The best books on stargazing

Why am I passionate about this?

My journey into astronomy began with a small and rickety telescope purchased at a local pharmacy. I found it fascinating to observe the Moon and Saturn with their rings using such meager equipment. I decided to share these views with others by writing my first book, 50 Things to See with a Small Telescope, an easy-to-understand beginner’s guide which I self-published and sold through Amazon starting in 2013. I have since published a number of other books on space for children. Besides writing, I work as the telescope operator at Burke-Gaffney Observatory. In 2020 I was awarded the Simon Newcomb Award for excellence in science communication.


I wrote...

50 Things to See with a Telescope: A young stargazer's guide

By John A. Read,

Book cover of 50 Things to See with a Telescope: A young stargazer's guide

What is my book about?

50 Things to See with a Telescope covers everything you need to know to identify constellations, planets, stars, galaxies, nebulae, and more. Beginner stargazers will find star hopping easy with clearly plotted routes on images of the sky and detailed views from a backyard telescope. 

This easy-to-read, fully illustrated stargazing book will enrich your experience of the skies above. For those living south of the equator, a Southern Hemisphere edition of this book is also available. This book is part of an award-winning series, including: 50 Things to See on the Moon, 50 Animals that have been to Space, 50 Space Missions that Changed the World, and 110 Things to See with a Telescope (coming July 2021).

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe

John A. Read Why did I love this book?

This classic book is a veritable encyclopedia of stargazing knowledge, including telescope operation, celestial mechanics, and astrophotography. Terence brings his decades of stargazing experience to bear, offering tips and tricks that will push your backyard observations to the next level. Even if you only have binoculars, this book contains more than enough stargazing activities to keep you busy for years.

By Terence Dickinson, Roberta Cooke (illustrator), Adolf Schaller (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first three editions of NightWatch sold more than 600,000 copies, making it the top-selling stargazing guide in the world for the last 20 years. The key feature of this classic title is the section of star charts that are cherished by backyard astronomers everywhere. Each new edition has outsold the previous one because of thorough revisions and additional new material.

NightWatch has been acclaimed as the best general interest introduction to astronomy. The fourth edition has improvements over the 3rd edition in every chapter, including: The famous charts, ideal for stargazers using a small telescope or binoculars; A complete…


Book cover of Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope - And How to Find Them

John A. Read Why did I love this book?

Turn Left at Orion is arguably the most famous stargazing book of all time. This book dives deep into the nuances of amateur astronomy, from choosing the right stargazing location, to combatting dew on your lenses, and cleaning your optics. In addition to detailed star maps customized for various types of telescopes, it is filled with tables, listing literally thousands of potential stargazing targets for those blessed with dark skies, far from city lights. 

By Guy Consolmagno, Dan M. Davis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Turn Left at Orion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With over 150,000 copies sold since its first publication, this is one of the most popular astronomy books of all time. This unique guidebook to the night sky shows you how to observe a host of celestial wonders. Its distinct format of object-by-object spreads illustrates how deep-sky objects and planets actually look through a small telescope, while its large pages and spiral binding allow for use outside. Along with updated star names and astronomical information, this new edition provides links to a dedicated webpage with up-to-date tables and images, and an improved planets chapter. The many Dobsonian-friendly images and small…


Book cover of 2021 Night Sky Almanac: A Month-By-Month Guide to North America's Skies from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

John A. Read Why did I love this book?

One of the challenges with stargazing books is that the sky is always changing. The planets are in a different place every night, new comets are discovered, and the timing of eclipses varies from year to year. This is why the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) produces an annual night sky Almanac. This simple guide details exactly which astronomical events will occur during each month of the current year! Also, the author, Nicole Mortillaro, is just a super cool person. Be sure to follow her on social media for the latest news about everything space!

By Nicole Mortillaro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 2021 Night Sky Almanac as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A portable guidebook for enjoying the night sky in 2021.

2021 Night Sky Almanac is the ideal resource for both novice and experienced sky watchers in the United States and Canada, with all of the advice, information and data that enthusiasts need to understand and enjoy the wonders of the night sky.

This in-depth guide first introduces readers to the objects in the sky -- from stars, to comets, to globular clusters -- and then takes them through the cosmic events to look out for each month in 2021, with sky maps, moon phase charts and info about the planets.…


Book cover of The Cambridge Star Atlas

John A. Read Why did I love this book?

When you stargaze almost every night, you’re always looking for new targets. There comes a point in your astronomy career when it’s time to move up at a star atlas, which has well, pretty much everything there is to see in a backyard telescope! This book includes season star maps for both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, as well as basic lunar maps. 

Unlike my beginner stargazing books, which typically feature a single target per page, each chart in this book features several hundred targets. Note that most of the included galaxies are only visible from the darkest skies, far from city lights. So, be sure to have that red flashlight on hand and get ready for a busy night!

By Wil Tirion,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This classic star atlas is ideal for both beginning astronomers and more experienced observers worldwide. The clear, full-color maps show stars, clusters and galaxies visible with binoculars or a small telescope. The atlas also features constellation boundaries and the Milky Way, and lists objects that are interesting to observe. This new edition features a clearer map of the Moon's surface, showing craters and features; a second Moon map, mirror reversed for users of telescopes with star diagonals; enhanced index charts showing the constellations more clearly; and a new data table listing stars hosting planetary systems. It is now spiral bound,…


Book cover of 21st Century Atlas of the Moon

John A. Read Why did I love this book?

Stargazers find out pretty quickly that the Moon can be a nuisance. After first quarter, the Moon illuminates the entire sky, and washing out all but the brightest stars and deep-sky objects like galaxies and nebulae. Seasoned astronomers soon learn that if the Moon is up, it’s what you should be observing! The challenge is to appreciate what you’re seeing.

When I was doing research for my book, 50 things to see on the Moon, I observed the Moon every chance I got, making notes about what I saw. But early on, I had no idea what I was looking at! This lunar atlas helped me appreciate the Moon’s topography, geography, geology, and so much more.

By Charles A. Wood, Maurice J. S. Collins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 21st Century Atlas of the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On most nights and days, the Moon is visible somewhere in the sky. For many, simply noticing it is a pleasure, yet it is also a fascinating world of craters, mountains, and volcanoes worthy of a closer look. The 21st Century Atlas of the Moon is uniquely designed for the backyard, amateur astronomer. As an indispensable guide to telescopic moon observation, it can be used at the telescope or as a desk reference. It is both accessible to the novice and valuable to the expert. With over two hundred Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images, the highest quality images of the moon…


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A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

Book cover of A Diary in the Age of Water

Nina Munteanu Author Of Darwin's Paradox

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Ecologist Mother Teacher Explorer

Nina's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This climate fiction novel follows four generations of women and their battles against a global giant that controls and manipulates Earth’s water. Told mostly through a diary and drawing on scientific observation and personal reflection, Lynna’s story unfolds incrementally, like climate change itself. Her gritty memoir describes a near-future Toronto in the grips of severe water scarcity.

Single mother and limnologist Lynna witnesses disturbing events as she works for the powerful international utility CanadaCorp. Fearing for the welfare of her rebellious teenage daughter, Lynna sets in motion a series of events that tumble out of her control with calamitous consequence. The novel explores identity, relationship, and our concept of what is “normal”—as a nation and an individual—in a world that is rapidly and incomprehensibly changing.

A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

What is this book about?

Centuries from now, in a post-climate change dying boreal forest of what used to be northern Canada, Kyo, a young acolyte called to service in the Exodus, discovers a diary that may provide her with the answers to her yearning for Earth’s past—to the Age of Water, when the “Water Twins” destroyed humanity in hatred—events that have plagued her nightly in dreams. Looking for answers to this holocaust—and disturbed by her macabre longing for connection to the Water Twins—Kyo is led to the diary of a limnologist from the time just prior to the destruction. This gritty memoir describes a…


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