Taking advantage of the increased attention as the sun reaches the peak of its 11-year sunspot cycle, Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Golub and Williams College astronomy professor Pasachoff deliver a clear, detailed and broadly informative overview of the scientific study of our "nearest star" and its effects on our planet. Other recent books cover some of the same territory in more detail (the energy production and internal structure of the sun and other stars in Stardust by John and Mary Gribbin and The Magic Furnace by Marcus Chown; the vulnerability of modern technology to intense solar activity in The 23rd Cycle by Sten Odenwald), but this book shines in its discussion of the properties of the sun's turbulent outer layers (chromosphere, photosphere and corona). It provides space- and astronomy-loving readers in-depth information about the many challenging projects that produced or are producing that knowledge, about advanced projects on the drawing board or in conceptual stages and about Web sites where readers can find more details and up-to-date developments. On the human level, the authors describe practical techniques to enhance the thrill of observing a total solar eclipse. The book ends with a discussion of the interaction between solar and terrestrial phenomena, comparing human contributions to climate change to the climatic influence of solar variation. Amateur astronomers will learn much from Golub and Pasachoff's study.