A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe. — Madeleine L’Engle
It was just a lucky accident that I stumbled upon this quote shortly after finishing Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. I’ve always said if only I could understand math and science better, I’d be an astronomer. I can grasp the basics, but you start getting into hardcore physics and my eyes begin to gloss over. Which is precisely what happened when I attempted to read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.
I love astronomy. By day my head is in the clouds, by night the stars. I’ve read books on the planets and the universe before, and always want to read more. So one sleepless night I thought hey, why not give a Hawking book a go. It was interesting, don’t get me wrong, I just couldn’t grasp everything that he was talking about. So I went to ye ole trusty Google and did some poking around until I came across something a little more digestible – Cosmos.
Now, before your eyes gloss over and you check out on me, hear me out. I know this isn’t an awesome adventure about boy wizards or an old gunslinger or rum loving pirates, but it is still interesting. Cosmos gives us a history of astronomy and the universe. I found it interesting because not only do we get a peek into the history of our world – from what we are made of to the rulers and scientists throughout time. But we also get a lesson in what’s out there in our universe.
This book was published in 1985 – so we have made many astronomical discoveries since then. It still refers to Pluto as a planet, and fantasizes about future Mars rover missions. But it is engaging and provocative. You can tell Sagan loves astronomy, and you can feel the enthusiasm in his writing. Admittedly there are some examples of physics that went a bit over my head, but those passages are brief and seldom.
Also, never forget – one thing a writer can never do too much of is research-research-research! So next time you find yourself hunkering down to write an epic space battle royale, but find that you’re sorely lacking in the mechanics of what lies beyond our glorious atmosphere…give Cosmos a go!
What are your favorite non-fiction books?