Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.

Zoom: How Everything Moves by Bob Berman

Zoom: From Atoms and Galaxies to Blizzards and Bees: How Everything Moves - Bob Berman

TITLE:  Zoom:  How Everything Moves,  From Atoms and Galaxies to Blizzards and Bees


AUTHOR:  Bob Berman




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  978-1-78074-549-7






In this "pop-science" book, Bob Berman takes a whirl-wind tour around the many phenomena that have to do with motion.  He includes interesting stories that span astronomy, geology, biology, meteorology and history.  Everything from the exploding universe, runaway poles, magnetic fields, radiation, atoms, snow, ice, tides, tsunami, how clouds stay aloft, earth;s motion, in-tune mosquitoes, wind, air pressure, lightning, thunder, meteors, electricity, sneezes, animals, cells, and much more.


The author explains each phenomenon in an enthusiastic, clear and understandable manner, without bogging the reader down with complicated science. Bob Berman provides a new perspective on old "stuff" and also covers topics not usually covered in popular physics books.  Each chapter covers something different, so the reader can dip in and out without getting confused.  This book was a joy to read.




Blood Trail (Victoria Nelson, #2) - Tanya Huff

From the blurb:


"For centuries, the werewolves of Toronto have managed to live in peace and tranquility, hidden quietly away on their London, Ontario farm. But now, someone has learned their secret—and is systematically massacring this ancient race.

The only one they can turn to is Henry Fitzroy, Toronto-based vampire and writer of bodice rippers. Forced to hide from the light of day, Henry can’t hunt the killer alone, so he turns to Vicki Nelson for help. As they race against time to stop the murderer, they begin to fear that their combined talents may not be enough to prevent him from completing his deadly plan.



This is an entertaining, fun, action-packed, mystery-thriller-urban fantasy novel with strong characters and a decent plot.




The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf

TITLE:  The Invention of Nature:  Alexander von Humboldt's New World


AUTHOR:   Andrea Wulf


Publisher:  Knopf


Format:  e-book


ISBN-13:  978-0-385-35067-9





The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf is not  a complete or in-depth biography, but rather a journey to discover the forgotten life (and far reaching influence) of Alexander von Humboldt, the visionary Prussian naturalist and explorer whose ideas changed the way we perceive the natural world, and in the process created modern environmentalism. 


In this book, Wulf traces the threads that connect us to this extraordinary man, showing how Humboldt influenced many of the greatest artists, thinkers and scientists of his day.  However, today he is almost forgotten outside academia (due to politics and changing fashions), despite his ideas still shaping out thinking.  Ecologists, environmentalists and nature writers rely on Humboldt's vision, although most do so unknowingly.  It is the author's stated objective to "rediscover Humboldt, and to restore him to his rightful place in the pantheon of nature and science" and to "understand why we think as we do today about the natural world".    In my opinion, Andrea Wulf successfully shows the many fundamental ways in which Humboldt created our understanding of the natural world, and she champions a renewed interest in this vital and lost player in environmental history and science.


Alexander von Humboldt was one of the founders of modern biology and ecology, and had a direct effect on scientists and political leaders.  Wulf examines how Humboldt’s writings inspired other naturalists, politicians and poets such as Charles Darwin, Wordsworth, Simón Bolívar, Thomas Jefferson, Goethe, John Muir and Thoreau.  The author successfully integrates Humboldt's life and activities into the political and social scene so we can get a picture of how important Humboldt was, and still is.  Many people considered him the most famous scientist of his age.


Humboldt was a hands-on scientist.  His expeditions of discovery led him through Europe, Latin America and eventually Siberia.  He strongly desired to see the Himalaya, but the East India Company didn't want to co-operate for fear that he would write unflattering comments about their form of governance.


Humboldt also continued to assist young scientists, artists and explorers throughout his life, often helping them financially despite his own debt. 


Alexander von Humboldt led a colourful and adventurous life, but this book also shows us why Humboldt is so important:

- he is the founding father of environmentalists, ecologists and nature writers.

- he made science accessible and popular - everybody learned from him.

- he believed that education was the foundation of a free and happy society.

- his interdisciplinary approach to science and nature is more relevant than ever as scientists are trying to understand man's effect on the world.

- his beliefs in the free exchange of information, in uniting scientists and in fostering communication across disciplines, are the pillars of science today.

- his concept of nature as one of global patterns underpins our thinking today.

- his insights that social, economic and political issues are closely connected to environmental problems remain topical today.

- he wrote about the abolition of slavery and the disastrous consequences of reckless colonialism.

 - he believed that knowledge had to be shared, exchanged and made available to everbody.

- he invented isotherms (the lines of temperature and pressure on weather maps).

- he discovered the magnetic equator.

- he developed the idea of vegetation and climate zones.

- his quantitative work on  botanical geography laid the foundation for the field of biogeography.

-  he was one of the first people to propose that South America and Africa were once joined.

- he was the first person to describe the phenomenon and cause of human-induced climate change, based on observations made during his travels.

- he contributed to geology through his study of mountains and volcanoes.

- he was a significant contributor to cartography by creating maps of little-explored regions.

- his advocacy of long-term systematic geophysical measurement laid the foundation for modern geomagnetic and meteorological monitoring.

- he revolutionized the way we see the natural world.

- he developed the web of life (the concept of nature as a chain of causes and effects).

- he was the first scientist to talk about human-induced environmental degradation.

- he was the first to explain the fundamental functions of the forest for the ecosystem and climate:  the tree's ability to store water and to enrich the atmosphere with moisture, their protection of the soil, and their cooling effect.

- he warned that the agricultural techniques of his day could have devastating consequences.

- he discovered the idea of a keystone species (a species that is essential for an ecosystem to function) almost 200 years before the concept was named.

- he confirmed that the Casiquiare was a natural waterway between the Orinoco and the Rio Negro, which is a tributary of the Amazon, and made a detailed map.

- he considered the replacement of food crops with cash crops to be a recipe for dependency and injustice.  He felt that monoculture and cash crops did not create a happy society, and that subsistence farming, based on edible crops and variety, was a better alternative.


I found the chapters that describe Humboldt's expeditions to be fascinating - filled with hazards, wild animals, pests, injuries, epidemics, new discoveries and ideas.  The chapters that discuss his busy social and work life were also interesting.  However, I wish the author had spend more page space on his expeditions and discoveries, and less on the biographies of the people he influenced, especially the last few chapters which were somewhat long-winded.  What I found rather refreshing was the lack of author speculation and interjection of her own theories - the narrative sticks to what is known.  The author also manages to convey Humboldt's enthusiasm and energy so that the reader feels breathless just reading about all his activities.


This biographical search for the invention of nature and the man who "invented" it, provides a great deal of food for thought, woven around the life of a great (and overly energetic) scientist.  This was an enjoyable and informative reading experience.




NOTE:  This book includes three clear, easy to read maps that were particularly useful in following Humboldt's Journeys, and a large number of black and white, as well as colour illustrations were also included in the book.  In addition, the author included an extensive section of notes, sources and bibliography, an index and a note on Humboldt's publications.


The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf (PROGRESS UPDATE)

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf



In Chapter 20 we learn how Europe has erupted into civil unrest and how Humboldt's balancing act between his liberal political views and his court duties were getting more difficult.  We also learn that Humboldt continued to assist young scientist, artists and explorers, often helping them financially despite his own debt.  In one way or another, he ruled over the destinies of scientists across the world.


"Since he had no family of his own, these young men were like his children."


In this chapter, Bonpland makes a re-appearance.  It's nice to finally find out how his story continues.


Despite his age and busy social and work schedule, Humboldt remained interested in everything new, especially the possibilities of technology.  Many considered the man to be the most famous scientist of his age.


Then, soon after dispatching the 5th volume of his book Cosmos, Humboldt collapses, and a few days later he dies, at age 89. 


"For many, Humboldt was, as the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV had said, simply 'the greatest man since the Deluge'."


Humboldt's work shaped two generations of scientists, artists, writers and poets.  The remainder of the section of the book is taken up with showing how Humboldt's ideas about nature, and his observations of anthropogenic ecological degradation influenced a selection of nature writers, artists and scientists - George Perkins Marsh, Ernst Haeckel, John Muir.  These people influenced our current view (and legislation) of the preservation, protection and use of nature as a resource. 


I liked how the author dealt with Humboldt's death and the global response to this.  This was a sad occasion and she manages to make the reader feel as if they have lost someone important.  However, I felt that the author's choice of influential nature people was rather limited and these chapters to be rather flowery in terms of language.  I would rather have read more about Humboldt than these fellows.




Besieged (The Iron Druid Chronicles) by Kevin Hearne

Besieged - Kevin Hearne

This is a collection of short stories in the Iron Druid universe.  I found most of the stories to be rather bland - same stuff, different day.  There were one or two stories that were different, but most were of the all-powerful druid killing the bad guy variety.  In short, an ok read but I know the author can do better and I wonder if he hasn't got bored with this story.


The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf (PROGRESS UPDATE)

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf



In Part 4, Humboldt is recalled to Berlin, a city he considers an intellectual backwater, and tied up with court duties.


"The man who had written thirty years previously that 'court life robs even the most intellectual o their genius and freedom', now found himself bound to royal routine."


Humboldt believed that education was the foundation of a free and happy society (which the establishment considered a dangerous thought), and tried to use his court position to support scientists, explorers and artists.  While in Berlin, he also gave many lectures free of charge, thus enabling anyone - rich, poor, men and women - to attend his lectures on the natural world.  He tried to revolutionize the sciences by organising a conference where attending scientists were expected to talk to each other and not at each other.


Humboldt eventually managed to organise an all-expenses paid trip to Russia.  Although this expedition was supposed to be for the "advancement of science", the tsar was more interested in the advancement of commerce so Humboldt was obliged to investigate mines along their route.  Humboldt, being something of an eccentric and over active rebel, decided to take an unauthorised detour to see the Altai Mountains where Russia, China and Mongolia met as the counterpart of his observations in the Andes, and then to the Caspian Sea.  Even an anthrax epidemic wouldn't stop him.  Despite being short on money, Humboldt returned a third of his expense money to be used to finance another explorer.  Supporting other scientists, explorers and artists is something that we see Humboldt do fairly often.




Part 3 also includes an interesting chapter on Charles Darwin and how Humboldt's books and understanding of nature influenced Darwin's studies and his eventual development of the theory of evolution. 


"Darwin was standing on Humboldt's shoulders."


A chapter is dedicated to Humboldt's endeavours in writing Cosmos:  A Sketch of the Physical Description of the Universe.   This book (in five volumes) would take the rest of Humboldt's life to write. 


"Humboldt wanted to write a book that would bring together everything I the heavens and on earth, ranging from distant nebulae to the geography of mosses, and from landscape painting to the migration of the human races and poetry."



Wulf manages to convey how excited and alive Humboldt felt while on his Siberian expedition, and how much he enjoyed these expeditions.   I enjoyed the exploration parts of the book more than the philosophical musings and the history lessons.  

Blood Price by Tanya Huff

Blood Price - Tanya Huff

From the blurb:


"Vicki Nelson, formerly of Toronto’s homicide unit and now a private detective, witnesses the first of many vicious attacks that are now plaguing the city of Toronto. As death follows unspeakable death, Vicki is forced to renew her tempestuous relationship with her former partner, Mike Celluci, to stop these forces of dark magic—along with another, unexpected ally…

Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII, has learned over the course of his long life how to blend with humans, how to deny the call for blood in his veins. Without him, Vicki and Mike would not survive the ancient force of chaos that has been unleashed upon the world—but in doing so, his identity may be exposed, and his life forfeit.


I picked this up as something lighter to read than a science book.  Blood Price is a humorous an entertaining urban fantasy novel that somehow manages to be different despite the vampires and demons.  The characters are well written with strong personalities and the plot is decent.  It's nice to read an urban fantasy novel that doesn't revolve around sex and love triangles. 


Apparently there is a TV series based on this set of books as well.  I might have to track it down.



The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf (PROGRESS UPDATE)

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf



Part 3 of this book deals with Humboldt's return to Europe, his reception by the inhabitants and his book publishing.  Humboldt was quite happy to share his specimens with others and help out young scientists.  This section also gives a nice summary of the political climate in Europe and South America at this time and how this affected (and was affected by) Humboldt.  He might not have been a gun-toting revolutionary, but Humboldt had a large influence of the South American evolutions.  We also get to find out what happened to Aime Bonpland. 


"Humboldt enjoyed meeting other scientists to exchange ideas and share information, but life in Europe increasingly frustrated him.  Throughout these years of  political upheaval he had remained restless and, with Europe so deeply torn, he felt that there was little holding him."


Humboldt spend a great deal of time and effort trying to convince the East India Company to let him visit India to investigate the Himalaya so that he could gather data for a comparison with the Andes.  While he had published many successful and popular book and was admired by British poets, thinkers and scientists, the East India Company had other ideas. 


Andrea Wulf manages to convey Humboldt's frustrations with his travel impediments and with time-wasting social functions quite well.  She manages to keep a fast paced narrative despite not having any grand jungle adventures to fall back on and somehow makes publishing books, doing experiments and visiting people sound exciting.  In this section, the author also manages to convey how many important and influential scientists Humboldt influenced and was influenced by - an interesting amalgamation and sorting of ideas.



The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf (PROGRESS UPDATE)

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf




This section continues the harrowing (and sometimes amusing) adventures of Alexander von Humboldt and his companions from their arrival on the shores of South America to when they leave Philadelphia, U.S.A.  Humboldt's expedition was more about collecting ideas than just natural history objects.  Humboldt witnessed such things as deforestation, environmental destruction, slavery, mining damage, various agricultural and political ideologies, volcanoes, mountains, rivers and jungles, which would ultimately lead to an altered perspective of nature and man's effects on nature. 


The 5 chapters that form this section of the book show how Humboldt developed an understanding of nature and man's place in nature.  The author also shows how current environmental ideas and ecological concepts (environmental degradation, keystone species, climate zones, finding the magnetic equator, etc.) were influenced by Humboldt's work. 


Humboldt also sailed to North America to meet with the President of the U.S.A, Thomas Jefferson.  This chapter takes a look at how politics and nature should belong together.  Humboldt debated nature, ecological issues, imperial power and politics in relation to each other.  He criticised unjust lad distribution, monoculture violence against tribal groups and poor work condition of the indigenous population.  He also had issues with slavery which he considered a disgrace and the greatest evil - he believed that justice and freedom were more important than numbers and the wealth of a few.  I was interested to learn that the U.S.A had very little information on their neighbouring countries and Jefferson obtained this information from Humboldt.  There were also interesting discussions on cash crops vs. food crops and a nation's ability to sustain itself.


"Nature was Humboldt's teacher.  And the greatest lesson that nature offered was that of freedom.  'Nature is the domain of liberty' Humboldt said, because nature's balance was created by diversity which might in turn be taken as a blueprint for political and moral truth.  Everything ... had its role, and together they made the whole.  Humankind was just one small part.  Nature itself was a republic of freedom."


I found the description of Humboldt's journey through Latin America to be too brief.  However, I'm not sure the author could have added any more details without bogging the book down and making it too long.  So, I feel, in the end, the author managed to find an acceptable balance between too much detail and including the information that is relevant to Humboldt's investigations and his developing perspective about nature and it's interconnectedness. 


The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian (Mass Market MTI): A Novel - Andy Weir

I originally bought this book for my husband, and then ended up reading it myself.  My husband enjoyed the book enough to ask if the author had written anything else (this doesn't happen very often). 


I found this book to be an enjoyable, action packed, fast moving and funny novel about the adventures of astronaut Mark Watney accidentally left on Mars.  The mechanical details were a bit above my head (i.e. can't tell how accurate they are), but I loved the botany and science details.  Too bad my potatoes never grow as well as Watneys!


As far as I can remember (I was "reading another book while "watching" the movie), the book is a bit different than the movie, but not too much.





The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf (PROGRESS UPDATE)

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf



"No one had ever comet his high before, and no one had ever breathed such thin air.  as he stood at the top of the world, looking down upon the mountain ranges folded beneath him, Humboldt began to see the world differently.  He saw the earth as one great living organism where everything was connected, conceiving a bold new vision of nature that still influences he way that we understand the natural world."


Alexander von Humboldt was an extraordinary scientist and adventurer who influence many of the greatest thinkers and scientists of his day, and whose insight into the working of the world gave us our current concept of nature.  However, he has been largely forgotten and barely gets mentioned when compared to Charles Darwin.  In the prologue, the author states her objectives "to rediscover Humboldt, and to restore him to his rightful place in the pantheon of nature and science", and "to understand why we think as we do today about the natural world." 


Part 1 of this book discusses Alexander von Humboldt, his family, his early life, education and inventions.  However, the author fails to mention his half-brother or sister who died young.  So this isn't a complete, definitive biography, and Wulf appears to be including only those aspects of Humboldt's life that she thinks is important.  Good news for those who want the basics and the science bits.


Wulf also provides a context for Humboldt by showing us the world he was born and raised in, i.e. the Age of Enlightenment.  This section also describes his relationships with the foremost thinkers of the day (Goethe, Schiller,Kant etc), and how he influenced and was influenced by these people; thus providing insight into the development of Humboldt's concept of the world with which he would view his experiences in South America and elsewhere. 


"Being with Goethe equipped Humboldt with 'new organs' through which to see and understand the natural world."


Part 1 ends with how Humboldt finally got the freedom, finances and permission to follow his dreams. Being stuck on a continent whose leaders were all going to war with each other didn't help much.


"But the real purpose of the voyage, he said, was to discover how 'all forces of nature are interlaced and interwoven' - how organic and inorganic nature interacted.  Man needs to strive for 'the good and the great', Humboldt wrote in his last letter from Spain, 'the rest depends on destiny.' " 


So far, this is an enjoyable and beautifully written book.  The author doesn't get bogged down with lists of dates and who begat whom etc.  The descriptions of the towns and people visited are brief and relevant to the narrative, without excessive, long winded paragraphs of filler.  One can feel the over-enthusiastic energy of Alexander von Humboldt (someone really needs to slip him a valium or a sedative!), his brother's concern for him, and the excitement Goethe feels when Humboldt visits - all from a few sentences.


The next section discusses Humboldt's trip though South America. 




NOTE ON THE E-BOOK:  The book contains numerous illustrations and three maps which don't display very well in e-book format. 





Bookburners (Bookburners #1.1-1.16) by Max Gladstone

Bookburners - Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, Brian Francis Slattery, Mark Weaver, Jeffrey Veregge

An original and entertaining urban-fantasy series combined into one volume. The characters each have a unique and well rounded personality with several unusual quirks. The story telling is engaging, fun and nail-biting as required. This novel serialization should be be made into a TV series.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness

A sad and depressing book. The writing is decent and the story unusual, but I can't say I enjoyed it all that much.

25 Myths That Are Destroying the Environment by Daniel B. Botkin

25 Myths That Are Destroying the Environment: What Many Environmentalists Believe and Why They Are Wrong - Daniel B. Botkin, Alfred Runte

TITLE:   25 Myths That Are Destroying the Environment: What Many Environmentalists Believe and Why They Are Wrong


AUTHOR:  Daniel B. Botkin




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  978-1-4422-4492-4



25 Myths That Are Destroying the Environment is a book about ecology, the environment, nature and misleading information (myths) about these topics that circulate in both ecological and political discussions.  These myths often drive policy and opinion, and thus funding.  What may seem to be an environmentally conscious action on the one hand may very well be bringing about the unnatural destruction of habitats and ecosystems.  Daniel B. Botkin takes a look at these myths and explains why they are incorrect or misleading.  

The author takes a look at what has gone wrong with the environmental sciences.  He states that "much valuable and helpful research has been and continues to be done in the environmental sciences, but citizens need to be able to distinguish the good (and important) from the bad".  Botkin shows that the myths are alive, active and dominant in determining laws, policies, and action, and that they still form the basis of many major research projects.

The author's stated goal is to share with the reader what be believes we need to do, how we should think about the environment with people in it, and how to avoid the many pitfalls that plague attempts to solve environmental problems.  I believe that the author has achieved most of his stated goals with this book.  The book certainly provides food for thought and all politicians, policy makers, students (i.e. future policy makers and environmentalists) and the general public should read it.

Each chapter is dedicated to one myth, with a section at the end of each chapter that summaries what difference it make if we believe that particular myth.  The introductory chapter discusses why people are so attached to these myths.  This interesting book is easy to read and has numerous coloured photographs or diagrams for each chapter.



"Nature isn't just something out there that you visit in a park or zoo; it is what we live within.  We are not separate from nature; we are within it, and would not survive if we weren't."
-Daniel B.Botkin  [25 Myths That Are Destroying the Environment, 2017, pg 4].

Tales From The Underground by David W. Wolfe

Tales From The Underground: A Natural History Of Subterranean Life - David W. Wolfe

TITLE:  Tales from the Underground:  A Natural History of Subterranean Life


AUTHOR:  David W. Wolfe




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780738206790


The subterranean is not one world but many.  It is filled with many unique habitats, and the occupants of these habitats range in size from the microscopic bacteria to the easily visible earth worms and burrowing animals.  Tales from the Underground is not intended as a comprehensive treatment of the subject of soil ecology.  The author's goal is to introduce the reader to a few of the most intriguing creatures on the underground and to the sometimes equally intriguing scientists and explorers who have studied them.   With the many interesting creatures and scientists discussed in this book, I feel the author has achieved his goals.

This book takes a look at the Earth's most ancient life forms, the extremophiles; bacterium; fungi; earthworms; the dual nature of soils with regards to deadly plant and animal diseases; the tragic history of human interactions with prairie dogs, burrowing owls and the black-footed ferret.  This book also explores the impact of human activities on the soil resources important to our food security and the potential for using soil microbes for intermediation of damaged soil.  The author also takes a look at the various hypothesis that try to explain the origin of life in which dirt or soil play a role e.g. the "clay-gene" theory in which clay crystals act as a catalyst and gene precursors.

The author states that he hopes that as more of us become aware of the life beneath our feet, we will be inclined to work together to maintain the biological integrity of the underground, an preserve some of what we find there for future generations.

"With each new subterranean discovery, it becomes more apparent that the niche occupied by Homo sapiens is more fragile and much less central than we once thought."

This book contains diagrams where relevant and a decent reference section.  However, the author tends to select too many examples and creatures from the U.S.A, which is a bit annoying, since there is an entire planet full of underground creatures and humans that interact with them.  The book is well written without excessive biographical detail and a fair amount of detailed information on each topic.  I believe this book would be easy to understand for the general reader.  Tales of the Underground provides an enjoyable look at some of the interesting underground citizens.



The Goldilocks Planet: The Four Billion Year Story of Earth's Climate by Jan Zalasiewicz & Mark Williams

The Goldilocks Planet: The 4 Billion Year Story of Earth's Climate - Mark Williams, Jan Zalasiewicz

TITLE:  The Goldilocks Planet:  The Four Billion Year Story of Earth's Climate


AUTHOR:  Jan Zalasiewicz & Mark Williams




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  978-0-19-968350-5




The Goldilocks Planet:  The Four Billion Year Story of Earth's Climate takes a look at the Earth's climate from the planet's formation to the current age and then takes a look at what our future climate might have in store for us. In short, the book contents are as described on the "box".


In this book, the authors reconstruct and describe how the Earth's climate has continuously altered over its 4.5 billion-year history.  The story can be read from clues preserved in the Earth's strata, in fossils, in ancient air samples, in mineral samples, extinction events etc.  The book describes how changes in the global and regional climate range from bitterly cold to sweltering hot, from arid to humid, and they have impacted enormously upon the planet's evolving animal and plant communities, and upon its physical landscapes of the Earth.  However, in spite of this, the Earth has remained consistently habitable for life for over three billion years - in stark contrast to its planetary neighbours.  Not too hot, not too cold; not too dry, not too wet, it is aptly known as 'the Goldilocks planet'.

This book is wonderfully written!  And so interesting!  Minimal personal anecdotes, not too much biographical detail (just enough to be interesting) and lots of lovely, juicy science - all explained to be easily understandable but not simplified to be completely useless.  The authors have also included numerous helpful diagrams and graphs.  I wouldn't call this a popular science book, but it isn't a text book either.  I wish more science books were written like this book.