New Stars for Old
Being an astronomy buff, I was fascinated by this collection of fictional scenes and letters, giving glimpses of the history of astronomy through appearances by astronomers of every era from Aristotle to Sir Isaac Newton (who is, disappointingly, offstage). Each sketch is followed by an author’s note explaining what and who is real and what is invented. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
Each sketch is given a short title that sums up its theme: for example, “Evidence-Ptolemy”, “Doubt-Nicholas Copernicus”, and “Arrogance-Galileo Galilei”. All of these brief stories are instructive. The Galileo one, in particular, is one of several recent publications to challenge the popular perception that Galileo was persecuted by the Inquisition for saying that the earth goes round the sun. (He wasn’t.)
It may not work so well for those who have no interest in astronomy (I am told that such strange people do exist), but it made a colourful, educational, and enjoyable read for me.