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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Review: The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour, 3rd Edition 2005
By Ron Miller and William K. Hartmann
Workman Publishing, New York, NY
ISBN-13 978-0-7611-3547-0

A first glance, this seems like a coffee table book. With its wide format and beautiful art and photos, it makes a lovely addition to any living room. However, once you start reading, it becomes apparent that it is so much more.

After reading the first chapter, “The Really Big Picture,” I realized that the pictures are accessories to the substance of the book. You will feel like you have finished a textbook on the solar system, with all the facts Mr. Miller and Dr. Hartmann reveal. It never feels like you are reading a textbook, though.

This manuscript is well laid out, starting with the entire solar system, and working its way down from the largest planet to (relatively) tiny asteroids. The beautiful artwork helps to make the facts more real. Talking about the auroral display on Jupiter is fine, but really seeing how it would look sticks it in your mind.

It includes information on individual asteroids, like Ceres, and extra-solar planets which I found very interesting. It goes beyond what you would expect from a “coffee table” solar system book.
The information is reasonably up to date and well written. Anyone with an interest in astronomy and planetary science will understand most of this book.

As far as criticisms go, I was disappointed that it doesn’t include Xena, (the new candidate planet), but you can’t put out a new edition every year. Also, the wide format makes it hard to sit and read without a desk.

Overall, this is a very good book and I would highly recommend it. It is apparent why this book has been a favorite over the years and the 3rd edition does not disappoint.

4.5 stars (out of 5)

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