Friday, September 24, 2010

The Big Picture

When I was around 12, I read pretty much everything about astronomy I could find. Since then, I've been buying books I find interesting, mostly factual books and not that much fiction. (I have the idea that fiction you can borrow from library, but fact books you rarely read straight through, but want to return to them in later date.) Today I suddenly noticed that I haven't read those books for ages, sometimes I even forget they exist in my bookself. That's a pity, since after several moves from one flat to another I've kept only the ones that mean the most to me and the ones I think I want to read in some (near) future.

These books are not supposed to be read from cover to cover, at least I don't do that very often. But I love the feeling of knowledge in them and the idea that I can read only a small bit about some certain thing that interests me today. Every book carries a feeling of some certain part of science or history or both. I love that personal feeling in every book I have.

Some of my astronomy books
A small collection of my books

Here are some of the books I find most intriguing. Maps of Time - an Introduction to Big History is exactly what it states. It charts the history from the Big Bang to the present. While browsing it, I always end up thinking of those billions of years when it didn't seem to happen much in the Universe - but lots of things happened anyway. Star Names - Their Lore and Meaning is kind of a dictionary to all of the star names known. Even if it's rather old (the original text dates from 1899!), I find it fascinating that we still use partly the same names and see the same shapes in the sky as the people from more than 2000 years back in time. There is certain romance involved in that.

Rare Earth is a puzzling read. It's describing what features a habitable planet should accommodate from its position in a galaxy and a stellar system to what kind of elements and compositions it should have. After reading the book one really sees how fragile we are. And after that, The Life and Death of Planet Earth will further point out how small we are in the midst of the great powers of Cosmos. This feeling I love. (As well as reading those Feynmans and seeing how easy it is, after all, to enjoy life in general.)

Looking at my bookshelf, somehow it feels unlikely for me that the e-book will ever replace the old-fashioned user interface. But things might look different in 10 years time.

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