Book cover
A Brief History of Black Holes
Dr. Becky Smethurst

What a delight this book is. It’s deeply engrossing, perfectly balanced for a non-scientist with genuine interest, and wonderfully structured. Smethurst combines history and science to both teach me her subject, and show me something beautiful about science itself. Suddenly I realize that our scientific understanding of black holes isn’t just the collaborative effort of so many dedicated and enthusiastic individuals. It is a collaboration that spans centuries. From Chinese astronomers in 1000 ADE to PhD students in 2020, Smethurst draws a bright through-line that I find thrilling.

Smethurst reads the book herself. Normally this is a red flag for me. With a few glorious exceptions (I see you, Daniel Handler), I find authors to be poor readers. I’ll add Smethurst to the allow-list. She has clearly honed her craft through her work producing popular Youtube videos. And she’s blessed with a great, clear, expressive voice. This is especially great for a science book, where readers can sometimes get a little lost in the sentences. Smethurst knows exactly what she’s talking about, she knows what beats she’s meant to hit, and she knows how to hit them. This is one of my favorite non-dramatic audiobook readings.

If you love space, if you love the history of science, or if you’ve always wished for a science book with a sprinkling of Taylor Swift fangirling, then I have good news. I loved this book and immediately recommended it to my kids. Fascinating, awe-inspiring, funny, and beautifully read. What more could you want?