Star Light, Star Bright, This Book is Kind of Alright
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
By: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of my favorite television personalities. In a time where there weren’t many intelligent Black people being featured on TV, Tyson provided me with visions of what I could aspire to achieve. My parents have always made sure my siblings and I had access to PBS, BBC or WHRO depending on which country we were in, so when Tyson came on Nova I watched every episode intently. I’d already been introduced to the solar system in school, and Tyson’s segment sparked my interest in astronomy and astrophysics. I later gave up being an astrophysicist, but I still enjoy learning about planetary sciences. Until I picked up Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I hadn’t read any of Tyson’s books, but based on his television personality I believed he possessed the ability to write well. Though I’m already fairly current on recent astrological developments, I picked up Astrophysics for People in a Hurry because I desired to read text that had been written with care.
Fortunately, my inference was correct. Tyson’s text was easy to read and beautifully written. Though the reading level is relatively low compared to most adult nonfiction (it is approximately 5th-8th grade level, if that’s your reading level please do not read any shame into my statement. I’m happy whenever anyone reads, regardless of their level). The sentence structure is fantastic. Tyson clearly took time when choosing his words, and his liberal use of similes and metaphors make it easy to grasp the material. My main issue with the book is that is simply wasn’t enough information for me. I’m the sort of person who enjoys delving deep into topics; I like to become a temporary expert on a subject. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry delivers exactly what it promises: a briefing on the history of astrophysics and the inner workings of the universe. Though the book is 224 pages, the pages are short and not very wide. It took me approximately 30 seconds to a minute to read a page. For reference, it takes be about two minutes per page of average fiction, and about twice as long for average nonfiction. The book was a short, quick read, and was extremely portable. Astrophysics is so small, in fact, that some readers may have issues reading the text. I handed the book off to my dad, who has to hold the book almost at arm’s length to be able to read it (he’s far-sighted). Still, for those who travel or commute often, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is not a burden.
Obviously, I’m not an astrophysicist, so I have to take the information in the book at face value. Since I was aware of most of the things Tyson discusses, I assume the rest of the information is fairly correct and up to date. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of new information in the book. I was fairly disappointed that Astrophysics was so general, but perhaps I expected too much. After all, it’s difficult to have both breadth and depth in just a couple hundred pages. To be honest, Astrophysics reminded me of the Very Short Introduction series. Readers with no prior knowledge of astrophysics or astronomy will probably enjoy the book. For those who have seen Tyson’s television series or who have read his other books might not find this book very interesting. If I’m being objective, the book gets five stars. There’s plenty of information, the arguments make sense, and reading the book doesn’t feel like a chore. Because reviews are inherently subjective, however, I’m giving the book three stars. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry simply did not add anything other than a beautiful book cover to my life.