Book Review: The Cloud Collector’s Handbook

The Cloud Collector’s Handbook, by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, Chronicle Books Press (www.chroniclebooks.com), 2011, 144 pages, $14.95

From its sunset stained cover to its neatly embossed title to it being the official publication of the Cloud Appreciation Society, what’s not to love about society-founder Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s appendix to the art (sport?) of cloud gazing, The Cloud Collector’s Handbook. Behind the Victorian-drawing-room title and the whimsy cover art lies a beguiling and ingenious checklist, dressed front-to-back with heavenly  photography and witty charm bolstered by meteorological substance, making the execution of this day-dreamer’s diary a delight.

Much like the society that backs it, this handbook is a strato-accumulation of both quirk and quintessential. Pretor-Pinney leads with the former – a table of contents-turned scorecard that allows you to “collect” clouds and score your progress (there’s even a tally to appraise your collection’s worth). But the latter is quick on its heels in the way of succinct yet conversational accounts describing the species and varieties of clouds that haunt Heaven’s vaults.

Pretor-Pinney has a keen sense of humor for sure. Some of the first words to spill into the page are to remark, “If you’ve never spotted a Cumulus cloud, then you ought to get out more.” But he’s just as quick to wallow in wonk, describing vertical vortexes and the troposphere like nobody’s business. You would be hard pressed to find a checklist as well illustrated, as good natured, and as quirky as The Cloud Collector’s Handbook. And you would be foolish if you don’t start your cloud collection today.

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