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The Planets

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,920 Ratings  ·  329 Reviews
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 datethe planets of our solar system. Sobel explores the origins and oddities of the planets through the lens of pop ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Penguin Group (USA) (first published 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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aPriL does feral sometimes
This is an asinine science book. What it is, actually, is a group of lyrical essays rhapsodizing in poetic, easy to understand, prose mixing science fact and selected bits of science history and lots of subjective ecstasy. In other words, a coffee table book for readers of Vogue Magazine, except that it needs more pictures and its small paperback size fits most purses. Perfect for the literary magazine reader who has difficulty with science subjects, or those readers of a poetic and romantic nat ...more
Jul 11, 2014 Kerrie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I tried, but couldn't make it through the first CD. I know Sobel is a science writer (so sez the back of the audiobook) and I really enjoyed Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time, but I didn't quite care for the tone of the book, where meteorites were described as "avenging angels" and Earth's inhabitants were referred to as "sons of Adam and Noah." I'm not quite sure why she chose a biblical way of presenting scientific information, bu ...more
Pamela Kinney
Feb 06, 2013 Pamela Kinney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I devoured this book, and was very sad when it ended. Her format of comparing and contrasting the science of astronomy (modern, ancient, and everything in between) and folklore of astrology was enthralling. I did not give it five stars because I kept feeling like I wanted more, just a bit more, for each planet. But I loved the book, and it led me to search out her other works. I have read each of her books since, except "A More Perfect Heaven." Still trying to get to it. I definitely recommend t ...more
პლანეტები და ასტრონომია ჩემი ვნებაა, კოხტა წიგნები პლანეტებზე მითუმეტეს. ერთი სიამოვნებაა ხარისხიან ფურცელზე დაბეჭდილ, კარგად დაკაბადონებულ, ლამაზად გაფორმებულ წიგნს რომ გადაშლი პლანეტების შესახებ. მეორე სიამოვნება კი თავად თხრობამ უნდა მოგგვაროს. ამ წიგნმა პირველი სიამოვნება მომანიჭა, აი მეორე კი ცოტა არ იყოს დამაკლო. დავა სობელი კარგი მწერალია, თუმცა ეს წიგნი ცოტა ღარიბი გამოუვიდა. პლანეტებზე გაცილებით მეტის თქმა და უფრო საინტერესო ამბების მოყოლა შეიძლება. საინტერესო ამბების მოლოდინს წიგნის დი ...more
Nov 25, 2008 Chelsea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dava Sobel manages beautifully and engagingly to bring these heavenly bodies as close as one's own backyard. With eloquent descriptions of their compositions, the reader is transported throughout the solar system from the scorching toxic surface of Venus to the seas of liquid metallic hydrogen underneath Jupiter's crushing atmosphere and beyond.

The chapters are organized by planet and they include discussions on history, mythology, geology, and the scientific community that has discovered and
I think I expected this to be more scientific than it turned out to be, which may be a common problem judging from other reviews. It's actually more of a historical glance at the way humanity has envisioned the galaxy, and the way our knowledge has grown over the millennia. It's a lot literary, with bits of science and mythology thrown in. Some parts of it were lovely for that, though I wasn't sure about the emphasis on linking the Old Testament Genesis story with the scientific facts of creatio ...more
Feb 29, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Confession time: I originally perused this book because the cover is beautiful.

As a child, I was fascinated with astronomy. As a college Freshman, I took an astronomy course and dropped out after a few weeks. Perhaps now I would be able to grasp the difficult mathematics required for even elementary-level space science. Perhaps. But I think I'm better off with a text like The Planets, which dives into the fascinating history (and indeed much of the science) of our solar system with a sense of w
Jul 08, 2013 Cara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you open this book expecting science, you will be sorely disappointed, as I was. All the same, it's not fair to rate a book low just because it wasn't what I expected, and that's not why I gave "The Planets" only two stars (and I think I'm being quite generous). The reason is, "The Planets" isn't really about anything at all. It's a tiny part personal history - the author's relationship with the planets, tiny part social and cultural history - the discovery of and significance of the planets ...more
What is so unusual and engaging about this book is that it incorporates science, myth, history, story-telling, culture and poetry.

Dava Sobel's credentials for writing Science, and particularly Astronomy books are exemplary. It is surprising to find that she chooses to include other aspects rather than having a fixed dry approach to the subject. She will be relaying facts and figures from Space probes or the Hubble space telescope - then will veer off into beliefs or poetry of the Ancient Greeks.
Nov 10, 2015 Lena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Not for scienceheads. This is a book for lit nerds who want to learn about our solar system but who want it told prettily and connected to art and myth and music, etc.
Jul 11, 2013 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Should have been published with large color pictures as a coffee table book. I'm not sure this should be shelved with the science books- while it does include some facts about the planets, it's more a literary effort. As it is, the individual chapters feel wholly disconnected from each other, written in a wide variety of styles, and some with entirely extraneous information, such as the friend of the author's who ate moon dust after being given it as a present by a boyfriend. I honestly thought ...more
Aug 01, 2012 Jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: astronomy
As I mentioned, my days are listening to books and knitting--so we can only be but so impressed by the quickness of my finishing this book.

I loved this book...and I hated it.

I loved the information. The way she went through the planets, the discussion of their geologic qualities, the history that surrounded them, how they were discovered, how their size was found. I enjoyed how she wove the story from Genesis into a discussion of the Big Bang. I found the tales of the mapping of the circumferenc
Alex Telander
THE PLANETS BY DAVA SOBEL: This is another book I bought because of it's beautiful cover, especially in the hardcover edition, and one which, after reading, I thought had failed in it's job. I've read Sobel's Galileo's Daughter, which I really enjoyed with the mixture of history, science and story, so I had high hopes for The Planets. There was a chapter on each of the nine planets, along with one for the sun and the moon, and an intro and an epilogue. The book was under 300 pages and I felt did ...more
Ben Siems
Jan 03, 2008 Ben Siems rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People inspired by the feeling of being connected to the universe
This is the first book I have read in a long time that had me strongly tempted to abandon the journey fifty pages in. Although I know Sobel's writing style has garnered high praise from far and wide, I was not particularly taken with her approach to blending science, mythology, astrology, and religion. I find it all a bit contrived, even forced at times. I was always very conscious of the writer's presence, more so than I usually care to be. As a result, I felt like I never had a chance to reall ...more
Nov 25, 2013 Peter rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: awful, didn-t-finish
It is extremely rare that I give up on a book. I will often start a book and decide that I'm not going to finish it 'right now', but to decide that a book is bad enough to never, ever want to finish reading, well that hardly ever happens, and this is one of those books.

Tedious, ponderous, meandering writing that does not clearly convey much of the history of the knowledge of our solar system, nor any of the sense of wonder or thrill of discovery that I would expect from a book on this subject.
Aug 10, 2014 Rohan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics-science
A very average piece of work. With a title like that, you would think there is a whole lot of interesting information and research that could be provided to the reader without putting in much effort as a writer. But Dava Sobel takes the completely opposite approach of presenting very little detail making the book very uninteresting at times. If not for my love of astronomy and science I would give this a one star at best.
Cassandra Kay Silva
I don't really understand the style of it all. Why write about something so haphazardly? It contains just enough science to I suppose be considered science. Yet she uses each chapter to tell one particular story relating to each of the planets in turn. The stories have no tie in. There seems to be little reason for each choice. There is also a terrible mixing in of non scientific information that also seems to be chosen at random and perhaps irrelevant. I guess the ordering of it is just not for ...more
May 18, 2011 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I have read by Dava Sobel.... but Longitude is waiting for me on the bookshelf!
I was not initially thrilled by the writing style presented in the first chapter. It just felt.... odd. I couldn't get into it at all. By chapter 2, however, I was sold. I like how the author presented each planet in a unique way. The book is informative, yet reads like a gorgeous blend of adventure, mythology, poetry, and history. If you are remotely interested in planetary science, yet don't w
Brandon Coppin
Jan 17, 2016 Brandon Coppin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I adored this book. She presented the planets in such a beautiful, tangible and poetic way. I loved the interlacing of science, history, mythology, and religion.
Avery Coltharp
Sep 29, 2014 Avery Coltharp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Planets" provides a detailed description of each of the major, well known celestial bodies that exist in the Solar System. Along with the thorough explanations of the unique physical properties of each of the planets, Sobel also provides the reader with narratives describing the history of the discoveries of each of the planets and their relation to various ancient mythologies.

This book certainly succeeds in giving a clear and easy to understand presentation of its information. Sobel makes
Steve Van Slyke
Jan 24, 2013 Steve Van Slyke rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Afficianados of good writing interested in learning about the planets.
Shelves: space, science, library
For those who keep abreast of planetary exploration, there will not be very much here that is new in that regard, however the author takes each planet, plus the Moon, and weaves a well-written narrative about the mythology, gradual accumulation of knowledge (to 2005), and the personalities involved. As a former NYT science journalist the author knows how to turn a phrase and that it is one of the more appealing features of the book. It's a quick easy read, very few illustrations and no photos.
Jimmy Tarlau
I guess you would call this Science very-light. It's a pleasnat book with a different technique for describing each of the planets from the view of a satellite, to a piece of Mars rock, to a short history of the person who discovered Uranus. Books like this make me want to spend more time paying attentin to current scientific developments and to look at photos from distant satellites. We miss too much.
Powder River Rose
This is probably one of the best planetary books that I've read or listened to. I definitely encourage everyone who has ever thought about the heavenly bodies or space stuff in general to read this. It might be a bit complex for my 10 yr old adorable, but I think if he hears the audiobook version while reading along with the paperback version, he'll have no problems understanding or enjoying this incredible history, and history in the making, story; plus he'll get the pronunciation of all those ...more
Randal Schmidt
I picked up this book because I loved her book "Longitude." However, I was disappointed by this book on the nine planets. There was nothing illuminating or enlightening about any of the material presented, and Sobel never seemed to draw all of the disparate information together into a cohesive whole.

The lengthy passages concerning astrology also seemed out of place, especially considering that she spent most of the chapter on Jupiter discussing its role in astrology. I suppose when discussing t
Daniel Chaikin
Not a book that needs to be read (or listened in my case). It' OK. Sobel tries the make this more interesting by waxing poetic, quoting many poetic bits about planets and using some other gimmicks. I liked the quotes, but would have preferred a simpler straight forward prose. The core of the book is not the planets as much as the history of our understanding of them, and of their discovery. This I liked, but it's a rushed history. These histories are most interesting because of the people involv ...more
Nomadic SA Chick Book Review

What do you truly know about our universe? Do you know when Saturn was discovered? Do you know why Mercury is named Mercury? Do you know the complicated political atmosphere of being a woman in the search of space, especially before the 1980s? Did you know that it is highly unlikely that Jupiter is more than just a ball of gas without a solid surface anywhere in its makeup? Dava Sobel takes us on an adventure through time and space (Doctor Who reference, anyon
May 02, 2014 Kara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Just north of the equator, mighty Olympus Mons attained its altitude of Alps atop Rockies upon Himalayas early in Martian history”

This is my favorite quote from this book, and it also encapsulates the tone of the book – it is conveying information about our solar system, but in a more lyrical than scientific style. Sobel could have said “22 km in height” but instead, her description, while less precise, conveys in layman’s terms the sheer otherness of the giant Martian volcano.

Sobel takes the
May 30, 2009 Annie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: astronomy
A well-written and informative overview and history of the solar system. It’s super-fast to get through. Light and airy, it draws from mythology, science fiction, astronomical history and more. Can only say cliché good things about it so I won’t go on, except to say: read it.
Jan 06, 2013 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Loved Galileo's Daughter. Liked Longitude very much. This one I'm flipping ahead and saying to myself 'Gee, 65 pages left...still on "us" and still have "nut" and "pie."'Not bad but inferior to the other Sobel efforts."
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Science and Natur...: May 2012 - The Planets by Dava Sobel 11 40 Jun 29, 2012 02:19PM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: An interesting book for laymen 1 3 Mar 28, 2012 07:47AM  
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Dava Sobel is an accomplished writer of popular expositions of scientific topics. A 1964 graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, Ms. Sobel attended Antioch College and the City College of New York before receiving her bachelor of arts degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1969. She holds honorary doctor of letters degrees from the University of Bath, in England, and M ...more
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