Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Wave Watcher's Companion: From Ocean Waves to Light Waves via Shock Waves, Stadium Waves, and All the Rest of Life's Undulations” as Want to Read:
The Wave Watcher's Companion: From Ocean Waves to Light Waves via Shock Waves, Stadium Waves, and All the Rest of Life's Undulations
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Wave Watcher's Companion: From Ocean Waves to Light Waves via Shock Waves, Stadium Waves, and All the Rest of Life's Undulations

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  342 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Get ready for a global journey like none other-a passionate enthusiast's exploration of waves that begins with a massive surfable cloud and ends with the majestic Pacific ocean, making side trips along the way to reveal the ups and downs of brain waves, radio waves, infrared waves, microwaves, shock waves, light waves, and much more.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 6th 2010 by Perigee Books (first published 2010)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Wave Watcher's Companion, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Wave Watcher's Companion

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  342 ratings  ·  43 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Daniel Chaikin
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
35. The Wave Watcher's Companion: Ocean Waves, Stadium Waves, and All the Rest of Life's Undulations by Gavin Pretor-Pinney
published: 2010
format: 320 page Paperback
acquired: from amazon in 2012
read: Aug 16-30
rating: 3

Pretor-Pinney is author of The Cloudspotter's Guide and founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. This book I think was a spin-off of all that and very much as the title implies - an informal scientific tour of the waves in all forms and mediums, beginning with how ocean waves form
Aug 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Information delivered in a relaxed and often laugh under your breath style. While, admittedly, I will read anything about the ocean, I found that all of the other ‘waves’ contained here fascinating. Gavin’s excitement for information is infectious. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to know everything about everything.
May 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
There are the making of a lovely little book in here, with a little stern editing. The problem is that Pretor-Pinney seems to think that waves of the wet variety aren't meaty enough a topic to fill a whole book, so he expands his scope to include waves of all kinds. On the one hand this does draw in some interesting material from the worlds of optics, acoustics, etc. On the other hand it all gets a bit desperate when he devotes a whole chapter to the invention of the Mexican Wave at sports event ...more
Rob Adey
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't this guy's book about clouds – which I seem to remember being really big – because I'd hate to have my brain go "That's a columbo dentata" every single time I look at the sky, but I saw this wave one in Oxfam and thought it would be safe because I don't live in the sea. I regret that decision because Gavin – Gavin – is one of those pop science writers who feels there has to be a 'joke' every other sentence or the reader will I don't know just drop the book on the floor and wander off in ...more
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"Apparently, once you reach old age, your body can contain none of the molecules it did when you were a newborn. ... Though the time scales are very different, a wave passes through the medium of the water in much the same way that you pass through the 'medium' of all the physical bits of your body." (35)

"Wave watchers are thinkers, and contemplating how waves 'bounce' will help them realize a fundamental truth: waves are energy passing through things, and not things in and of themselves." (81)

Joanne Pang
Apr 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed it a lot. Surprisingly. Though its not only about ocean waves, I actually, for once, enjoyed all the physics involved in this!

Gavin is also a very humorous author.

P.S. Beware Chapter "The Eighth Wave" near the end. There's a face of a fruit fly. I screamed out loud.
One of the things I like about this book is that it is written in a way that makes you want to know more. The author clearly loves what he is doing and the text seems to be permeated by this love. There are plenty of interesting facts and stories that you probably didn't know. For example, why sound travels farther in the foggy weather or what happens when you exceed the speed of sound. My favorite one is about area 51. From the downsides: some of the chapters are quite lengthy and don't contain ...more
Dave Clarke
I wish I'd read a few reviews before buying this, having previously read Susan Casey's excellent book 'The Wave' I was hoping for something in a similar vein, and whilst the first chapter or two, did indeed describe the ones we all know from watching bodies of water in motion, he then strectched the definition of a wave to such a degree, that even by his own admission, it was tenuous at best.
That said, as an amuse bouche of wave related trivia, it's OK, but as a companion? Hardly IMHO ...

Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not what i was expecting, though it's difficult to see how a book on water waves could be engaging for that many pages! Instead, this is a lovely book about all waves that we know about. I learned a lot and am still thinking about it a lot. Sometimes hard to get into but once started reluctant to put down. Thank you Gavin for giving us wavewatching.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
The first few chapters included a few bits I didn't know about water and ocean waves but the rest was ehh. I wish the book had discussed Stokes drift and other second-order effects more.
Me gustaría que se hubiera quedado con las olas del mar, el resto me interesa menos.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Much broader range of waves than I was expecting.
Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Written in a way that easy for anyone to understand but fully lacking all the information. I found myself reaching for my iPhone continuously to search google for more information on the terms thrown into the paragraphs with no further information. Trochoidal, as an example.
In the beginning, Gavin Pretor-Pinney's way of moving quickly from one topic to another was slightly bothersome, but as I read further on I became adjusted to his multiple off takes and found the book rather interesting with
May 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
I loved Pretor-Pinney's "The Cloudspotter's Guide," and this Companion is another tour-de-force in popular science writing. Pretor-Pinney's natural charm and wit show through in his writing, which is well-researched and easy to understand. This book is much more ambitious than the Cloudspotter's Guide, since wave phenomena are present in many more scientific areas than clouds, which are mostly limited to meteorology. However, the format of part-science book, part-travel narrative is the same as ...more
Leonardo Etcheto
Aug 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Fascinating book. It gets a little slow in parts, but overall just brimful of interesting data. I liked the conversational writing style, and self-deprecatory tone of the book. Starts and ends with the classic wave - ocean swells. In between it travels through all the other waves in the world, which ultimately is everything according to quantum physics. Found the emphasis on the information and energy transfer aspects of waves very useful. The snapping shrimp and the description of shock waves i ...more
Manny Tingplants
Written for people who are afraid of non-fiction. I had to give up after about two chapters.

Imagine yourself listening to a friend's uncle rambling about what waves mean to him personally, after you mistakenly let said friend borrow your vehicle to run an entire afternoon's worth of errands. It's not that Uncle Gavin doesn't have some interesting information to share, it's that you'll have to filter-feed on this conversation for several hours to receive anything that could be called a morsel of
adri patamoma
Feb 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
este livro é uma gracinha!! o autor é todo bem humorado, e descreve os muitos tipos de ondas de um jeito super fácil e descomplicado, inserindo muitos gracejos e curiosidades no texto. tou adorando a leitura! (e o mar é a coisa mais linda do mundo, né! saudades das muitas ondas azuis, do cheiro de maresia, do barulhinho bom pra dormir...)

livro terminado, tou (ainda emuito) impressionada com a capacidade do gavin em descrever as muitas ondas de um jeito tão fácil e descomplicado. este livro podia
Nov 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: w, male-author
I think this book title is a little bit misleading as you automatically think it will be about ocean waves, in the same way the ‘Cloudspotter’s Guide’ was all about clouds. However, it is about all the different types of wave that you can think of – x-ray, seismic etc. It was interesting and enjoyable but it did drag in places and I found myself becoming bored in places as information was repeated. Plenty of interesting images and diagrams to further explain what was happening and perfect for re ...more
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Akin to the Cloudspotter's Guide, Gavin Pretor-Pinney rambles his way through waves from every angle imaginable (atmospheric waves, ocean and surfing waves, electromagnetic waves, crowd waves, sound waves, earthquake waves, and so on). His tangents are more tangential than in his previous book, in large part because 'waves' are a much larger subject than 'clouds.' But overall, I learned a lot. Highly recommended.
Martin Chambers
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A great wandering read. 'Waves' are just about everything, so this book goes everywhere and keeps you interested. No-one has ever before been able to explain to me why some places have big tides, while others, seemingly on similar latitudes, have less. Here it is, and for that alone it was worth the price. But then, traffic jams on freeways, Mexican waves at the stadium, even lemon in you beer.
Waves of water, waves of sound, crowd waves in stadiums, waves of light; all are discussed in this book. In a non-technical manner the author describes reflection, refraction, diffraction, and interference patterns in waves.
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Beautiful in parts, and satisfying in parts, and entirely too factoidy as a whole. This disappointed me in a way that reminded me of how I felt about Bonk. Both books do their fascinating topics no favors by seeming to think that jokiness and small bites are required to hold people's interest.
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Irreverent look at true waves and wave-like forms in the natural world with ample amounts of snarky and dorky comments by the author. Good way to gain insight into things like the mechanics behind ocean, tide, and light waves. Good for the wanna-be physics student.
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was fascinating to me as it explained the beauty of similarites in nature from ocean waves to light waves. From oil calming seas to pleasing sounds under a busy freeway bridge just by their mere redirection. Cool stuff.
May 29, 2012 is currently reading it
This seems to have good ideas for science educators. Example: comparing different kinds of waves to animals (earth worm vs snake)
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Clever, interesting stuff.
Jul 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
3.5 A quick and entertaining hodge-podge of waviness. Arch and warm, the digression is the point. Worth it for surfing the bore and explaining Roswell.
Graham Crawford
Nov 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Not as good as his cloud book - but as a pop science book it holds its own.
I thought it would be more about real waves, not sound waves and light and the science of all that.
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: surf
Tutte le onde del mondo! Da quelle del suono, a quelle del mare, a quelle dello stadio. Spiegazione scientifica ma di lettura facile e comprensibile.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Robin: A Biography
  • Otter Country: In Search of the Wild Otter
  • How England Made the English: From Hedgerows to Heathrow
  • Ghost Milk: Calling Time on the Grand Project
  • Badgerlands: The Twilight World of Britain's Most Enigmatic Animal
  • Prague Pictures: A Portrait of the City
  • The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books
  • Introducing Modernism
  • Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey
  • Reporting: Writings from The New Yorker
  • Mapping the Deep: The Extraordinary Story of Ocean Science
  • Shopping in Jail: Ideas, Essays and Stories for an Increasingly Real Twenty-First Century
  • The Moor: Lives, Landscape, Literature
  • A Christmas Cornucopia
  • The Power of the Sea: Tsunamis, Storm Surges, Rogue Waves, and Our Quest to Predict Disasters
  • The Science Magpie: Fascinating Facts, Stories, Poems, Diagrams, and Jokes Plucked from Science
  • Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story
  • Seven Tenths: The Sea and Its Thresholds
See similar books…
Gavin Pretor-Pinney is cofounder of The Idler magazine in England, and founder of The Cloud Appreciation Society. (