Good Reading : November 2006
the cult of cloudspotting reading life 2 No, it’s not a novel, it is actually an official publication of the Cloud Appreciation Society, founded by the author in 2004 and now boasting 4,000 members in 35 countries. It is described as ‘a global organisation set up to fight “blue-sky thinking”.’ This absurdly gripping volume of meteorology entered the UK’s Sunday Times bestseller list in May and the author is now spruiking the work at literary and science festivals up and down the British Isles. Yes, Gavin Pretor-Pinney is in that wonderful line of pure eccentrics. He has designed the book himself, and very handsomely too. Each of the ten main cloud types gets a chapter, with black and white pictures, useful descriptions of the sub-types and a list of other clouds with which it must not be confused. (Although the list itself is somewhat con- fusing.) There are charts showing airflow, demonstrating how ice and snow crystals are formed, how gusts of hot and cold air interact to form each type of cloud.There is a colour centre section, with a quiz to make sure readers have been paying attention. An entire chapter is devoted to the Mor ning Glory, arguably the most sensational cloud in the world. It is only to be reliably found near Burketown (population 178), inland from the Gulf of Carpentaria, in late September. Enthusiastic glider pilots congregate there annually to await the cloud’s arrival and then ‘surf ’ it. Sometimes it’s necessary to wait for weeks, but Pretor-Pinney sped things up by enlisting aid from the local indigenous rainmakers. It worked. The most astonishing anecdote in the book concerns Lt-Col William Rankin, a fighter pilot in the Korean War whose plane stalled at 47,000 feet (nearly 10 miles up) above an enormous Cumulonimbus cloud. He ejected from his plane, fell through a raging stor m which battered him with updraughts and hailstones, and arrived on earth 40 minutes later, frost-bitten, bruised and with the stitching from his clothes imprinted on his body, but alive. Rejected by 28 publishers before being perspicaciously accepted by Sceptre, The Cloudspotter’s Guide is a unique work.The author’s irrepressible enthusiasm for his subject is catching. It may take a little practice to differentiate between Stratus Fractus and Stratocumulus Perlucidus, but the persevering reader will be well rewarded. Staring at the sky suddenly becomes an important as well as fascinating occupation. For additional pleasure, try the website at www.cloudappreciationsociety.org where Pretor-Pinney et al declare: ‘we love clouds, we’re not ashamed to say it and we’ve had enough of people moaning about them’. So there! Every so often a book comes along that is so bizarre it must either fall flat on its face or become a bestseller. CAROLINE LURIE tells us about this year’s surprise hit, Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s The Cloudspotter’s Guide. Good Reading – the online version has ﬁnally arrived! On 1 November 2006, Good Reading will launch its exciting new online magazine and new-look website at www.goodreadingmagazine.com The new site boasts all the great book information you already use and brings a host of new and exciting features to give you Everything About Books . For a limited time only, you will be able to access the November issue of the online magazine without charge. Just visit www.goodreadingmagazine.com to sign up for your free trial! (Subscribers — log in using your subscriber ID and postcode.) Subscribers will be able to read the magazine and search and review our growing library of back issues. This is easy-to-use new technology which will extend your Good Reading experience. Visit www.goodreadingmagazine.com for other new features such as: • An index of all reviews and articles featured in gr since 2001! • Lots of books and other prizes to be won! • Search for books by setting such as place or timeline! • Read ﬁrst chapters, create your own reading list and share it with other book lovers • An extensive new and second-hand book sellers directory • Sign up for your free monthly e-newsletter! • Everything for Reading Groups • Join the discussion on our new message board and blog • Find a book event or course for writers near you • Find out what book won what when with our awards list And there’s so much more. Just visit www.goodreadingmagazine.com and browse the new-look site. While you’re there, sign up for the free trial of our online magazine!
December / January 2007