Book Review: The Life and Death of Stars

I have to start by saying I have not finished reading this book yet, but I feel compelled to write a review because I am so thoroughly annoyed by this book. Let me explain.

I am extremely interested in stellar evolution and its relevance to my field of study, variable stars. I read great things about this book before it was released and pre-ordered a copy from Amazon dot com. The book dealer I purchased it from sent me the wrong book. I reported the error via their website and they quickly refunded my credit card, but never sent me the correct book.

A few months later I was able to finally obtain a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher, and after a protracted wait, was anxious to dive into it. What I found was almost as disappointing as getting the wrong book. This isn't the book I thought I was getting either.

This book should have been named The Complete History of Stellar Astrophysics, or something equally boring but less misleading. The first several chapters are intended to give one an extensive amount of background knowledge so that if the author ever does actually begin to write about stars you will understand what he is saying. The chapters begin with Light and the Sun, Gravity and Motion, Atomic and Subatomic Particles, Transmutation of the Elements, What Makes the Sun Shine? and The Extended Solar Atmosphere. Are you bored yet? I am.

Finally, in chapter seven we are introduced to stars. The first section of this chapter, called Comparison of the Sun to Other Stars, is 7.1- Where and When Can the Stars Be Seen? Are you kidding me?!

It is now page 129 of 311 and he is now going to explain that if we go outside at night and look up...

I don't know if I will ever finish this book. It is a ridiculous way to tell a story, and the title is entirely misleading. It's like buying a book called "NASCAR Heroes of the 1990's" and beginning chapter one with the history of the internal combustion engine.

There are only 13 chapters in this book and the author has wasted my time reading seven chapters of background material to get me to the point of 'go out at night and look up, this is where you can see stars'. Chapter eight is finally about stars, The Lives of Stars. Maybe I'll skip ahead to that and see if it's worth going any further. But not today. I'm too annoyed.

Bottom line, if you want to read a text on the history of astrophysics, this is your book. If you want to read about stellar evolution skip the first seven chapters and refer back to them only if you need to understand some concept in more depth with the full history of the discovery process included.

1 comment:

Walter Fahey said...

Somebody "must" post this comment ! -- If you want to learn about stellar evolution, and you are an amateur astronomer, or an arm chair astronomer ... Head to the Web page of the AAVSO ( American Association of Varriable Star Observers ) -- Scroll to the bottom of the home page: Start reading the links under "variable stars" - Strap in - It's a great ride !!
-- Thanks for the review Mike Simonsen.
Walt "Doc" Fahey