Book Review: The Cloud Collector’s Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

July 23, 2012

Last year, I received a wonderful gift from a friend, The Cloud Collector’s Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. It is a little, bright orange book that fits easily in one hand so the other hand is free for binoculars or a camera. It is packed full of valuable, detailed weather descriptions. It is also filled with fun, entertaining descriptions written in layman’s terms, which separates this book from many others of its kind.

Some of the comments are particularly amusing, such as when the author compares the Pileus cloud formation to a “Donald Trump comb-over hairstyle.” The author then includes bonus points for the reader that spots a cloud resembling Donald Trump.

The Cloud Collector’s Handbook is organized according to topic ranging from the more easily identified clouds, such as Cumulus and Stratus, to the lesser known cloud formations, such as Cap and Banner, and includes cloud optical effects like Crepuscular Rays.

Beneath the definitions are sections rating the cloud according to points. If the reader spots the cloud formation the reader acquires a certain number of points, which allows readers to compete with each other in their cloud watching adventures. The book is arranged in a format similar to a game that is appealing to a wide range of readers, from child to adult.

In addition, the author has included a remarkable number of bright, colorful photographs demonstrating each cloud formation listed. The photographs are collected in a separate index at the back of the book. The book also includes an index of technical terms, cloud classifications, photographers, and subjects discussed within the pages of the book.

Although it is a hardback book, as I pointed out before, the book is small and easily held in the palm of the hand or inside a purse or backpack so it can be carried along on hikes and camping vacations without adding too much additional weight, but my one criticism is that it is not a paperback with a waterproof cover. ┬áNevertheless, The Cloud Collector’s Handbook has become one of my favorite books and I take it everywhere to use as a resource when I spot something interesting in the sky, or when I am seeking something fun to read.

The Cloud Collector’s Handbook is an official publication of The Cloud Appreciation Society:

Pretor-Pinney, Gavin. The Cloud Collector’s Handbook. Chronicle Books. San Francisco: 2011.

Cloud formation spotted near Maxwell, New Mexico on July 3, 2012.

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