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

so much folklore

This book was a facinating account of how the compass "may have" been invented. The author clearly did a lot of research into, if not determining the absolute truth, perhaps a plausible explanation of the various developments that, building upon one another, resulted in the magnetic compass.
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- Andy

Don't pass this up

Any additional comments?

I found this to be a very enjoyable listen. A lot of the specific details of the invention of the compass can never be known, so Aczel tells what is known, then goes off on different entertaining tangents of the times and places that are relevant to the story. At the end what you really know is that too much is unknowable. But it is still worth the trip. Henry Leyva does a very nice job reading, never sounding overbearing. Give this one a try. Rick.

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- Rickapolis

Book Details

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