How I Killed Pluto, and Why It Had It Coming (Nonfiction: by Mike Brown) c. 2010

Summary: For 76 years after it’s discovery in 1930, Pluto reigned as the ninth planet in the solar system. And then, in 2005, Mike Brown (the author) found a distant sphere slightly larger than Pluto. For years, Brown and others had been finding a mounting number of small Pluto-esque worlds at the far reaches of the solar system, calling into question whether everyone’s favorite oddball planet could indeed be called a planet. Brown’s discovery, the dwarf planet now known as Eris, forced the issue. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted to strike Pluto down as a planet, and make it one of the first bodies in the new category of dwarf planet. Overnight, Brown began receiving hate mail from forlorn school children mourning the death of Pluto. This book follows Brown’s years of searching our solar systems outer reaches, and the events of the firestorm he helped ignite.

Review: Michael Brown, responsible for finding most of the known Trans-Neptunian Objects of any size, provides a one of a kind perspective on the ‘what-is-a-planet’ debate. In addition, he’s a witty enough writer that the science and planet debate become absolutely gripping. His chapters do stray off topic occasionally, and his obsession with his first-born child can be distracting at points, but these are minor gripes. Overall, for any nonfiction reader (not just astronomy buffs) this is a laugh out loud funny memoir that is not to be missed.

Read-a-likes: Nonfiction readers looking for more on Pluto’s dilemma should check out Is Pluto a Planet? by David Weintraub or The Pluto Files by Neil Tyson. For curious fiction readers, Percival’s Planet by Michael Byers fictionalizes Pluto’s discovery.

Availability: This book is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book and eBook. Click here to check it out!

Review by Eric.

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