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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

The Instant Physicist

Richard Muller is a professor of physics at Berkeley, where he teaches a course titled “Physics for Future Presidents.”  That is also the title of his 2008 book, Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines (Norton).

Muller has a great sense of humor and fun, which shines through in his latest, The Instant Physicist. Entertaining and appealing, it is illustrated by Joey Manfre.

MULLER, Richard A. The Instant Physicist. illus. by Joey Manfre. 160p. Norton. 2010. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-393-07826-8. LC 2010025739.  The Instant Physicist

Adult/High School–With such recent titles in the field of popular introductions to physics as Marcus Chown’s more thorough The Matchbox That Ate a Forty-Ton Truck (Faber, 2010), Chad Orzel’s much funnier How to Teach Physics to Your Dog (Scribner, 2009), and Tony Rothman’s confusingly similarly titled Instant Physics (Fawcett Columbine, 1995), Muller clearly has some competition. The primary distinguishing characteristic of this title is its intense brevity: fewer than half its pages contain text (the other half are cartoons), and some of these pages are barely half filled. Muller is able to achieve this brevity because he is not interested, as the above titles are, in actually teaching physics, but merely showing readers its applicability to a wide range of daily topics. This is a noble, if somewhat limited, goal, but unfortunately Muller succeeds only intermittently. For example, about 20 percent of his 60-some examples involve radioactivity: too many entries on one subject in any case, but also seemingly pitched at a cold-war era audience afraid of nuclear fallout. Similarly, Muller seems to come back to the same topics over and over, rather than showing off the full breadth of his fascinating field. Nevertheless, he writes in lucid prose that never fails to make clear the sometimes challenging concepts he is out to convey. And, this book is sure to appeal to teens allergic to math and science.– Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Solano County, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.