The Practical Astronomer by Will Gater and Anton Vamplew
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley
Any book billing itself as a complete introduction to astronomy for absolute beginners must be pitched either at children, or those – like myself – so in awe of the subject that they’d prefer to be treated like children.
With this in mind, the book succeeds admirably.
It takes you by the hand and guides you through the basics of the Universe before providing easy-to-follow essentials about observing the night sky.
Throughout, the tone is reassuring and lively, with neat graphics, huge pictures and clear text broken up into easily digestible chunks.
As a reference book, it’s meant to be dipped into – but it could just as easily be read straight through, as the structure is coherent, logical and entertaining.
I have only two gripes.
First, a large proportion – about half – of the book is dedicated to star charts and sky maps.
Such information is readily available elsewhere and this approach possibly compromises the other more practical sections.
As a result, some subjects are dealt with very superficially – astrophotography, for example, receives a paltry three pages of the 255.
Second, in places the lively layout is so busy that pages become at best confusing and at worst migrainous.
If you’ve already dipped your toe in the astronomical water you’ll quickly want a small library of books taking a more methodical, in-depth approach than that offered by The Practical Astronomer.
But if you’re a truly fearful beginner wondering whether astronomy might be for you, this is a good place to start.