Limebird Book Club: Review of Cosmos

by limebirdlaura

A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe. — Madeleine L’Engle

It was just a lucky accident that I stumbled upon this quote shortly after finishing Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. I’ve always said if only I could understand math and science better, I’d be an astronomer. I can grasp the basics, but you start getting into hardcore physics and my eyes begin to gloss over. Which is precisely what happened when I attempted to read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

I love astronomy. By day my head is in the clouds, by night the stars. I’ve read books on the planets and the universe before, and always want to read more. So one sleepless night I thought hey, why not give a Hawking book a go. It was interesting, don’t get me wrong, I just couldn’t grasp everything that he was talking about. So I went to ye ole trusty Google and did some poking around until I came across something a little more digestible – Cosmos.

Now, before your eyes gloss over and you check out on me, hear me out. I know this isn’t an awesome adventure about boy wizards or an old gunslinger or rum loving pirates, but it is still interesting. Cosmos gives us a history of astronomy and the universe. I found it interesting because not only do we get a peek into the history of our world – from what we are made of to the rulers and scientists throughout time. But we also get a lesson in what’s out there in our universe.

This book was published in 1985 – so we have made many astronomical discoveries since then. It still refers to Pluto as a planet, and fantasizes about future Mars rover missions. But it is engaging and provocative. You can tell Sagan loves astronomy, and you can feel the enthusiasm in his writing. Admittedly there are some examples of physics that went a bit over my head, but those passages are brief and seldom.

Also, never forget – one thing a writer can never do too much of is research-research-research! So next time you find yourself hunkering down to write an epic space battle royale, but find that you’re sorely lacking in the mechanics of what lies beyond our glorious atmosphere…give Cosmos a go!

What are your favorite non-fiction books? 

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9 Comments to “Limebird Book Club: Review of Cosmos”

  1. Ooo great review Laura, this has really piqued my interest. Well, I don’t tend to read a lot of non-fiction like this, because I do a lot of reading for work, but that’s mainly Digital Marketing stuff. This has inspired me to look at more non-fiction works though, thanks!

    • Sorry about the delay, I was out of town at a convention, but took in some writing seminars too!

      I can see wanting to get away from non-fic if you’re reading it all day anyway!

  2. Triangle, The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle and Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy by Diana Preston. I like history books that make you feel as if you’re there, and these two books did an exceptional job.

  3. Brian Greene does a good job of making cosmology understandable, too, especially with concepts like string theory and multiple universes. In grade school, my best friend and I were going to be astronomers…. Well, I did stick with a field that begins with an “A.” 😉

    • I was the same way in grade school, anytime we had to write a report about what we were going to be when we grew up I was writing about being an astronaught 😀

  4. Carl Sagan wrote so clearly for us non-astronomers out there. I remember being inspired by the Cosmos TV series in 1980 when it was first broadcast (I now own both the book and the DVD). Sagan was a prolific writer and I would recommend that you search out more (I would particularly recommend Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science and The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (which actually won the Pulitzer Prize).

    As for my own recommendations? How about Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial by by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst; Fidel Castro: My Life: A Spoken Autobiography with Ignacio Ramonet; Bad Ideas? An Arresting History of Our Inventions by Robert Winston; and Freedom Next Time? by John Pilger?

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