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To Open The Sky

The Front Pages of Christopher P. Winter

Reviews of Highlighted Books

What's highlighted here is not my "best" reviews, but a short list of books that I've considered most noteworthy. Their noteworthiness may consist in being (to my mind) enjoyable, informative, or influential — or various combinations of all three qualities. Expect the list to change from time to time.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert Pirsig's first book is a disturbing read, telling of Pirsig's struggle to raise his son and of his own bout with madness. I found it challenging for that reason, and because it opened up countless philosophical byways. I had to read it in chunks, with time for contemplation between.

It is also a publishing legend, reportedly offered to 121 publishers before William Morrow accepted it in May 1974. Morrow was rewarded as the book went on become a best-seller. It is still in print as a paperback and there is a hardcover 25th anniversary edition. When I last looked (12/11/2005) it had 446 customer reviews on Amazon.

Review pending
The Magic Furnace

Marcus Chown's explanation of the scientific quest to unravel the processes by which the stellar furnaces cook up the hundred-plus varieties of chemical elements makes fascinating reading. The quest took two millennia, and along the way Chown provides sidelights like (watch for it!) pipe-smoking physicist Fritz Houtermans convincing the German High Command that heavy water could be extracted from Macedonian tobacco.

Read my review
Silent Spring

This 1962 book documents many cases of pesticide misuse leading to ecological harm — the decline of songbirds and of beneficial animal life generally. Its author, government biolgist Rachel Carson, was pilloried by the Department of Agriculture and by the chemical industry. But she was right, and her detractors were wrong. Her seminal work is now credited as one of the books that inspired the environmental movement.

Read my review
The Demon-Haunted World

The last book written by planetary scientist Carl Sagan probes history to illuminate the reason why so many humans cling to superstition and to erroneous beliefs generally. It has much to tell us about the human cost of such fallacies.

Read my review
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This page was last modified on 12 June 2014.