I write so many negative book reviews here, that I want to make a point of praising a book that I enjoyed more than any book I have read in a long time: The Light Ages by Seb Falk.

The book is a sympathetic look at the Middle Ages, with particular emphasis on medieval science—chiefly astronomy. It’s engaging. It’s well-written. It cites primary literature. (The author is a proper historian, but this is a popular book.) He does a particularly good job at explaining the astronomical facts, and why medieval thinkers explained them as they did.

One of the author’s primary concerns is to dispel the notion that the Middle Ages were times of anti-intellectualism and scientific stagnation. It’s a worthy aim, and he achieves it without turning the book into a polemic. He shows us the data, and allows us to draw our own conclusions.

In some sense, this is a long awaited companion to C.S. Lewis’s The Discarded Image. In that book one gets the sense that Lewis was perpetually on his back foot when acknowledging the limitations of medieval scientific knowledge. One wishes he could have taken a more scientifically and historically grounded approach to the question of how well medieval people ‘did’ science—as this book does.

So, four stars—or five, if five are possible: well-written, entertaining, informative, well-researched, and with a timely and salutary message to boot. I intend to have my sons read it, and I intend that each of us will learn how to use an astrolabe.