Favourite books

John Thorpe

Fascinating to read of our favourite books, and how much we are all in agreement.

A book I have not seen for many years but which was a great joy in my childhood is Robert Ball’s Star Land, of which my grandparents had a leather bound copy in their bookcase. I have since discovered that Ball was a great populariser of astronomy in the 19th century. I loved the book, though I was puzzled by the fact that it listed 8 planets and ignored Pluto. Clearly Ball had a strong prophetic sense.

 Another huge influence on me was Eagle and in particular Dan Dare, whose travels and adventures did much to make me aware that there was a whole cosmos available for study, extending my horizons far beyond what we learnt at school. I well recall the wonderful representation of the moons of Saturn on the front page in 1953.

And of course my shelves are stuffed with Patrick Moore’s books, so much so that I find it difficult to choose just one. Patrick always had such a wonderful way of explaining quite tricky concepts really simply, and a book I often refer to when trying to explain ideas myself in a comprehensible way is his Astronomy for O Level, not a book with lavish pictures or even a lot of depth but I learnt a great amount from it.

 Another great explainer who is so interesting to read as well as learn from is Isaac Asimov. His book Black Holes was the first I read which really helped me understand these strange objects.

 Arthur C Clarke’s books are all among my favourites. The Exploration of Space, though now no doubt very dated was a great way to find out about what is involved in space flight in the fifties.

 Like many others, my most referenced book is Nortons, usually epoch 2000, though I greatly treasure the 1950 edition as well. Even in this on-line age it is usually my first port of call for checking the sky.