Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Title: Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson
ISBN: 0393330168
Pages: 384
Release Date: January 22, 2007
Challenge: Buy a Book and Read It, RYOB 2009
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays
Rating: 5 out of 5

From the back cover:

Loyal readers of the monthly “Universe” essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talent for guiding them through the mysteries of outer space with clarity and enthusiasm. Bringing together more than forty of Tyson’s favorite essays, Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries explores a myriad of cosmic topics, from what it would be like to be inside a black hole to the movie industry’s feeble efforts to get its night skies right. One of America’s best-known astrophysicists, Tyson is a natural teacher who simplifies the complexities of astrophysics while sharing his infectious fascination for our universe.

When you approach Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, the first question you ask is: who is Neil deGrasse Tyson? He’s sort of a celebrity among astrophysicists, if there even is such a thing. Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, if that gives you an idea of his clout in the science world. Whenever there is any kind of scientific discovery in space, he’s the guy to turn to. I’ve seen him on PBS numerous times, as well as on various news shows. He is smart, savvy, and thoroughly entertaining.

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries is a collection of Tyson’s essays from a monthly column in Natural History magazine, and it could not be a more interesting book. They are very easy to read and understand; Tyson makes astrophysics comprehensible for the average reader. The essays also stand alone. There is no need to even try to read this book in one sitting – it can be devoured in pieces that are easier to sort out. It’s nice when a book presents something to think about, something for your mind to stew over. It’s even better when those ideas are presented in an entertaining way. Tyson is funny and his sense of humor shines through the pages. His writing is clear, precise, and very easy to digest.

The stories are also very different in tone; some are lighthearted and funny. One in particular that I enjoyed is about mistakes in the movie industry. Others are more serious and somber. The thing that they have in common is that they are all well-written and thoroughly interesting. I can’t pick out my favorite essays simply because there were too many that I enjoyed.

Let me be clear, though: Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries is not for everyone. If you have absolutely no interest in outer space, then this book will probably bore you. If you don’t like science, this book won’t force the issue and make you enjoy something that you really don’t. If, however, you are like me and you find it interesting, but have little real understanding of it, this book was pretty much written for you.

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries was an amazing read that I can’t recommend highly enough (if you think it sounds interesting!) I absolutely loved it and cannot wait to seek out more of Tyson’s work to read. (His latest book, The Pluto Files, is a humorous look at Pluto’s fall from planet grace – sounds like fun!)


  1. Great review! Sounds like a perfect book for me — I love science and astronomy!

  2. This is the perfect example of why I have so many books. I’ve never thought about reading a book like this, but since you say I can get something from it without a lot of knowledge, I totally want to read it!

  3. I’m sure you were able to understand his essays, but I really do wonder if I could.

  4. This one sounds interesting to me, too! I’ve been listening to Brian Greene’s Elegant Universe on audio, and have Greene’s Fabric of the Cosmos and Penrose’s The Road to Reality in my TBR – Death by Black Hole sounds like a great addition to my pile!

  5. I saw him on the Daily Show the other day. He was pretty funny.

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