The Riddle of the Compass

  • by Amir D. Aczel
  • Narrated by Henry Leyva
  • 3 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The secrets of science meet the drama of the high seas. Amir D. Aczel, the distinguished science writer, turns detective as he uncovers the fascinating story of the invention of the compass. It's a fabulous tale of Chinese lodestones directing the building of palaces and ancient mariners following the flights of birds to reach their destinations.

The arrival of the compass in Europe and an understanding of its potential revolutionized trade in the Mediterranean and ushered in the great Age of Exploration. Tracking down the roots of the compass and telling the story of navigation through the ages, Aczel instructs and charms as never before.

Amir Aczel is known for his ability to write delightful books about hard topics in math and science. And this is the book he was born to write. Raised on ocean liners by his ship's-captain father, the young Aczel stood at the helm and steered ships though the Mediterranean. His experience adds depth and resonance to the telling of this terrific story.


What the Critics Say

Nimble writer that he is, Aczel keeps these and other topics in constant, fluid motion, like a master juggler. A compulsively readable investigation, as attracting as the magnetic north. - (Kirkus Reviews)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

As poor as his book 'Entanglement'

The author does not seem to be able to gather enough information about compasses to fill this book. He has therefore found it necessary to pad out this poorly written work with early maratime history which has little or nothing to do with the implement in question.

In it's defence, I do know more about the history of compasses than I did before I read it, but I cannot see what the riddle is. I think the author is referring to the fact that noone knows who originally discovered the 'compass' as we know it, but as far as I can see it is an object that, like the wheel, has evolved over many, many years from basic origins to the sophisticated tool we use today, with no single inventor.

There is no riddle to this book.
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- Peter

Book Details

  • Release Date: 28-09-2001
  • Publisher: Random House Audio