Saturday 1 September 2012

Gavin Pretor-Pinney, The Cloudspotter's Guide

gavin pretor-pinney the cloudspotter's guide

Ireland is a cloudspotter's paradise.  The sky throws one breathtaking show after another and you need a heart made of stone not to be amazed by all the beauty.  True, more often than not the celestial entertainment is interrupted by downpour, but at least you get all those pretty rainbows afterwards.  The silver lining, you see?

It is no wonder then that I happily jumped when I spotted The Cloudspotter's Guide on the library shelf.  I've always wanted to be able to make sense of all the cloudy confusion above and here was a book promising to teach me just that.  Yay!

My enthusiasm dampened slightly somewhere halfway through the volume.  Let's just say I'm still not an expert cloudspotter.  I'm better than I used to be, sure, but I hoped for more.  The Cloudspotter's Guide would mightily benefit from changing the picture:text ratio.  More images, Mr Pretor-Pinney, please!  Clouds are not easily revealed through verbal descriptions and a reader can't help feeling confused by all the layers and Latin names.

To give credit where it's due, the author tries his best.  He's filling the chapters with little cloud-related stories from history, mythology and folklore.  He's really good in explaining physical processes governing the weather so that everyone could understand them.  He goes further than the basic 'cloudology' and explores rainbows, halo effects, precipitation types (you thought rain, snow and hail are all there is?  Wrong!).  He seasons his narrative with quirky but likable sense of humour and illustrates it with all sorts of not-exactly-serious diagrams and drawings.  Overall - The Cloudspotter's Guide is a really pleasant little book, even if it cannot turn you into a meteorologist overnight.

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