Spotlight Book! “Mr. Olcott’s Skies: An Old Book and a Youthful Obsession” by Thomas Watson

We were all young once upon a time, and in our youth found something special that captured our hearts and minds. This is a story of one such experience.  – Thomas Watson

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A passion for star-gazing often starts in a modest way, with a small telescope. For some, that modest beginning becomes a theme that resonates through a lifetime. Mr. Olcott’s Skies is the story of one such beginning, and of how a small telescope and an old book set the author on a long and often indirect road to the stars. It’s the tale of a journey that has only just begun, and of the discovery that you really do need to look back the way you’ve come, to understand where you are.

 

This reader gave it five stars!

To understand where we are, we must understand where we’ve been. This is the message I took from Thomas Watson’s “Mr. Olcott’s Skies.” If you’re looking for a tome on the technical parts of telescopes, or a description of what’s up in the skies, this is not it.

But if you’re interested in how we become what we are, this is an exceptional book. Watson describes his early interest in astronomy and the encouragement he received from his family. He describes the hunt for books on astronomy and how he found William Olcott’s “A Field Book of the Stars” at his local library. Unable to check the book out, he painstakingly copies some of the charts and maps to aid him in his exploration of the night sky.

Through the years Watson steps in and out of amateur astronomy while keeping the close connection he had to his early observing days. The connection remained very strong. This is what makes it a good book and why I gave it 5 stars. Even though this is about a man’s interest in amateur astronomy, the story ought to resonate with anyone. Anyone who develops an early interest in anything, and maintains a lifelong interest will identify.

In some ways the story comes full circle. Watson ends up where he begins, looking anew at Olcott’s guide as an older adult. In doing so he comes to understand how he became the man that he is – a writer and amateur astronomer. But the story could apply to a carpenter, seamstress or rocket engineer.    – Thomas G. Nicolaides

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