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

Why am I passionate about this?

I was of that generation of children turned on to science by reading Carl Sagan’s Cosmos - plus watching the Voyager spacecraft at Jupiter on TV, seeing the 1979 total solar eclipse over my house, and having Mt St Helens erupt outside my childhood window. So, one guess what I wanted to be when I grew up? Since then, I’ve earned a PhD, used the largest telescopes on Earth, designed something driving around on Mars, written popular books, and had my science art collected by the Smithsonian. But all of that started with a single book I read as a kid. Thanks Carl.


I wrote...

Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets

By Tyler Nordgren,

Book cover of Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets

What is my book about?

Seeing a total solar eclipse is more than just “seeing”, it is a multisensory experience where the heavens literally align with you as you stand in the cold shadow of the Moon cast by a now black Sun. Imagine how profoundly upsetting it is to see day turned suddenly to tonight, especially if – unlike today – it came with no warning at all. It’s an experience that has altered history and advanced science and today drives a word-wide travel industry that in the next few years will be coming to a town, state, or country near you.

Sun Moon Earth is the story of why you need to go and what you will experience when you get yourself into the path of totality.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe

Tyler Nordgren Why did I love 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?

By Simon Singh,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Big Bang as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling author of Fermat's Last Theorem and The Code Book tells the story of the brilliant minds that deciphered the mysteries of the Big Bang. A fascinating exploration of the ultimate question: how was our universe created?

Albert Einstein once said: 'The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.' Simon Singh believes geniuses like Einstein are not the only people able to grasp the physics that govern the universe. We all can.

As well as explaining what the Big Bang theory actually is and why cosmologists believe it is an accurate description of the origins…


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

Tyler Nordgren Why did I love 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.

By Dava Sobel,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Galileo's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspired by a long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of his daughter Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun, Dava Sobel has crafted a biography that dramatically recolors the personality and accomplishments of a mythic figure whose early-seventeenth-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion-the man Albert Einstein called "the father of modern physics-indeed of modern science altogether." It is also a stunning portrait of Galileo's daughter, a person hitherto lost to history, described by her father as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me."

Moving…


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

Tyler Nordgren Why did I love 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.”

By Paul Bogard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The End of Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Streetlamps, neon signs - an ever-present glow that has changed the natural world and adversely affected our health; Paul Bogard illuminates the problems caused by a lack of darkness. We live awash in artificial light. But night's natural darkness has always been invaluable for our spiritual health and the health of the natural world, and every living creature suffers from its loss. Paul Bogard investigates what we mean when we talk about darkness. He travels between the intensely lit cities - from glittering Las Vegas to the gas-lit streets of Westminster - and the sites where real darkness still remains,…


Book cover of The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking)

Tyler Nordgren Why did I love 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…

By Katie Mack,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The End of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE ECONOMIST, OBSERVER, NEW SCIENTIST, BBC FOCUS, INDEPENDENT AND WASHINGTON POST

'Weird science, explained beautifully' - John Scalzi

'A rollicking tour of the wildest physics. . . Like an animated discussion with your favourite quirky and brilliant professor' Leah Crane, New Scientist

From one of the most dynamic rising stars in astrophysics, an eye-opening look at five ways the universe could end, and the mind-blowing lessons each scenario reveals about the most important ideas in cosmology

We know the universe had a beginning. But what happens at the end of the story?…


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

Tyler Nordgren Why did I love 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.

By Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Demon-Haunted World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A prescient warning of a future we now inhabit, where fake news stories and Internet conspiracy theories play to a disaffected American populace

“A glorious book . . . A spirited defense of science . . . From the first page to the last, this book is a manifesto for clear thought.”—Los Angeles Times

How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don’t understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the…


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Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

By Wendy Lee Hermance,

Book cover of Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

Wendy Lee Hermance Author Of Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Wendy Lee Hermance was heard on National Public Radio (NPR) stations with her Missouri Folklore series in the 1980s. She earned a journalism degree from Stephens College, served as Editor and Features Writer for Midwestern and Southern university and regional publications, then settled into writing real estate contracts. In 2012 she attended University of Sydney, earning a master’s degree by research thesis. Her books include Where I’m Going with this Poem, a memoir in poetry and prose. Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat marks her return to feature writing as collections of narrative non-fiction stories.

Wendy's book list on why Portugal is weird

What is my book about?

Weird Foods of Portugal describes the author's first years trying to make sense of a strange new place and a home there for herself.

Witty, dreamlike, and at times jarring, the book sizzles with social commentary looking back at America and beautiful, finely drawn descriptions of Portugal and its people. Part dark-humor cautionary tale, part travel adventure, ultimately, Hermance's book of narrative non-fiction serves as affirmation for any who wish to make a similar move themselves.

Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

By Wendy Lee Hermance,

What is this book about?

"Wendy Lee Hermance describes Portugal´s colorful people and places - including taxi drivers and animals - with a poet´s empathy and dark humor. Part travel adventure, part cautionary tale, Weird Foods of Portugal is at it´s heart, affirmation for all who consider making such a move themselves."


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