The last words in the title might better have read "and other columns"—for this 342nd "book" by Isaac Asimov is composed of 72 very brief reprinted columns from American Way, American Airlines' in-flight magazine. The range of topics is wide—from the Oort cloud to the discovery of microwaves; from the virtues of iron as a metal to the invention of the toe stirrup. The style, too, is perspicuous enough to ensure that Asimov would be your top choice—if you were a captive audience seven miles up in the wild blue yonder, desperate for distraction and bored by your 7,000th in-flight article on jet-lag. But the viability of this collection for earth-bound bibliophiles and popular science aficionados is quite questionable. The "chapters" average only 2-3 pages in length, fostering the kind of airy generality that teases instead of informs. While the production of ephemera is a perfectly respectable enterprise for a full-time writer/journalist such as Asimov, it is cynicism on the part of his publisher to offer such stuff to the book-buying public as worthy of permanent space on their shelves.

Pub Date: June 18, 1986

ISBN: 0395415543

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1986

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