Book Reviews

Book Review: ‘Five Billion Years of Solitude’ by Lee Billings

“Five Billion Years of Solitude” By Lee Billings

“Five Billion Years of Solitude” By Lee Billings

Over the past few years, the field of astrobiology has made great strides. With missions such as Kepler making exoplanet discoveries commonplace, the question no longer is “Are other planets out there?” but “When will we find a true twin of Earth?”

A new book, “Five Billion Years of Solitude,” takes the reader from the earliest efforts of astrobiology, along with information on how life took hold on Earth, to how we can use that information to help understand how life may flourish on other worlds – all while giving us a glimpse inside the minds of some of the field’s most notable scientists.

Check out my full review of “Five Billion Years of Solitude” by Lee Billings at Universe Today:

Book Review: Your Ticket To The Universe

Cover art of Your Ticket to the Universe. Image Credit: Bill Anton | Service Station

Cover art of Your Ticket to the Universe. Image Credit: Bill Anton | Service Station

Quite often I’m asked to provide suggestions on books for people who are interested in space. To be honest, finding books that are intriguing, and scientifically accurate without being overly technical or boring is a bit of a challenge. A new book I’ve had the chance to review changes all of that, and has made its way to my “suggested reading” list.

Your Ticket to the Universe: A Guide to Exploring the Cosmos, by Kimberly K. Arcand, and Megan Watzke (Chandra X-ray Observatory) is jam-packed with stunning high resolution images from our Solar System and beyond.

Arcand and Watztke are no strangers to education and public outreach. Megan is the press officer and Kim is the media coordinator for the Chandra X-ray Observatory team. With a combined total of thirty years of experience engaging the public, their experience shines brightly in Your Ticket to The Universe.

Many science books take the angle of talking “at” the reader, rather than “to” the reader. Arcand and Watzke take a more conversational tone with the “coffee table” book style of facts and information in Your Ticket to The Universe. At 224 pages, the book is a fairly quick read, but considering in those 224 pages, there are 200 full color images, there’s plenty of material to enjoy for readers of all interest levels.

If a picture really is worth a thousand words, you’ll find yourself reading Your Ticket to the Universe over and over again!

You don’t need to be an astrophysicist or planetary scientist to enjoy Your Ticket to the Universe! Quite often it is difficult to present scientific information in a “casual” manner without overly watering it down, or boring the audience. Arcand and Watzke do a great job in providing information about our place in the Universe, our exploration efforts, and discoveries in a very easy-to-digest manner.

Keep reading to learn more about Your Ticket to The Universe, and how you can get a copy for your book collection.

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Book Review: The Sun’s Heartbeat

The Sun's Heartbeat by Bob Berman

The Sun’s Heartbeat (and other stories from the life of the star that powers our planet) by Astronomy magazine writer, Bob Berman, describes the early history of solar studies, why the sun is important to us, and the eventual fate of our sun. At twenty chapters (~300 pages) the book is a fairly quick read, but to truly appreciate all the knowledge woven into the book, additional readings might be helpful.

In the first few chapters, Berman discusses the early philosophers/astronomers who studied the sun. Ptolemy, Eratosthenes, Aristotle, Galileo, Kepler – a veritable “who’s who” of early astronomy/solar studies.

While discussing early astronomers, the focus is mainly on the study of sunspots, but heliocentrism and geocentrism are discussed. Moving on to the middle of the book, Berman writes about how the sun affects life on Earth, specifically discussing topics such as Vitamin D deficiencies, and some interesting points on the balance between too much sun exposure, leading to skin cancer, and not enough sun exposure.

Moving past the physical effects from the sun, interesting points are made about the mental effects of such phenomenon as eclipses and aurorae. Berman also writes about the effect that coronal mass ejections ( solar storms ) can have on today’s modern world.

Rounding out the book, in a logical (if not slightly morbid) conclusion is a chapter on the eventual fate of our sun, describing in detail its progression into a red giant, and final white dwarf phases.

In conclusion, no book review can truly cover everything about a book, nor should one. There’s far more to “The Sun’s Heartbeat” than just a history of our fascination with the sun. Interwoven in the pages of this book, with a density rivaling that of a neutron star, are enough facts about astronomy to fill an “introductory” textbook on the matter. The information provided makes the book ideal for those new to astronomy, while also providing enough facts to keep the attention of advanced readers as well.


  • “Light-hearted”, witty prose helps prevent the subject matter from being boring/dry.
  • Many facts about Astronomy interwoven in the text – comparable to some introductory texts.
  • Interesting points about health issues from too much/not enough sun exposure
  • Cons:

  • May require additional readings to truly absorb all the material.
  • Advanced readers may find the lack of detail of some subjects a bit off-putting.
  • Some of the health benefits discussed may invoke a bit of skepticism.
  • Overall Rating: 4.7 stars out of a maximum of five.

    Disclaimer: The above reviewed book was provided by Little, Brown & Company. No compensation was provided by the publisher or Bob Berman.
    The link to “The Sun’s Heartbeat” shown in the article is an “affiliate” link which if readers of this site use to purchase a copy, a commission will be paid to this site via Recommendations for products mentioned are based completely on said products merit, and not on any outside influence.

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