The best engaging books on space exploration

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up on the Space Coast, with my dad working on the Space Shuttle, and launches a regular occurrence, over time I took the program for granted. When the last Shutte launched, though, it left a hole in my heart. Gradually a desire to write about my hometown and its place in space history gave birth to the Jessie Cole trilogy. A combination of stories from my dad’s childhood in Titusville, conversations with docents at our historical society, and scores of books, magazine articles, and archived news footage helped reshape my view of space exploration. It was hard to choose just five books to highlight. More are noted in the Research Library section of my website.


I wrote...

Undaunted

By Rebekah Lyn,

Book cover of Undaunted

What is my book about?

Undaunted is a coming-of-age story for both Jessie Cole and the US Space Program. From the announcement of the Mercury 7, Jessie is determined to become an astronaut when he grows up. The challenges of an alcoholic father, family displacement from their home on Merritt Island, and the turmoil of war in Vietnam never dull his intense determination.

A story of family, country, and dreams that drive us to push beyond our limitations.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Gemini: A Personal Account of Man's Venture into Space

Rebekah Lyn Why did I love this book?

When researching the early US Space Program, something about Grissom drew me in, wanting to learn more about the man. He completed the first draft of this book just weeks before his tragic death in the Apollo 1 test fire. His editor, Jacob Hay, polished the book into its final form with the approval of Grissom’s wife, Betty, and it was published in 1968. In the introduction to the book, Grissom plainly says he wrote this for his sons, so they could have an idea of the “weird, wonderful enterprise their father was lucky enough to have a part in fulfilling.” It’s not a technical manual or an outside observer’s report, it’s an inside story of what the race to the moon was like and why Grissom thought the moon was a worthy endeavor.   

By Virgil I. Grissom,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The heroic astronaut's personal account of his day-to-day experiences with one of man's greatest ventures into space:the Gemini program'. "The story of the historical flight aboard the Molly Brown as Gus Grissom named the Gemini 3 is breathtakinly descripted : the minute -by-minute sensations and experiences of Gus and his fellow astronaut John Young.


Book cover of Live from Cape Canaveral: Covering the Space Race, from Sputnik to Today

Rebekah Lyn Why did I love this book?

This is a must-read for anyone who wants to follow the history of the US Space program from the very first launch onward. Barbree was the only journalist to cover every launch and while doing so met many of the astronauts and provides behind-the-scenes stories of dedication and comraderie. I had the privilege to participate in a book signing with Mr. Barbree at the US Space Museum in Titusville, FL in 2014. He’s a funny man who has loved all things space since the launch of Sputnik. This book is filled with humor, personal stories, and an understanding of how the media coverage of the space program and NASA has changed over the years. Barbree has also written an outstanding biography of Neil Armstrong, completed just prior to this pioneer’s death. 

By Jay Barbree,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Live from Cape Canaveral as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“From Sputnik to the International Space Station, Jay Barbree has seen it all, and reported it well. ‘Live from Cape Canaveral’ encapsulates the most technically exciting half century in history.” –Neil Armstrong

Some fifty years ago, while a cub reporter, Jay Barbree caught space fever the night that Sputnik passed over Georgia. He moved to the then-sleepy village of Cocoa Beach, Florida, right outside Cape Canaveral, and began reporting on rockets that fizzled as often as they soared. In "Live from Cape Canaveral," Barbree—the only reporter who has covered every mission flown by astronauts—offers his unique perspective on the space…


Book cover of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything

Rebekah Lyn Why did I love this book?

This is a more contemporary book, but Hadfield has a talent for entertaining writing. By the time I finished, I felt like I’d traveled along the journey with him and believed I would enjoy having him as a friend. I like the direction he took, tying lessons learned while with NASA to things we can all use in our own lives. With the number of astronaut biographies/memoirs available, this unique approach made it stand out. He also talks about the decade between his second and third missions when he filled a variety of roles at Johnson Space Center, revealing that the life of an astronaut is not all thrills and stargazing. If more people learned to think like astronauts, looking for problems and how to solve them before they arise, I think we’d overcome many of the obstacles that now hold us back from our full potential.   

By Chris Hadfield,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Back on the earth after three spaceflights, Chris Hadfield's captivating memoir An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth reveals extraordinary stories from his life as an astronaut, and shows how to make the impossible a reality. This edition contains a new afterword.

Colonel Chris Hadfield has spent decades training as an astronaut and has logged nearly 4,000 hours in space. During this time he has broken into a Space Station with a Swiss army knife, disposed of a live snake while piloting a plane, been temporarily blinded while clinging to the exterior of an orbiting spacecraft, and become a YouTube…


Book cover of Elon Musk: Tesla, Spacex, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Rebekah Lyn Why did I love this book?

People either love or hate Elon Musk. I fall into the camp of deeply admiring all he has accomplished and the brillance of the way his mind works. Before reading this book, I knew he was driven and has accomplished things others have spent years struggling with. As I read, I learned just how smart and determined he is. Failure isn’t an option for him, nor is focusing on one project enough to keep him content. His life has been messy in several respects, and much of that is captured in this book. To be sure, his lack of a filter when dealing with people as well as his overly optimistic timelines on just about every project have rubbed people the wrong way, but this insight into the way his mind works and the out-of-the-box way he’s gone about building his companies just might change the opinions of some haters. In many ways, he’s made science and engineering cool, but he’s also worked hard to get where he is with an ambitious future still lying ahead. 

By Ashlee Vance,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

South African born Elon Musk is the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity. Musk wants to save our planet; he wants to send citizens into space, to form a colony on Mars; he wants to make money while doing these things; and he wants us all to know about it. He is the real-life inspiration for the Iron Man series of films starring Robert Downey Junior.

The personal tale of Musk's life comes with all the trappings one associates with a great, drama-filled story. He was a freakishly bright kid who was bullied brutally at school,…


Book cover of The Martian

Rebekah Lyn Why did I love this book?

In my opinion, the book is way better than the movie. There is so much interior monologue that just doesn’t come across in the movie, and that monologue is laugh out loud funny at times. Yes, there are some unrealistic elements to the story, but its fiction and creative license are acceptable. If you’re in need of an engaging story that will bring you bursts of laughter, check this book out!

By Andy Weir,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Martian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old human error are…


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A House on Liberty Street

By Neil Turner,

Book cover of A House on Liberty Street

Neil Turner Author Of A House on Liberty Street

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Traveler Inquisitive Family guy Writer

Neil's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Meet Tony Valenti. His high-flying corporate law career just cratered. His society marriage blew up in a bitter divorce. He's returned to the Chicago suburbs to lick his wounds and regroup in the haven of the Valenti family home. But time to heal isn't in the cards.

Tony's elderly father inexplicably shoots a sheriff's deputy on their front porch. Nobody knows why, and Papa isn't talking. Then their house becomes an unlikely target for condemnation and expropriation by corrupt local officials and their cronies.

With money and hope dwindling, Tony steps up to defend his father and take to city hall, and quickly finds himself in peril when he unearths sinister connections between the cases. The audacity of the plot against them fuels a gritty determination to get to the bottom of what really happened—regardless of the risks and ultimate cost to himself. To win, Tony must earn his father's trust and outwit his wily opponents.

A House on Liberty Street

By Neil Turner,

What is this book about?

A father. A son. A murder.

Meet Tony Valenti. His high-flying corporate law career just cratered. His society marriage blew up in a bitter divorce. He’s returned to the Chicago suburbs to lick his wounds and regroup in the haven of the Valenti family home. But time to heal isn’t in the cards.

Tony’s elderly father inexplicably shoots a sheriff’s deputy on their front porch. Nobody knows why, and Papa isn’t talking. Then their house becomes an unlikely target for condemnation and expropriation by corrupt local officials and their cronies.

With money and hope dwindling, Tony steps up to defend…


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