cover image Galileo: A Life

Galileo: A Life

James Reston, Jr.. HarperCollins Publishers, $25 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016378-5

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) may seem an unlikely subject for Reston, who has previously chronicled Jim Jones, John Connally and the clash of baseball's Pete Rose and Bart Giamatti. But Galileo, like Reston's present-day subjects, was at once a man deeply imbedded in and polarized by his milieu and its surrounding force fields. Reston delineates the personal and institutional storms that Galileo endured and seemed unerringly to seek out. He collided with church authorities in Rome, with his peers and a succession of patrons. Reston scants both science and 17th-century theology in setting the stage for the general reader, but he recreates the era with immediacy by mining Galileo's journals and letters for dialogue. The use of present tense gives the characters a magnified, flesh-and-blood presence that neatly balances with the Galileo legend. Reston suggests that the spirit of Galileo's age still lives today in the Vatican. Newbridge Book Club alternate. (May)