We are all busy people running around between work and family. We are constantly stressed out and worrying about money. Pick up the Cloud Spotters Guide and let yourself escape from this for a few minutes just by looking up.
The Cloud Spotters Guide is a book about just that, it is almost a text book written by one of the most enthusiastic authors I have ever read. Gavin Pretor-Pinney is a man who is passionate about clouds and his enthusiasm is infectious. Whilst he gives you all the scientific fact of clouds the hows and whys etc he also tells stories of how clouds have influences authors, artists and film makers since the day dot. The writer writes of his personal feelings about clouds and you realise that you too can share in it.
I purchased this book a few years ago and immediately joined the Cloud Appreciation society as a result. I could not stop going on at people about how much they were missing out on just by not looking up! This is a beautiful book which reminds you of the much ignored skyscape above our heads. I am sure we all remember lying around in the park or anywhere really as children and just staring up at the clouds - when did we as adults stop doing that? When did we forget that the sky is full of Dragons, fish and women with big noses and flowery hats (and that is what I saw just today). Thanks to this book the first thing I do when I leave the house everyday is take a moment to just look up. Whether is is "Simpsons" style puffy white Cumulus clouds or wispy cirrostratus clouds (see you do learn something too) you will start your day just that little bit better. The book caused me to take notice of clouds rather than just letting them pass me by and I instantly felt a sense of awe at how amazing they were. For just those few minutes all the problems of my everyday life seemed very small and very far away. You can also impress your friends with your new found knowledge.
Whilst the Cloud Spotters Guide is scientifically informative it serves a much better purpose to encourage the reader to go out and appreciate the clouds. So pull yourself away from your computer, step outside and look up. Amazing isn't it and it is there and free everyday.
This book was the first official publication of The Cloud Appreciation Society, founded by author Gavin Pretor-Pinney at a literary festival in Cornwall in 2004. Soon afterwards, the website was born, which acts as the meeting-place for the world-wide society's members, with picture galleries, information, a shop and a discussion forum, amongst many other things. The society currently has more than 23,600 members, and I'm one of them! This book was the reason for me joining up.
I had noticed it in our local bookshop, and having drawn his attention to it on several occasions, my husband kindly bought it for me for Christmas that year, must have been 2006 as that's the year it was published!
So what's it all about? The whole purpose of the society is to get people to look up - to notice what's going on above our heads. So few people notice cloud formations beyond a spectacular sunrise or sunset, or grumbling about MORE rain, or an interruption to cricket due to bad light.
This book seeks to explain how clouds work, the science behind it all, and the various different names and classifications (and many sub-classifications!) of our aerial companions. It is also an attempt to inspire more people to take an active interest in looking beyond straight ahead or down, in some ways to look outside of the concerns of daily life at what is almost another world that is constantly changing and fascinating.
The book is split into five sections:
The first section is an introductory section, and contains the society manifesto, a cloud chart, and a classification table, which is indispensable as you read through for reminding you which part of what cloud you're learning about!
Section two deals with the low altitude clouds: cumulus, cumulonimbus, stratus and stratocumulus.
Section three brings us the middle-altitude clouds: altocumulus, altostratus and nimbostratus.
Section four looks up to the high clouds: cirrus, cirrocumulus and cirrostratus.
Finally, section five deals with any other business - the other clouds, contrails and the Morning Glory, a phenomenon which deserves a chapter all of its own!
Now, if that all sounds too much like a boring weather forecast, fear not. I found this to be an excellent and informative guide. The author makes what could be quite a technical book into a hugely enjoyable voyage around the skies. For anyone who was fascinated by finding shapes in the clouds as a child, through to amateur meteorology enthusiasts, this book takes you through each cloud type with both easily digestible science and excellent and humorous diagrams and anecdotes, and with an infectious enthusiasm that makes you want to go and find each type immediately and tick them off. As a check to make sure you've been paying attention, there is an 'identify this cloud' quiz half way through the book. Clear blue skies have never looked so boring!
The Cloud Appreciation Society website is here: http://www.cloudappreciationsociety.org
Published by Sceptre, my hardback edition was £12.99, the paperback new is about half that, and it can doubtless be picked up for considerably less at the usual online sites.
I took Gavin Preto-Pinney's charming guide with me on a recent picnic trip. It really added to the day, as I and my friends used it to identify the various cloud formations we could see from our hillside vantage point, and - even more importantly, when might be a good time to decamp to the local pub to avoid rain.
The book is organised according to cloud genus, and each has a chapter, with some additional material about the less common types. There is a handy chart as a frontispiece, which will help the reader to identify specific cloud types, and flick quickly to the relevent chapter. The genera are, lowest in the sky to highest: Cumulus, Stratus, Nimbostratus, Altocumulus, Altostratus, Cirrocumulus, Cirrostratus and Cirrus. Cumulonimbus floats from the lowest Cumulus to the highest Cirrus.
Although this is, in itself, fascinating, these names reminding one of half forgotten song titles by Pink Floyd or descriptions in a novel, the book goes much further in talking about their observation and formation, their scientific history, their use as a gauge of planetary health, and a myriad of other topics.
The book is beautifully illustrated with black and white and colour photos throughout, and will give hours of pleasure to anyone who is interested in nature or the environment. it will also, perhaps, offer some comfort to a person like me, who lives in a cloud-haunted city!