer planets.

    Unlike her previous books, there's very little here that casual science fans don't already know. So there's very little of real interest. She needs to put the real people back in her books.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Yuen Long NT, Hong Kong 05-02-06
    Martin Yuen Long NT, Hong Kong 05-02-06 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Eclipsed"

    Like some of the other reviewers, I liked “Longitude” very much and so perhaps found “Planets” more disappointing than I should have. However, the science is often weak, the prose style grating at times (if you want to say that a planet has no atmosphere, just say it rather than that, “It lacks the aegis of air”) and the narrator sounds comatose. How some one who made watches interesting can make planets boring is a mystery, but this book manages it. Bill Bryson’s “Short History of Nearly Everything” is far, far better.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brad Crete, NE, USA 12-28-05
    Brad Crete, NE, USA 12-28-05 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not that good"

    She wrote Longitude : The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (1995) and Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love (2000). Both of these books were outstanding! So I was really looking forward to this book. Man is it bad. The intellectual level of this book is really low. I am not sure if this is because I already know a lot about the topic and apparently know more about it than she presents, or she just dropped the ball on this one. So I am left wondering if my satisfaction with her previous work is due to my ignorance of the subjects or her poor showing on this book is an anomaly. As it is, I must strongly recommend the other two books and to give this one a pass.

    The audio quality of this book is satisfactory.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Think B4 Eating Tallahassee, FL 10-07-05
    Think B4 Eating Tallahassee, FL 10-07-05 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This book should be categorized as fiction"

    I was expecting a scientific book about the planets, instead I got a book whose author gives equal weight to the biblical account of the creation of the universe. If you are going to compare rigorous scientific theory with fantasy then don't label it as non-fiction.

    55 of 88 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristin Vienna, VA, USA 05-04-09
    Kristin Vienna, VA, USA 05-04-09
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    "Great astronomy reading"

    This book has really great and very accurate information on each of the planets in our solar sysem. The book is set up in a way that is very easy to follow and each chapter is about a different planet. My astronomy teacher asigned this book for extra credit reading. I really enjoyed it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melody Stuart, FL, USA 11-29-07
    Melody Stuart, FL, USA 11-29-07
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    "Fun"

    "The Planets" kept me very interested in astronomy and the Solor system. It is easy to understand and fun to read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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