‘The Planets’ by Dava Sobel


I don’t typically read science books-something I plan to change- but I must say that I thought that this was an interesting and enjoyable book to read.

After reading Galileo’s Daughter , I found myself wanting to learn more about astronomy and to also read more from Dava Sobel. This book satisfied both.

What is this book about, exactly? It is a science book about the planets in our Solar System, but it’s also so much more. It’s a mix of science blended with history, held together by strong creative writing skills (the chapter on Mars is told from the POV of a rock!), with beautiful writing and poetic portrayals of the planets . I don’t think this is a typical science book.

Once again, Sobel does a wonderful job of weaving science and history, but this time she adds mythology, astrology and geology into the story. I thought that this made the far-away planets easier to understand and definitely a whole lot more interesting!

It’s a short book of only 231 pages. Each chapter focuses on a different planet, with a chapter also dedicated to the Sun and to the Moon. In each of these chapters, Dava Sobel highlights an aspect of each planet that she then discusses in greater detail.

My favorite chapter has to be “Sci-Fi” , which is about Mars, and is told from the POV of “Allan Hills 84001” who is a Martian meteorite! Our narrator, the meteorite, is over 4 billion years old and was discovered in the Antarctic in 1984. Not only was it interesting to learn more about Mars, but this format was just plain fun to read!

Did you know that there is only one other rock as old as this meteorite in the hands of scientists today? It’s the “Genesis Rock” from the Moon. Again, were not talking millions of years, but rather, billions of years old. It’s crazy and fascinating that we have anything that old!

My next favorite chapter would have to be “Night Air” which is about the discovery of Uranus and Neptune. The reason I liked this chapter so much is because the author uses an epistolary format and I liked how this personalized the story of these two discoveries. In this chapter, Caroline Herschel, the sister of Sir William Herschel, who discovered Uranus, provides us with the historical details. And the events surrounding the discovery of these two planets is also really interesting!

Did you know that Neptune was discovered because there was something ‘off’ mathematically with the orbit of Uranus? It’s an interesting story!

This book may not be to everyone’s liking; however, if you would like an introduction to our Solar System that is told in a creative and original way, then pick up a copy and enjoy the trip through space! 🙂


5 thoughts on “‘The Planets’ by Dava Sobel

  1. Pingback: Reblogging a wonderful book review: The Planets | The Recovering Know It All

  2. Unfortunately I haven’t read many science books as an adult, but this one sounds like something I would enjoy. Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Ms. Arachne! Her creative way of explaining our solar system made reading and learning about science interesting! If you feel like learning more about the planets, this might be a good place to start. 🙂


  4. Pingback: Women in Science History Event | My Book-a-logue

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