The best books on the history of space exploration that inspired Ocean of Storms

Why am I passionate about this?

My love of space exploration is an old one. I remember learning about the Apollo missions when I was very young, both from television and children’s books, and was amazed that people had worked together to achieve such a monumental task. I was also massively disappointed to discover that no one had been back to the Moon since 1972! Since then, I’ve read deeply on the history of space exploration and wished intensely that every new NASA plan would bring us back out to explore our solar system. Part of the reason I wrote Ocean of Storms with my buddy Jeremy K. Brown was to create a reality in which that return to the Moon actually came true. 

I wrote...

Ocean of Storms

By Christopher Mari, Jeremy K. Brown,

Book cover of Ocean of Storms

What is my book about?

In the near future, political tensions between the United States and China are at an all-time high. Then a catastrophic explosion on the moon cleaves a vast gash in the lunar surface, and the massive electromagnetic pulse it unleashes obliterates Earth's electrical infrastructure. To plumb the depths of the newly created lunar fissure and excavate the source of the power surge, the feuding nations are forced to cooperate on a high-risk mission to return mankind to the moon. 

Now, a diverse, highly skilled ensemble of astronauts—and a pair of maverick archaeologists plucked from the Peruvian jungle—will brave conspiracy on Earth and disaster in space to make a shocking discovery. Ocean of Storms is an epic adventure that spans space and time as its heroes race to fulfill an ancient mission that may change the course of humanity's future.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts

Christopher Mari Why did I love this book?

If there was one book that got my coauthor Jeremy and I to start thinking about a novel based on a return to the Moon, it was this one. Chaikin’s classic history on the entire Apollo program looks at how NASA successfully landed astronauts on the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972. Chaikin’s book is not a dry history but a thrilling, in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at how the missions were proposed, conceived, and executed. A must-read for lovers of history, space exploration, science, and even science fiction.

By Andrew Chaikin,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Man on the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


This is the definitive account of the heroic Apollo programme.

When astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their 'giant leap for mankind' across a ghostly lunar landscape, they were watched by some 600 million people on Earth 240,000 miles away.

Drawing on hundreds of hours of in-depth interviews with the astronauts and mission personnel, this is the story of the twentieth century's greatest human achievement, minute-by-minute, through the eyes of those who were there.

From the tragedy of the fire in Apollo 1 during a simulated launch, Apollo 8's bold pioneering flight around the…

Book cover of Forever Young: A Life of Adventure in Air and Space

Christopher Mari Why did I love this book?

The autobiography of John Young is almost a history of NASA itself since he began his career there in 1962 and retired from it in 2004. Young was the only astronaut to fly two Gemini missions, two Apollo missions, and two Space Shuttle missions. His book covers all of the various challenges the U.S. space agency faced during that period, and he also touches on the future of spaceflight up until 2012, when the book was published.

By John W. Young, James R. Hansen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Forever Young as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

He walked on the Moon. He flew six space missions in three different programs--more than any other human. He served with NASA for more than four decades. His peers called him the ""astronaut's astronaut.""

Enthusiasts of space exploration have long waited for John Young to tell the story of his two Gemini flights, his two Apollo missions, the first-ever Space Shuttle flight, and the first Spacelab mission. Forever Young delivers all that and more: Young's personal journey from engineering graduate to fighter pilot, to test pilot, to astronaut, to high NASA official, to clear-headed predictor of the fate of Planet…

Book cover of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong

Christopher Mari Why did I love this book?

Neil Armstrong was an American hero not just because of his skills as a pilot during the Korean War or because of his prowess as an astronaut or by becoming the first man in history to touch the lunar surface. He is a hero because he did all of those things without ever bragging or seeking to make a profit from his success. His commitment to duty, as well as his sacrifice and humility, are lessons for every generation. 

By James R. Hansen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked First Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major film starring Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy and Kyle Chandler, directed by Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle, First Man by James Hansen offers the only authorized glimpse into the life of America's most famous astronaut, Neil Armstrong - the man whose "one small step" changed history.

In First Man, Hansen explores the life of Neil Armstrong. Based on over 50 hours of interviews with the intensely private Armstrong, who also gave Hansen exclusive access to private documents and family sources, this "magnificent panorama of the second half of the American twentieth century" (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review) is an unparalleled biography…

Book cover of Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13

Christopher Mari Why did I love this book?

Most everyone who loves space exploration has probably seen the Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13, about the mission on which all three astronauts nearly lost their lives while heading to the Moon. This book is co-written by Jim Lovell, who commanded Apollo 13, and describes in page-turning detail both what occurred onboard and in Mission Control as everyone scrambled to save the crew’s lives. Fantastic stuff. 

By Jim Lovell, Jeffrey Kluger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In April 1970, during the glory days of the Apollo space program, NASA sent Navy Captain Jim Lovell and two other astronauts on America's fifth mission to the moon. Only fifty-five hours into the flight of Apollo 13, disaster struck: a mysterious explosion rocked the ship, and soon its oxygen and power began draining away. Commander Lovell and his crew watched in alarm as the cockpit grew darker, the air grew thinner, and the instruments winked out one by one. The full story of the moon shot that almost ended in catastrophe has never been told, but now Lovell and…

Book cover of The Right Stuff

Christopher Mari Why did I love this book?

This book, Wolfe’s dramatized interpretation of the Mercury 7, the first American astronauts, was my first “grown-up” look at the U.S. space program. It gave me an understanding of these men and their times unlike anything I had previously experienced.

By Tom Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Right Stuff as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A wonderful novel and perfect book club choice, The Right Stuff is a wildly vivid and entertaining chronicle of America's early space programme.


'What is it,' asks Tom Wolfe, 'that makes a man willing to sit on top of an enormous Roman Candle...and wait for someone to light the fuse?' Arrogance? Stupidity? Courage? Or, simply, that quality we call 'the right stuff'?

A monument to the men who battled to beat the Russians into space, The Right Stuff is a voyage into the mythology of the American space programme, and a dizzying…

You might also like...

Book cover of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Story-lover Middle East expert Curious Iconoclast Optimist

Ethan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Benghazi: A New History is a look back at the enigmatic 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, its long-tail causes, and devastating (and largely unexamined) consequences for US domestic politics and foreign policy. It contains information not found elsewhere, and is backed up by 40 pages of citations and interviews with more than 250 key protagonists, experts, and witnesses.

So far, the book is the main -- and only -- antidote to a slew of early partisan “Benghazi” polemics, and the first to put the attack in its longer term historical, political, and social context. If you want to understand some of the events that have shaped present-day America, from political polarization and the election of Donald Trump, to January 6, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russian expansionism, and the current Israel-Hamas war, I argue, you need to understand some of the twists and turns of America's most infamous "non-scandal, scandal.”

I was in Benghazi well before, during, and after the attack as a US diplomat and co-director of a medical NGO. I have written three books, and have been a contributor to The NYT, Foreign Affairs, Forbes, Salon, The Financial Times, Newsweek, and others.

By Ethan Chorin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On September 11, 2012, Al Qaeda proxies attacked and set fire to the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, killing a US Ambassador and three other Americans.  The attack launched one of the longest and most consequential 'scandals' in US history, only to disappear from public view once its political value was spent. 

Written in a highly engaging narrative style by one of a few Western experts on Libya, and decidely non-partisan, Benghazi!: A New History is the first to provide the full context for an event that divided, incited, and baffled most of America for more than three years, while silently reshaping…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in astronauts, pilots, and astronautics?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about astronauts, pilots, and astronautics.

Astronauts Explore 62 books about astronauts
Pilots Explore 44 books about pilots
Astronautics Explore 11 books about astronautics