My Books

I thought I would put together links to the various books I’ve written most of which are still available despite never having troubled the best seller lists. I haven’t got time today to put them all on, but I’ll add the others in due course.

My best known book is probably Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction, published by Oxford University Press as part of an extensive series of intensive books on all kinds of subjects. I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to cover the whole of cosmology in less than 35,000 words and was very pleased with the way it turned out. It’s been published in several languages already with other deals on the way.

It is meant to be accessible to the interested layperson but the constraints imposed by the format mean it goes fairly quickly through some quite difficult concepts. Judging by the reviews, though, most people seem to think it gives a useful introduction to the subject, although you can’t please all of the people all of the time!

Before doing the Cosmology VSI, I had written a couple other short books for the publisher Icon Press. The first of these was inspired by the Total Eclipse of the Sun visible from parts of the United Kingdom in 1999. It seemed a good occasion to recall the famous expedition organised by Eddington in 1919 to measure the gravitational deflection of light by the Sun which confirmed the predictions the new General Theory of Relativity and turned Einstein into a celebrity almost overnight. First published in 1999 as Einstein and the Total Eclipse, this book was slightly re-written and re-published in 2000 as Einstein and the Birth of Big Science, as the topicality of the Eclipse had faded rather rapidly.

The little book about Einstein did very well in terms of sales so the publishers asked me if I could think of another topical scientist to write about for a series called, for some, reason Postmodern Encounters. Most of these books were about philosophy rather than pure science. The only other physicist that the publishers thought could be a big draw was Stephen Hawking, so I cobbled together a book called Hawking and the Mind of God. It’s not really much about God, but the publishers liked the title because books about God tend to sell quite well. It also got me onto some TV programmes talking about Hawking, so it turned out quite well in the end.

You can read some nice comments about both of these books here.

The next one is called the Routledge Companion to the New Cosmology, although it has been through various versions. Originally published in the United Kingdom as the Icon Critical Dictionary of the New Cosmology, it was then sold to the publisher Routledge where it was first issued as The Routledge Critical Dictionary of the New Cosmology, and printed in a slightly larger format than the original version. Basically it is a reference work about cosmology. The entries vary in technical level and a long dictionary part is preceded by several essays by leading astronomers and cosmologists. The original version was first published in 1998 and I’ve never been asked to update it so, given the rate at which things have progressed in this field, I’m afraid a lot of it is very dated.

My latest book is also published by Oxford University Press. Called From Cosmos to Chaos: The Science of Unpredictability it’s basically about probability theory and the application of statistical reasoning. Taking the field of cosmology as a cue it goes off into various other bits of physics and wider applications in science. It does contain mathematics so it’s not really a popular book, which is just as well because it didn’t sell particularly well despite having good reviews, described elsewhere on this blog. I actually put this book together from bits and pieces I had written for lecture courses and hadn’t actually used. It probably shows because it is not particularly tidy, a fact not helped by the unwillingness of OUP to allow any corrections to the proofs. Still, if it manages to warn a single person off any use of bad statistics then it will have been worth it.

The first book I ever wrote was the result of a collaboration with the late Francesco Lucchin. He had written a very nice book in Italian, Introduzione alla Cosmologia, round about 1990. I had worked a bit with his group and he suggested that it might be possible to do an English edition with me doing the translation. I didn’t get time to do it for several years and the field had moved on so much that it wasn’t worth doing a straight translation. We ended up adding a lot of new material as well as including most of the original Italian book. It is intended to be for advanced undergraduates or beginning postgraduates. The first edition (with a blue cover) was published by John Wiley & Sons in 1995. That one is now out of print but the publisher asked us to make a second edition in 2001. Unfortunately, Francesco was then very ill having been diagnosed with a brain tumour and couldn’t work at all. The book was delayed because I had to write the bits we had planned as well as the bits he was going to do. The 2nd Edition, shown on the right, was finally published in 2002 just a few weeks before Francesco died. I dedicate the book to his memory.

Finally, this is a monograph that I wrote with George Ellis in 1996 which summarized the arguments about an important issue in cosmology, the current density of matter in the Universe. The book grew out of a review article on this subject that we wrote in 1993. It was great fun working with George on this and I’m glad to say that our analysis has stood the test of time, in most respects. However, in 1996 we didn’t foresee the dramatic discoveries of evidence for cosmic acceleration arising from studies of Type Ia supernovae or the evidence from Microwave Background observations that the Universe was really flat. Although we got the matter density right we therefore didn’t infer the presence of dark energy or a cosmological constant. Some you win, some you lose.

8 Responses to “My Books”

  1. […] about three months there. It was an extremely enjoyable time, during which I managed to finish my book From Cosmos to Chaos, as well as a few other things. Of course the climate was a bit different from […]

  2. […] of Charles Ives by Stuart Feder, which I bought some time ago with my Cambridge University Press author discount and I’ve had on my shelves without getting around to read it until this week. […]

  3. […] This misses the essentially probabilistic nature of all science which I tried to describe in my book on probability From Cosmos to Chaos. We are always limited by noise and incompleteness but that […]

  4. […] theory of relativity. I’ve written quite a lot about this in past years, including a little book and a slightly more technical paper. I decided, though, to post this little piece that is based on […]

  5. […] theory of relativity. I’ve written quite a lot about this in past years, including a little book and a slightly more technical paper. This was a relevant topic for the conference because it […]

  6. Hi Prof. Coles,

    Thank you very much for a very partial introduction to your books.

    Do you plan to write and publish more books in the future? What’s in the pipeline?

  7. […] about three months there. It was an extremely enjoyable time, during which I managed to finish my book From Cosmos to Chaos, as well as a few other things. Of course the climate was a bit different from […]

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