by R. Scagell (Philip’s, London), 2009. Pp. 192, 19.5 x 12.5 cm. price £7.99 (paperback; ISBN 978 0 540 09023 5).

This book is aimed at the newcomer to astronomy and is one of a number of similar primers published under the Philip’s title. They are characterised by clear explanations by authors’ expert in the subject with numerous illustrations and clear diagrams  all at moderate cost. The theme of this particular volume is an introduction to the wide-range of optical equipment available to the beginner from binoculars to GO TO catadioptrics. The pros and cons of each type of equipment are covered and the techniques of achieving maximum benefit both by properly setting up the telescope and in the practice of observing are carefully explained.

A chapter on gaining a basic knowledge of the sky is followed by a summary of objects available for study. A final chapter on accessories including filters and cameras (both conventional and digital including web-cams) concludes a remarkably complete survey. Appendices include star maps, on a necessarily reduced scale, and a list of interesting objects is followed by a good glossary and index. One criticism is the lack of information on societies. The website addresses of the AAVSO and the Society for Popular Astronomy (of which the author is Vice President) are noted. At least a reader of this book should know about the BAA as well!

The amount of information contained in this book for the price makes it a great bargain. This reviewer would have been delighted to receive it as a teen-ager. It makes a wonderful stocking filler for Christmas.