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Extended Audio Sample Riddle of the Compass Audiobook, by Amir D. Aczel Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (165 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Amir D. Aczel Narrator: Henry Leyva Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2001 ISBN: 9780739300770
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The story of the compass is shrouded in mystery and myth, yet most will agree it begins around the time of the birth of Christ in ancient China. A mysterious lodestone whose powers affected metal was known to the Chinese emperor. When this piece of metal was suspended in water, it always pointed north. This unexplainable occurrence led to the stone's use in feng shui, the Chinese art of finding the right location. However, it was the Italians, more than a thousand years later, who discovered the ultimate destiny of the lodestone and unleashed its formidable powers. In Amalfi sometime in the twelfth century, the compass was born, crowning the Italians as the new rulers of the seas and heralding the onset of the modern world. Retracing the roots of the compass and sharing the fascinating story of navigation through the ages, The Riddle of the Compass is Aczel at his most entertaining and insightful. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Aczel examines the myths, legends, and facts behind the dispute and provides a logical, although not indisputable, conclusion on which nation can claim the compass as its own. He also provides a layman’s overview of the development of navigation from the earliest days to the fifteenth century. Although the author is primarily known for his scientific books, Riddle of the Compass contains little or no jargon and a minimum of scientific terminology. A worthwhile and interesting addition.”

    School Library Journal

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 AC | 2/7/2014

    " Another excellent history of science/math and the world that brought it about and was changed by it. As is often the case, some of his diversions, while perhaps an attempt to paint a fuller historical picture, often end up contributing little more than making the book longer than it needs to be. Still, Aczel's research and presentation are a genuinely rewarding and should not be missed. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Katie | 12/29/2013

    " quick read - more like a thesis than anything else - but contained some interesting tidbits... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rab9975 | 12/26/2013

    " A brief history of the unknown origins of one the most important tools in human history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 John | 12/13/2013

    " Who knew that the story of a tool could be so compelling? "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Debra Track | 12/2/2013

    " Fascinating topic but redundant and by pg 130, it didn't seem there was any further new information about the compass itself but, rather, about general navigation improvements. Easy reading. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stan McQueen | 11/13/2013

    " Some fairly interesting information about the origin of the magnetic compass and its importance to navigation. Unfortunately, there's not actually a whole book of material here, so the author s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d his narrative almost to the breaking point. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth S | 9/21/2013

    " This was a great read, describing how the compass was invented and how it changed the world. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Anne | 8/9/2013

    " so far, this is excellent! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pat | 12/14/2012

    " some interesting things to pick up in the book - new views and info for me of sea-faring nations and their history. nothing earth-shattering in this but the history is engaging. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Rae | 12/10/2012

    " The history of the compass and its use across the world. The nautical wind rose compass began with the eight winds of the Mediterranean. Then the twelve winds of classical antiquity were added and ultimately the modern compass wind rose evolved. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Frederick Bingham | 11/30/2012

    " A book about the invention of the compass. I only skimmed it lightly. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Avmacdoug | 8/10/2012

    " Somewhat dissapointing narrative of the history of the compass. Not terribly detailed or interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Patricia | 6/30/2012

    " A very short book. I think it could have been expanded into a much more interesting work with the addition of more details and insight into the research, but I expect a lot from my non-fiction. (And I like longer books). This just wasn't fleshed out enough to be a satisfying read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mohammed alkindy | 6/27/2012

    " not so much impressed with the depth of the material presented "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Caroline | 6/24/2012

    " Very good, full of lots of interesting historic facts. The compass is from China! I took some notes. Venice has a lot of interesting history, too. Napoleon took Venice without ever setting foot in it - because they let their Navy die. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Abby | 5/1/2012

    " I wavered between 2 and 3 stars for this book. Although the author did a decent job of covering the topic I thought the prose was very dry. I also thought the book had a lot of filler in order to make it longer. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 shannon | 11/15/2011

    " Not nearly as interesting as I'd hoped. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 A | 10/19/2011

    " Very interesting and easy historical read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Wa2nyc | 8/7/2011

    " The book was mostly about the application of the compass and how it changed trading routes. I was hoping for a little more about why it works. It was a quick read, good overview of historical voyages. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stan Paulsen | 7/27/2011

    " A quick and interesting read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dan | 7/7/2011

    " Way to much focus on the compass and no story. I learned a few things but the book was a bit of a drag. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dan | 6/16/2011

    " Way to much focus on the compass and no story. I learned a few things but the book was a bit of a drag. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 A | 2/13/2011

    " Very interesting and easy historical read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mohammed | 1/23/2011

    " not so much impressed with the depth of the material presented "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Katie | 6/25/2010

    " quick read - more like a thesis than anything else - but contained some interesting tidbits... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stan | 2/25/2010

    " Some fairly interesting information about the origin of the magnetic compass and its importance to navigation. Unfortunately, there's not actually a whole book of material here, so the author s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d his narrative almost to the breaking point. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Avmacdoug | 12/29/2009

    " Somewhat dissapointing narrative of the history of the compass. Not terribly detailed or interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Caroline | 11/1/2009

    " Very good, full of lots of interesting historic facts. The compass is from China! I took some notes. Venice has a lot of interesting history, too. Napoleon took Venice without ever setting foot in it - because they let their Navy die. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Phopping | 6/13/2009

    " some interesting things to pick up in the book - new views and info for me of sea-faring nations and their history. nothing earth-shattering in this but the history is engaging. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth S | 10/25/2008

    " This was a great read, describing how the compass was invented and how it changed the world. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 shannon | 8/26/2008

    " Not nearly as interesting as I'd hoped. "

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About the Author
Author Amir D. AczelAmir D. Aczel is the author of many research articles on mathematics, two textbooks, and nine nonfiction books, including the international bestseller Fermat's Last Theorem, which was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Award. Aczel has appeared on over thirty television programs, including nationwide appearances on CNN, CNBC, and Nightline, and on over a hundred radio programs, including NPR's Weekend Edition and Morning Edition. Aczel is a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
About the Narrator

Henry Leyva, an Earphones Award–winning narrator, is a classically trained actor with extensive work in theater, television, film, and radio. He has appeared off Broadway and in regional theaters across the country in many plays, including Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, and Street Car Named Desire. He has also performed in audio dramas for the Syfy Channel and National Public Radio.