Number Two on the list:
The Path by Chet Raymo (Walker, 2003).Read about the book that tops Sobel's list.
Chet Raymo turns a mile-long wooded path -- from his house to Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., where he is a professor emeritus of physics -- into a crucible for all his acquired knowledge of the world. On a wooden bridge over a brook, he stops to consider "the algae scum, the fiddleheads, the ducks, the turtles, the gush of life," but then Raymo, who is also an astronomer, turns his thoughts to a view of the Atlantic from 30,000 feet and an appreciation of Earth as Water Planet. He traces the source of water back to the origin of the universe and ponders the properties of ice and the effect of cloud-cover on global climate. And he praises the world's "quintillions of tons of life-giving water" -- some of which he watches "purl in languorous eddies under the plank bridge across Queset Brook."