Naftoli's Reviews > An Ocean Of Air: A Natural History Of The Atmosphere

An Ocean Of Air by Gabrielle Walker
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's review
Jul 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: science, book-club

I read this book as the current selection for the Monterey County Science Book Club, our meeting/discussion date will be held at the beginning of August.

I found this book, by Gabrielle Walker, to be quite a gem. I am not trained in the sciences so a book involving chemistry (I've never taken a chemistry course) is a bit intimidating. Yet Ms. Walker does not spend much time on the chemical reactions found in the atmosphere - she indeed goes over the concepts and presents them to the reader - but, instead, focuses more on the inventors who sought or stumbled upon various truths about the compostion and purpose of Earth's atmosphere.

In a sense, I found it to be a serial biography of interesting, intense, and odd personages whose lives and legacies had one thing in common: the atmosphere. Ms. Walker is certainly a witty writer. Every chapter included drole even hilarious excerpts from the scientist's life. Just when the discussion about the atmosphere became a bit scientific, she colored the story with an anecdote. One example is the discoverer who happened across the curvature of the Earth ... he operated a single engine plain and eloped with his soon-to-be bride. In attempting to woo her with his piloting skills, he landed on her farm and wisked her away as her parents ran after the plane, her father shouting and shaking his fist only to have the engine quit thus forcing him to make an emergency landing a few farm fields within eyeshot of her folks.

Without a doubt this is a good popular science book or even a good book to induct interested readers who are fascinated by science but still lack much of the course work; after all, it held my attention and I majored in cultural anthropology! I also enjoy people with a sense of humor and this writer knows how to enliven an otherwise dry topic. I give this book 4 stars.
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