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The Cloudspotter's Guide

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,013 ratings  ·  253 reviews
A quirky, clever guide for everyone who loves to look up.

Where do clouds come from? Why do they look the way they do? And why have they captured the imagination of timeless artists, Romantic poets, and every kid who's ever held a crayon? Journalist and lifelong sky watcher Gavin Pretor-Pinney reveals everything there is to know about clouds, from history and science to a
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 6th 2006 by Perigee Trade (first published 2006)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Sep 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fact
The challenge of science writing is making an abstract description of the motion of water particles relevant to a monkey whose language evolved to tell other monkeys where the ripe fruit is. Pretor-Pinney has managed to do something I'd have bet was impossible: make clouds interesting. Before I read this book, clouds were a mess of undifferentiated Latin words and undifferentiated puffy shit in the sky. Now I look up and see physics made incarnate. It's like I've been given a superpower. Now *th ...more
Sep 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-misc
Growing up I remember laying on the grass and gazing up at the big puffy clouds as they drifted across the sky. Even now when I go back home (Utah), I'm amazed at how much more dramatic the sky often seems compared to where I currently live. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon how you look at it), Los Angeles seems to have rather boring skies - clear and blue, day after day after day. Except for those darn jet contrails...

This was a very pleasant book that looks at 10 main cloud types.
Feb 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It's been a while since I enjoyed a book so much. I was initially attracted by the cover design; once I saw what the book was about, my interest increased somewhat, but was still on the mild side. Once I got a chapter or so in, I was totally hooked: Gavin Pretor-Pinney's passion for his subject is contagious, and he has written what could have been a dry scientific tome with humor and a fine eye for the right stories to tell. However, don't let all this distract from the factual information at h ...more
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book ranks high amongst those that have influenced my life. I am now constantly looking at clouds, trying to figure out what they are, how they were formed, where they are going, what weather they will cause.
Beautifully written, Pretor-Pinney makes poetry out of clouds; he waxes eloquently on a subject he is clearly intensely passionate about. To make that passion so infectious is a gift.

I am a geographer, also passionate about much of earth science, and have read many books on a range of
Book Soup
Apr 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Good stuff, but tricky to put down and pick up. If I had a solid chunk of time to luxuriate in this, I am sure it would be 4 stars. Great information interspersed with engaging stories connected to clouds. I am still plowing along with great satisfaction.

Sam Barry
Oct 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books you didn't think you wanted to or needed to read, but once you have, you're glad you did. ...more
Feb 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Hey, I finally finished this book! It's been my bathroom read for, year?

So *mild spoiler* on p. 261 of this paperback, there is a picture of a bunch of scientists from General Electric labs (circa 1946) peering over a cloud seeding chamber. One of them, the book casually mentions, is named Bernard Vonnegut. If you're like me, part of you continues reading, and the other part of your brain goes, "*Bernard* Vonnegut?! And he looks like Kurt Vonnegut! I wonder if they're related!" Well,
Juliet Wilson
Nov 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
This book takes each cloud type in turn and gives the details of what it typically looks like, where and when it can found and what type of precipitation (snow, heavy rain, hail, drizzle etc) it gives rise to. It also outlines some tips on weather forecasting by describing how one type of cloud can become another.

Alongside all the science the author makes it clear that clouds are to be appreciated for their beauty (apart perhaps from stratus, the low, dull, misty cloud that even the most ardent
Ganesh Ubuntu
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
'The Cloudspotters Guide' reminded me about my childhood when I was reading fascinating books on science for children and teenagers. These lively books from a local library were a stark contrast to the boring, dry, and lifeless textbooks we were given in school. I sometimes wonder if there is a special selection process for the authors of school textbooks to make sure that the only people admitted to do the job hate both science and children with passion. Anyway, back to the review.

'The Cloudspo
Felix Arris
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
A true delight. Certainly not for everyone but merges meteorology, art history, poetry, and wonder into describing a topic most probably haven’t given a second thought towards.
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: green
So, this is a book about clouds. Really. With a chapter each on Cumulus, Cumulonimbus, Stratus, Stratocumulus, Altocumulus...there's a lot of latin, actually. And a lot of dry humor. And not a few puns. This has got to be the all-time geekiest book I have ever read.

Ok, so some of it is not quite as geeky. For example, the story of Lt.-Col. William Rankin, the only human to fall all 47,000 feet through a full-on, cumulonimbus thunderstorm full of rain, hail, and lightning, and survive. The part w
Connie Kuntz
Apr 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I started this four months ago in January. I checked it out from the library. I loved it from page one, but it was hard for me to (a) remember all the detail and (b) move on after I did learn the detail. I renewed the library book until I was no longer allowed to do so. I returned it and then whined about my loss for a week. Jesse then surprised me with my own copy of the book, which I now take with me everywhere I go.

The author, a Brit, writes beautifully and scientifically about clouds. He in
Frazzock Noir
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
There aren't many books that cause you to behave differently after reading them. For me clouds were always a disappointing sight; they stood as a closing statement to an ecstatic run of beautiful Summer days, or a disappointing ceiling hindering my morning optimism. As soon as I saw them I chose to ostracize and disregard them until they had slipped away silently overnight, but just as ignorance causes us to be suspicious of those we know nothing about, my ignorance of the many forms of water go ...more
Molly Christensen
May 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is how I wish ALL science books were written. Incredibly fascinating info with all the history and culture and the difficult science principles were explained very clearly. I only gave it 4 stars simply because it took me a really long time to read (had to think a lot more than usual!)
Karthik Thrikkadeeri
A few years ago, I got into birdwatching and other forms of wildlife watching. Apart from being a delightful and wholesome way of connecting with nature and losing oneself, there is something almost addictive about learning how things are classified and trying to identify the classifications. This thrill is not just about a whimsical hobby, it is deeply connected to human curiosity. And once I was introduced to birdwatching, I fell in love with the skill of looking deeply, of seeing things where ...more
Dec 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
I don't want to talk about it. ...more
Franco Prontera
Jan 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
As a fierce cloudspotter, this book is really my bible. The fun combo of deep science, storytelling and good humour is perfectly balanced!
Jul 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who can look up
"Clouds are nature's poetry, and the most egalitarian of her displays, since everyone can have a fantastic view of them," remarks Gavin Pretor-Pinney in the Cloudspotter's Guide. Pretor-Pinney is founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society and cofounder of Idler magazine. What better way to idle time away than looking up at the sky?

This book delves in everything cloud related. The author explores how clouds have been viewed differently throughout history and across cultures as well as the science
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this one. A title I will keep on the shelf for future reference when I spot an odd cloud from the garden etc.

Clouds are something that has fascinated me since I was a child and drooled over many times when looking at a sunset or sunrise. The contents of this book aim to simplify the understanding of clouds and how each formation forms. In the main this is done beautifully but I found you need to be in frame of mind to concentrate whilst reading this as some of the terminology tho
Steve Mitchell
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a delightful little book that is written in such an enthusiastic fashion that anybody could enjoy Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s prose; not just members of the Cloud Appreciation Society. The science portions of the book are centred on humorous anecdotes tenuously linked to the subject matter so that any layman will not get buried in a landslide of facts, figures and equations. Some of the portions of this book are seriously laugh out loud funny. The format of the book makes it an ideal candidate ...more
Drew Pyke
This was an intense book, looking at each of the 10 clouds as separate chapters and in great detail but interspersing it with anecdotes about clouds in general and a few chapters in the end for more miscellaneous aspects (and a trip he made to Australia to see the "Morning Glory" cloud.
Sometimes I got lost whilst others I was galvanised (especially when it came to the basics of cloud formation with land thermals reaching cool regions of the troposphere to form denser water droplets).
I reckon you
Mar 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction08
I took my time over this book because I wanted to savour it. I wanted to read it on afternoons where there were clouds in the sky, easier enough in England, but hard on some days to find some sky to go with those clouds.

This book was given to me by a dear friend with scientific fascination. I can’t say now that I have finished the book that I can accurately identify all the different clouds. And I couldn’t tell you precisely how each is formed. But I have gained a great appreciation for their va
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: info-gathering
Imagine you are me, just for a moment, rambling around Half Price Books looking for some new and exciting book to read. At the time I was in the mood for something science related, low and behold I find The Cloudspotter's Guide! This book is a work of sarcastic genius, it takes a subject that a lot of people probably don't care about and makes it really interesting. I love Meteorology, but do on many occasions get frustrated by dry, scientific, texts. This book combines the author's love of clou ...more
Ketil Moland
The Cloudspotter's Guide is not only a walkthrough of the different types of clouds with their related optical phenomena, it is also a rich collection of anecdotes and "fun facts" related to the weather. Gavin Pretor-Pinney writes humorous and metaphorical, making it much easier for the reader to remember all the details. As a paragliding pilot I found the chapters on cumulus, cumulonimbus and altocumulus clouds particularly interesting - not to mention the rare phenomenon "The Morning Glory", w ...more
Mar 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Yes, the lack of color plates is distressing. However Gavin Pretor- Pinney's writing on clouds is so engaging and obviously heartfelt that I am changing my rating to five stars.

I am composing a letter to Mr. Pretor- Pinney's in my mind about the low lying stratus cloud that are a true cloud lovers nemesis. The anti-cloud watching cloud indeed!
Singleton Mosby
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
A wonderfull introduction into the world of cloud-spotting.
Apr 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, 2016, weather
I have falling in love with clouds, so much that even we had clear blue sky I secretly wished some cloulds.
May 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
very informative and fun too
Michael J Winegar
This book changed my life. I've always been a lover of the skies but being able to name a cumulus humilis or a cirrus vertebratus when I see it has added a new dimension of joy to my life. ...more
Aug 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Chapter 12 for Mom
Recommended to Kate by: Blair
Shelves: ciencias
From mountains to fountains.

“Beyond the clouds, the sun never stops shining.”

“Rain is the sky condescending to the earth.” –J.U.
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Gavin Pretor-Pinney is cofounder of The Idler magazine in England and founded of The Cloud Appreciation Society in 2005.

News & Interviews

According to some historians, the month of April is actually named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, by way of the Romans....
42 likes · 26 comments
“We pledge to fight 'blue-sky thinking wherever we find it. Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.” 35 likes
“The humble Cumulus humilis - never hurt a soul.” 26 likes
More quotes…