Book Review: A guide beyond the Earth

Lonely Planet guides are among the most popular trip-planning tools out there. You can find one for most countries and a lot of subregions, and they make new ones almost every year to keep up to date with changes. Sure, you can do all this planning online, but sometimes the sheer convenience and serendipity of having a guide to flip through to find surprises and secrets, that wouldn’t otherwise come up, is worth carrying around the extra weight. They pretty much cover everything on Earth.

But there’s more to the world than just the world, so to speak: Lonely Planet The Universe takes us even farther abroad than the most thorough Earth-bound travel guides. In collaboration with NASA’s JPL, they’ve put together a travel guide to pretty much everything off Earth.

Just like the Earthbound guidebooks, The Universe covers all the tidbits and highlights of everything it features, from local hotspots to historical facts and figures.  Roughly half the book covers the Sun and planets of our solar system.  Working from the Sun out, full colour photos of planets, moons, and asteroids, showing the best and most interesting highlights, including human history of exploration, discovery and myths and legends.

Once the guide moves on to the stars beyond and out to distant galaxies, the photos start to get a bit repetitive, but it’s still worth a look.  Many major features of the night sky have full write-ups, sky positions and tips on how to spot them. Often included are little notes about what makes them unusual or special even amongst the billions of other stars.

Even if you aren’t an astronomy buff, Lonely Planet The Universe is a great book to pick up and flip though.  We don’t always give a lot of time to think about what’s beyond our home but the universe is a fascinating place.  Describing the universe with a travel guide approach simplifies and understates the vast expanses of space but it does frame it in a way that our minds can understand and appreciate a lot more.

Steven McCreedy is a library technician at the Cambie Branch of the Richmond Public Library

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