The Cloud Collector's Handbook, which follows on from the earlier, more text-heavy and less colourful, The Cloudspotter's Guide, is exactly what it says it is. It's a very nicely designed small hardback book which is somewhat reminiscent of (if a little larger than) the old Observer Guides that are still commonly found in second-hand bookshops. Indeed, the cover design is (presumably deliberately) slightly old-fashioned in appearance, with no flashy logos and a pleasingly uncluttered appearance. It seems designed to be slipped snugly into a jacket pocket, and whipped out at the first sight of a new cloud type.
Inside, after noting that this is an official publication of the Cloud Appreciation Society (oh yes, it certainly does exist!) the reader will come to the meat of the book. Here, on around 50 double-page spreads, each individual cloud type is dealt with. On the left-hand side is a full-page photo and a space to note down when the relevant type is spotted, as well as the number of points awarded for catching it. There's also a "bonus" award for seeing something particularly interesting, and you record these points in a similar way to how it's done in the old "I-Spy" series. The maximum is 2,000 points — but I doubt many people will get anywhere near that score
So far, so dull, some of you may be thinking. After all, the UK is one of the cloudiest nations on Earth, so how interesting can a book full of the things really be? Actually, much more so than you might think. True, the first section contains everyday common-or-garden varieties such as Stratus and Cumulus, but after that things become a lot more interesting. Have you ever spotted a Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud, for example? These remarkable formations look amazingly like a series of breaking waves. (They're also rare, which is why a sighting garners you 55 points, the highest score in the book!)
The judicious sprinkling of just a little humour throughout the pages is also very welcome, and can help brighten up your day if, as will inevitably sometimes be the case, a nice afternoon's spotting has been ruined by nothing but depressing Nimbostratus for hour after hour — or even, even more frustratingly, one of those pesky wall-to-wall sunshine periods that even Britain does sometimes endure. As an example of the book's tongue-in-cheek style, you can get an admittedly small five-point bonus ("to make you feel better") if the aforementioned Nimbostratus washes out your weekend!
The book costs £10.00 new, which is perhaps a little bit expensive for what is (for most people) not much more than an amusing diversion or a conversation piece, but it is quite widely discounted. At the time of writing (Oct 2010) you could pick it up from Amazon for £5.54 (including delivery), and at that price it's hard to have any bad feelings about it. I'd recommend The Cloud Collector's Handbook to anyone who feels that the British weather has been hard done by over the years, and that's just because the country doesn't have tropical heatwaves or wild hurricanes, that doesn't mean there's no interest in its skies.