Have you ever stopped at a construction project on the way to your office and the day's astrophysics? Remember the other onlookers - folks just enjoying the spectacle, as we all do in following developments away from our areas of active work? We are excited and thrilled when the Hubble Space Telescope discovers an Einstein Cross, when the marvelous pulsars enter our lives, and when computer scientists put a little box on our desk that outperforms yesterday's giant machines. We are free to make use of such achievements and we respect the imagination and discipline needed to bring them about, just as onlookers respect the abilities and planning needed to create a building they may later use. After all, each of us contributes in our own areas as best we can.

In addition to the serious onlookers there will be passersby who take only a casual look at the site. They may use the building later, but have little or no interest in its construction and give no thought to the resources needed to bring it to completion. Upon arriving at work, those persons write astronomy and astrophysics books at various levels, in which they must say something about close binary stars. Usually a page or two will do, and the emphasis is on the MLR (mass, luminosity, radius) data obtained only from binaries. The role of binaries in stellar evolution also may be awarded a page or so, perhaps meshed with binaries being homes of black holes and neutron stars. We live in an era of ever more applied research, with national priorities set by the interests and judgments of select committees. Consequently, most authors tell us the answer to one central question: What have binaries done for us lately? Well, of course, binaries are alive and well as sources of fundamental information on many fronts. But what of the fun, intrigue, and beauty of close binaries?

However, I do not want to be hard on the generic text authors because I remember my initial reaction to binaries. A fellow graduate student (later a very accomplished researcher) was doing a binary star project and I could not imagine why he was so interested. He tried to explain it all, but it just was not working: subject = nonex-citing. However, I soon was into binaries anyway, just due to being surrounded by binary star work (yes, with appalling conformity). Time went by and then something happened to turn the view around - it was Su Shu Huang's work on e Aurigae and also on p Lyrae. Here was pure distilled cleverness and insight. Huang looked at problems that had been examined exhaustively by several of the most celebrated astrophysicists and saw things that had eluded everyone. Suddenly binaries were locales where mystery could transform into understanding if one looked in the right way. But where does one learn to do this sort of thing, in a course? Not at most schools. Can one learn from a book? Well, there are books on binary stars, but they mainly serve as repositories of formulas, derivations, and diagrams, and some follow the ideas of only one person or "school." A few books give recipes for procedures developed by their authors, usually without providing insight. There has long been a need for a book that takes a wide view of binary star models and their interface with observations, and that is the goal set by Josef Kallrath and Eugene F. Milone, who together have broad experience in binary star models and observations. Their creation has conscientious coverage throughout most of the "models versus observations" field. It can guide interested persons into the overall field and be a helpful companion as they explore new examples, such as in the initial approach (what is going on?), a settling-in stage (is it a standard situation or are there complications?), getting up to speed (developing intuition and extracting maximum information), and finally evaluation of results.

Examine the Contents to see a variety of topics not found in the few preceding books in this general area. Here we find extensive treatment of history, terminology, observational methods, accuracy, binary models from the ground up, system morphology, a sense of where things are going, perspectives for long-range development, guides to exploration of the literature, and even philosophy. Although not all important categories of binaries are covered, nor are all individual binaries of special interest, the coverage in this first edition is remarkable. Protest marches for inclusion of symbiotics, ultra-compact X-ray binaries, etc., in future editions may well be successful. For now the emphasis is on more general considerations. We see a balance between hands-on and automated analysis. Extreme hands-on advocates typically get things roughly right and can recognize novel features but fail to extract all available information. Extreme advocates of the automated school can reach optimal solutions for standard cases but miss anything new (there is more to astrophysics than parameter adjustment). We need to navigate between these extremes.

The names of some luminaries of the binary star field may seem to be under-represented, for example, those in structure and evolution. Should we not be reading more about Eggleton, Kippenhahn, Lucy, Ostriker, Paczynski, Plavec, Taam, van den Heuvel, Webbink, etc.? But remember that it is a book about direct representation of observations through models and must be kept to a reasonable size, and there are excellent books on structure and evolution.

Although the scope is limited to models, observations, and related mathematics, there is something here for everyone. Thus we learn that the Kolmogorov-Smirnoff test is not, after all, a way to distinguish vodkas. And there are binaries for everyone. Game players will like the one that stays in eclipse 90% of the time and comes out for only 10% (PKBoo). Gadget afficianados prefer the remote paging device, b Per. We have a thing to play in TV Cet and a place to stay in HO Tel. And then there is the only star with a question mark in its name (Y Sex?). So peruse the book, learn from it, and enjoy close binaries. If you happen to find some MLR data along the way, so much the better.

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