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Publisher's Summary

With her blockbuster New York Times best sellers Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel used her rare and luminous gift for weaving difficult scientific concepts into a compelling story to garner rave reviews and attract readers from across the literary spectrum. Now, in The Planets, Sobel brings her full talents to bear on what is perhaps her most ambitious subject to date: the planets of our solar system.

The sun's family of planets become a familiar place in this personal account of the lives of other worlds. Sobel explores the planets' origins and oddities through the lens of popular culture, from astrology, mythology, and science fiction to art, music, poetry, biography, and history. Whether revealing what lies behind Venus' cocoon of acid clouds or capturing firsthand the excitement at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory when pictures from Cassini at Saturn are beamed to Earth, this intimate account is filled with fascination, beauty, and surprise.

Written in Dava Sobel's characteristically graceful prose, The Planets is a distinctive view of our place in the universe. It is that rare book that will delight the experienced astronomer and, at the same time, engage someone eager to get to know the planets.

©2005 Dava Sobel (P)2005 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Playful . . . lyrical . . . a guided tour so imaginative that we forget we’re being educated as we’re being entertained.” (Newsweek)

“[Sobel] has outdone her extraordinary talent for keeping readers enthralled. . . . Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter were exciting enough, but The Planets has a charm of its own . . . . A splendid and enticing book.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“A sublime journey. [Sobel’s] writing . . . is as bright as the sun and its thinking as star-studded as the cosmos.” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

What listeners say about The Planets

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ethan
  • 03-11-2005

Superb story of our changing views of the planets

This book is a tour of the nine planets that is equal parts mythology, history, and science. Ms. Sobel goes through each planet in order, discussing how it is has been seen throughout history, and what the latest scientific discoveries and theories about its origins and future might be. The stories she tells about the planets range from personal tales to historical or mythological incidents, and they are often highly lyrical. Mars is described from the perspective of a martian meteorite found in the Antarctic, while the tale of the discovery of Uranus is given through the letters of the sister of its discoverer. If you are looking for a hardcore science volume, you may want to look elsewhere, for though scientific facts abound, so does history and fables. If you liked Dava Sobel's other works (Longitude, etc.) or appreciate slightly more quirky non-fiction, you will like this. Wonderfully read and highly reccommended.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Robert
  • 23-07-2006

Art mixed with science

This is a well-narrated piece of pop-science. Hard core science junkies may want to steer clear since the robust storytelling is this audiobooks strong point. If you are not adept at astronomy but want a gentle and entertaining introduction this is the audiobook for you. An enjoyable and breezy experience for those not wanting to get mired in scientific jargon.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Bill Maney
  • 27-08-2010

I'm into astronomy: Couldn't read it

This book was agony. I was so looking forward to it. I read Longitude and loved it. I couldn't listen to this at all. I only got about 1/3 of the way through before I gave up. It was all fluff and not much science. Nothing I found interesting.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Rick Byers
  • 23-08-2009

Beware - as much religion and astrology as science

From the description, I was expecting a book mostly about planetary science and astronomy. There is some science, but it's pretty weak, and there's enough non-science presented as fact to ruin it for me. For example, she makes arguments for the factual basis of the genesis story in the bible, the legitimacy of astrology, and that the similarity in angular size between the moon and sun from earth is an act of god. Overall, not a scientific book.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Martin
  • 02-05-2006

Eclipsed

Like some of the other reviewers, I liked “Longitude” very much and so perhaps found “Planets” more disappointing than I should have. However, the science is often weak, the prose style grating at times (if you want to say that a planet has no atmosphere, just say it rather than that, “It lacks the aegis of air”) and the narrator sounds comatose. How some one who made watches interesting can make planets boring is a mystery, but this book manages it. Bill Bryson’s “Short History of Nearly Everything” is far, far better.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Bradly D. Elder
  • 28-12-2005

Not that good

She wrote Longitude : The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (1995) and Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love (2000). Both of these books were outstanding! So I was really looking forward to this book. Man is it bad. The intellectual level of this book is really low. I am not sure if this is because I already know a lot about the topic and apparently know more about it than she presents, or she just dropped the ball on this one. So I am left wondering if my satisfaction with her previous work is due to my ignorance of the subjects or her poor showing on this book is an anomaly. As it is, I must strongly recommend the other two books and to give this one a pass.

The audio quality of this book is satisfactory.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Rena Alisa
  • 10-01-2015

Dava Sobel misses

Oh dear! I am a great Dava Sobel fan. I loved LONGITUDE so much that I went to Greenwich in England, just to see those clocks. I reread GALILEO'S DAUGHTER twice.
Dava Sobel is a fantastic science writer.

But this book is just silly. Starting with Mercury and moving outward she combines all kinds of unrelated drivel about each planet. No plot. No Theme. Nothing to focus on.
A complete waste of a good credit.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Think B4 Eating
  • 07-10-2005

This book should be categorized as fiction

I was expecting a scientific book about the planets, instead I got a book whose author gives equal weight to the biblical account of the creation of the universe. If you are going to compare rigorous scientific theory with fantasy then don't label it as non-fiction.

56 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Lucy
  • Lucy
  • 18-09-2018

Narrator ruined the book for us...

We've read numerous books by Dava Sobel and enjoyed them; this was the first audiobook version we've listened to of one of her works. She tends to write in a somewhat grandiose style, but the information she conveys is interesting and well-told. Unfortunately, this narrator uses an elevated tone that, when combined with Sobel's writing style, came across as a boring teacher. We found our minds wandering from the content because of its delivery. Mispronunciations of "Willamette" and Maria Mitchell's name (in her name, "Maria" should be pronounced "Mar-EYE-a") only compounded the problem. We would have done better to stick with the printed version of this book.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Angela McFadden
  • Angela McFadden
  • 07-08-2018

Interesting stories

Author teaches about planets using interesting stories which I think makes learning about the planets much more enjoyable. Reading for the second time back to back.

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