In mid email interview for an Italian paper, prior to a visit to the science fair in Trieste next week, they asked "what was the first science book you read?". My first thought was, damned if I remember. There was a thing called the "Pye Book of Science
" my dad procured, full of Tomorrow's World stuff (they were a modern electronics company at the time). Very futuristic.
But then it came back to me. I remember being given a copy of an old book called, I thought, Rockets and Space Travel
by the astronomer Willy Ley, though searching now makes it seem more likely it was The Conquest of Space
, first published in 1949. I do know it was adorned with full page colour plates of Chesley Bonestell's wonderful paintings of what he thought the moon and planets would look like – this would be around 1960, or a little later, when every kid wanted to be an astronaut. I know I did. The text was a bit old for me, but I was captivated by the pictures. I no longer have the book, but I have found others with some of Bonestell's images in, and they are still very striking. Nowadays, of course, you can find them on the web.
I'm especially fond of this one - the outer reaches of the Solar System as a sublime landscape. Aren't those tiny figures intrepid?
It all goes against my adult prejudice that words matter more than images, which I admit is based largely on the fact that I figured out how to get paid for producing them, at least some of the time. But Bonestell's pictures certainly feel like the future I grew up with.
Any other books make an impression as strong as this? (hint, it helps if you were eight or so at the time).