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The Book of the Moon – Rick Stroud ***

Don’t get the idea that this is a bad book because it only gets three stars. It’s an excellent compendium of information about our nearest and most spectacular (if you don’t count the sun) heavenly body.
The book is divided into sections, beginning with a general facts section, before going onto an ‘astronomers’ section that takes us through the timeline from the very first possible recordings of the moon in prehistoric carvings to observations from the Apollo missions. Some sections are better that others. One called ‘Gardening and the Weather’ for example smacks a little of desperation, going into the weird ideas of biodynamics at considerably more length than this fringe concept deserves. By contrast, the book finishes with a delightful selection called miscellany that pulls together all sorts of odds and sods from moon-oriented cocktails to moon hoaxes and musical references. It’s no wonder there’s a comment from Ben Schott of Schott’s Miscellany on the front.
Delightful though that final chapter is, it brings out the real flaw in this book and the reason it only scores three stars – it’s almost impossible to read from cover to cover. It’s a dip-in book, and as such struggles to live up to the label of popular science. Given its nature I’d have liked to have seen more illustrations. There are two sets of good colour plates, but it could be argued that a book like this – almost Dorling Kindersley style – needs to be illustrated throughout.
Apparently it’s the UNESCO Year of Astronomy, marking 400 years since Galileo’s first recorded astronomical observations, plus the fortieth anniversary of the first manned moon landings, so the book is certainly timely. It’s by no means a bad effort, but I’d love to see a proper, well written popular science narrative book on the subject.

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Review by Jo Reed


  1. Rick Stroud makes a statement on the history channel stating that the the reason the moon has phases is because the earth blocks the sunlight to it. Hopefully he now knows how incorrect that is. What he's describing is a lunar eclipse. The phases of the moon happen because of earth's point of view. If the moon is illuminated from one side, we only see half of the moon illuminated. So if the moon is closer in the sky to the sun then we may see only a sliver of it.

    1. As this commenter has not given any detail of the source, we can't check it. Obviously the commenter is correct about the lunar eclipse and cause of the moon's phases. If the assertion about the phases being caused by the earth blocking sunlight had been made in the book, I would expect our reviewer to have picked it up. I do note that Mr Stroud is a historian, not a scientist, and if the History Channel comment was in an interview, it is easy to say something incorrect under pressure.


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