The best astronomy books to rock your world and alter your cosmos

Tyler Nordgren Author Of Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets
By Tyler Nordgren

The Books I Picked & Why

Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe

By Simon Singh

Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe

Why this book?

Where do we come from? It’s hard to come up with a bigger question. This book is a fun, illustrated read that explores the history of how we got from Creation myths and Greek philosophers to the Big Bang. But at every step of the way Dr. Singh is clear our ancestors were not idiots but rather had valid logical reasons based on what they saw to believe what they did. His easy prose, coupled with informative cartoons, is my gold standard for how to make science popular. And I learned Hubble (the astronomer, not the space telescope) once got a standing ovation at the Academy Awards! How cool is that?


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Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love

By Dava Sobel

Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love

Why this book?

Galileo has come down to us as a story of science versus religion. For years I had students tell me they couldn’t believe in evolution or the Big Bang theory because they believed in God. As a result, for 10 years I took students to Italy and walked in Galileo’s footsteps while reading this book that revealed his life and times were awash in politics, religion, intrigue, revolution, and strong personalities - exactly like our world today. Galileo, a firm Catholic, was adamant that good science was nothing more than accurately revealing the universe God built. This is a profoundly beautiful book that will alter your perception of conflicts still at work in our world today.


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The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light

By Paul Bogard

The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light

Why this book?

Have you ever wondered where all the stars went? When was the last time you saw the Milky Way? We have national parks to preserve beautiful places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone geysers. But somehow, the Milky Way, a billion glowing stars all blended together in a band everyone could see every moonless night everywhere on Earth, has just faded away to invisibility for 80% of Americans. How did that happen and why we should care is what Bogard writes about in this lovely book written not for scientists or amateur astronomers, but for everyone who’s ever thought about simply “sleeping under the stars.”


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The End of Everything: (astrophysically Speaking)

By Katie Mack

The End of Everything: (astrophysically Speaking)

Why this book?

I recommended a book about the beginning of the universe, so I guess it’s beautifully symmetrical that I recommend one about its end. My PhD thesis was on dark matter that governs the fate of the universe, so I love how Dr. Mack makes this darkly disturbing (or is it disturbingly illuminating) topic so fun. This is the subject guaranteed to leave my students stunned, upset, and uncomfortable when the semester ended. It’s also research by a new generation of astrophysicists carrying the mantle of the science popularizers that first made me want to be a scientist. Speaking of whom…


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The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

By Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Why this book?

My last decade of teaching convinced me that there is little point in the public knowing the universe began in a Big Bang, or that there are planets around other stars if they don’t also understand the steps we scientists used to discover these results are the same we used to discover the Earth is warming and that the world is NOT in fact flat or only 6000 years old. 25 years ago, Sagan wrote the most prescient book I’ve ever read describing the world we live in today of know-nothing pundits and anti-intellectual leaders. In a world gripped by a pandemic where following science is all that will save us, this is the book that will truly rock your cosmos.


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