Friday, May 6, 2011

Seeing Further, edited by Bill Bryson

Seeing Further is a collection of essays on the Royal Society, science, and scientists. Each chapter is a little essay by a different author. These include Margret Atwood, Richard Dawkins, David Attenborough, and Martin Rees. Topics range from mad scientists in literature to global warming to early hot-air balloon attempts. It's all over the place, with a loose focus on the history and scientists of the Royal Society.

From a purely visual standpoint, this was the most beautiful book I've ever read. It is not a normal book for adults. Almost every page has full color images of historical documents, paintings, drawings, collages... It is so pretty! Looking at the pictures was my favorite part of the book, I think. Each chapter had a neat digital collage starting it off. These were stunning! I would scan and post a page from it to show you, but I imaging that's frowned upon.

I think a common if not ubiquitous pitfall of books with bits by different authors is the variability of the style and substance of the sections. Invariably there are some you like more than others, and getting through the less interesting ones is tough. When it's a book by one author you know what you are getting and it doesn't keep changing on you! I think that's why this book took me so long (so freaking long) to read, the changing authors and topics meant I had to get into it anew each chapter.

This book would be enjoyable to someone interested in the history of science. It covers a lot of ground and introduces the reader to lots of different niches. Some of the chapters were really dry, and didn't stick with me all that much. A lot of the historical stuff, particularly was dense for me. But even when the section was dry the images were really engaging!

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