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Book Review:  You Are Here

Reviewed by: Clifford R. McMurray
Title: You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes: Photographs from the International Space Station
Author: Chris Hadfield
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 208
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Date: October, 2014
Retail Price: $26.00
ISBN: 978-0316379649

Chris Hadfield is to the Shuttle-era space program what Carl Sagan was to 1980s popular science. It’s easy to agree with Forbes magazine that he is “perhaps the most social media savvy astronaut ever to leave Earth.” His rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” sung from the International Space Station in May of 2013 went viral on YouTube (watch it here). Today he has more than a million Twitter followers and a Tumblr blog. Having written one of the best astronaut autobiographies ever (An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, a New York Times bestseller), he follows it up in this book with a lovely mid-sized coffee table book of pictures selected from his personal ISS portfolio.

Hadfield obviously took the maxim of professional photographers to heart: in order to get some really good pictures, you have to take lots and lots (and lots) of them. During his five months aboard ISS in 2012-2013, he took 45,000 pictures. That works out to about 300 photos per day. In his autobiography he admitted that he wasn’t a naturally talented photographer, but this sampling of his work shows that his instructors taught him well. From the first page, where he shows you a picture of the Earth inverted in the frame, with the ground at the top of the page and the sky shading from the blue of the atmosphere toward the blackness of space at the bottom of the frame, he invites you to change your perspective on our home planet.

If you weren’t familiar with the term “pareidolia” before picking up this book, you’ll know it very well by the time you put it down. Pareidolia is “the phenomenon of perceiving faces and figures in clouds, landforms and man-made objects.” Hadfield’s examples include coastlines that look like the profile of birds and elephants, a couple of islands that form a perfect exclamation point, and a set of islands in the Maldives that look exactly like a connect-the-dots picture of a dog’s head.

We live on a colorful planet, and I doubt there’s a single color on the artist’s palate that doesn’t find expression in at least one of these pictures. The infinite variety of natural and man-made geometry is a delight on every page. There’s a small amount of thoughtful text in the book—a few thousand words’ worth—but words aren’t the point of a picture book. If one picture is worth a thousand words, in about an hour you’ll have 200,000 beautiful “words” in your memory bank.

© 2015 Clifford R. McMurray

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