The Planets: A Refutation of a Review


On June 7, 2021, a scathing review was published slandering Dava Sobel’s The Planets. I disagree. The Planets is the story of the past, present, and future of our solar system told in beautiful prose. This book combines art and science, teaching the reader in a way they are unlikely to find elsewhere. While the previous review describes the writing style as tedious and exasperating, I find it enlightening and eloquent. This masterful work has won numerous awards, as it deserves.

The Planets calls on the reader to  imagine the planets in a new light, personifying their character and nature. While some readers might find this infuriating, it’s important to remember that this book advertises itself as prose, so you should expect abundant use of literary devices. 

I particularly love the way this book is set up. Each planet has its own chapter, containing the story of how it was discovered, how our ideas of it have changed, and other details about the celestial body. All of this inter-working with Sobel’s distinctive prose makes the book an excellent read. While the review describes it as “a boring unreadable mess,” I’d like to argue that the book has clearly labeled sections, and takes the reader on a journey. This book is not as straightforward as a textbook, but it’s not supposed to be. The purpose of this book is to entertain the reader, while educating them, and leaving them in awe of the universe around them. 

The previous review closes with the following:

“And for readers interested in science, this book does provide information but a dry ten

 page college reading does the same thing, and it may even do it better.”

If you like eating cold, dry uncooked oatmeal, and choking down large chunks of data without any other thinking or effort involved, enjoy your papers. This book is meant to make it enjoyable. It is a masterpiece, and a work of art, yet it still offers plenty of scientific data and information.