Ye Olde Natural Philosophy Discussion Group

Reviews and comments on
Timothy Ferris: Seeing in the Dark: How Amateur Astronomers
are Discovering the Wonders of the Universe

Although anyone interested in amateur astronomy should definitely read this book, our group—which does not include any amateur astronomers (let alone professionals!)—gave it a middle of the road rating of 5.62 (on a scale of 0 to 10). Those of us more interested in astronomy gave it higher ratings of 6 or 7, and the others gave it lower ratings of 4 or 5.

Kevin listened to the audio version of the book, but felt that Ferris is not a particular good reader. He found the book tedious although there were some interesting characters and stories. Generally the book was OK, but he didn’t care that much about most of the people discussed, which made it somewhat boring.

Barbara enjoyed the book and felt that the author’s writing style was both descriptive and at times poetic. She felt overwhelmed by the book’s portrayal of the wonders of the skies. Vicki, however, felt that the first chapter was too poetic—too flowery, though later chapters were much better. She wasn’t quite sure what the point of the book was: To share the joy of amateur astronomers with other people? (Ron nodded his head at that point to indicate that he viewed that as exactly the main point.) Vicki found some of the stories interesting, such as about the amateur telescope maker and astronomy-evangelist John Dobson. But though there were some cool stories she felt the book was too long.

Kirby said that though he likes Timothy Ferris’s books, and finds them easy to read, he only read part of this one. He agreed with Kevin’s remarks, and added: “If I was an amateur astronomer I’d be thrilled with this book because my name is in there!” Kirby said that though there were some interesting things, he’s just not that interested in astronomy.

Scott enjoyed the book and found it quite interesting. Somewhat wistfully he remarked that though he had sort of a toy refractor as a kid, with which he could see Saturn’s rings and the four Galilean moons of Jupiter, he regretted that he had not gotten into amateur astronomy more seriously—such as by making his own reflecting telescope. “If I had gotten my hands on a book like this at that time, I would have been overjoyed, and probably given it a try!”

Ron agreed with the comments of the other people. He felt that the information in the book is good, but that Ferris was too long winded. Rosie also agreed with the earlier comments. She said there were a number of interesting anecdotes, but overall the book was tedious; “it was like pulling teeth for me to read it”.

John enjoyed the book a lot. “I’ll never remember all the information in it!” he said, but he enjoyed reading about it all at the time. He also liked the general summations of the structure of the universe, the local group of galaxies, the local super-cluster, and so forth—and the analogies that Ferris used to make these sorts of things comprehensible.

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