The best books to take you to another world. Literally.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been in love with the Universe since I was a kid. Astronomy has always been my passion, and eventually became my career. This drove me to get my astronomy PhD and work on Hubble for a decade before starting to write and do public outreach about science. I’ve been on podcasts, radio, TV, and consulted for books and blockbuster sci-fi movies. I love science and science fiction – stories are one of the most powerful ways we relate to the Universe. I live and breathe this stuff every day, and my greatest joy is motivating that passion for science in others.


I wrote...

Under Alien Skies: A Sightseer's Guide to the Universe

By Philip Plait,

Book cover of Under Alien Skies: A Sightseer's Guide to the Universe

What is my book about?

Under Alien Skies is the ultimate sightseer’s guide to the Universe, a tour book like no other that takes you to alien worlds and shows you what it’s like to actually be there. Experience a binary star sunset like Luke did in Star Wars, watch as a million stars come out at night in a cluster, and fly through a star-forming nebula, all described by a professional astronomer and all scientifically accurate based on our understanding of the Universe today.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Martian

Philip Plait Why did I love this book?

If you’ve seen the movie it’s time to read the book.

The Martian gets a lot of the science right as an astronaut stuck on Mars tries to get home using whatever technology he has on hand to survive. The descriptions of the planet are really good, giving you a feel for what it would be like to live on the Red Planet.

Weir does take a science shortcut or two to advance the plot, but the overall story is so gripping I’m OK with it. 

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…


Book cover of Leviathan Wakes

Philip Plait Why did I love this book?

These books launched one of the best sci-fi TV shows of all time, and are fantastically written space opera.

Humans have expanded into space, living on the Moon, Mars, and the asteroids. We’re on the edge of war, political hardliners aren’t helping… and then a weird, mysterious substance makes things much, much worse.

The science in these books is spot-on, and the storytelling completely absorbing while spanning an epic scale.

By James S. A. Corey,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked Leviathan Wakes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Humanity has colonized the planets - interstellar travel is still beyond our reach, but the solar system has become a dense network of colonies. But there are tensions - the mineral-rich outer planets resent their dependence on Earth and Mars and the political and military clout they wield over the Belt and beyond. Now, when Captain Jim Holden's ice miner stumbles across a derelict, abandoned ship, he uncovers a secret that threatens to throw the entire system into war. Attacked by a stealth ship belonging to the Mars fleet, Holden must find a way to uncover the motives behind the…


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

Philip Plait Why did I love this book?

This is, hands down, the single best book about the Apollo Moon missions ever written.

Comprehensive, accurate, and utterly engrossing, Chaikin takes you back to the 1960s and 70s and to the Moon to tell the story about how humans visited their first alien world.

Far and away my favorite book on the topic — and as we begin the journey to go back to the Moon, a great time to read up on when we did it first.

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?

'IMPRESSIVE AND ILLUMINATING' TOM HANKS

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 How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

Philip Plait Why did I love this book?

Astronomer Mike Brown is dedicated to finding small icy worlds beyond Neptune.

His discovery of the frozen object Eris in 2005—only slightly smaller but more massive than Pluto—is credited for kick-starting the official debate of how we define a planet, and this book is his personal telling of that story.

He weaves it together with the birth of his daughter in a well-told and engaging tale that will give you insight on how discoveries can change how we see the Universe.

By Mike Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The solar system most of us grew up with included nine planets, with Mercury closest to the sun and Pluto at the outer edge. Then, in 2005, astronomer Mike Brown made the discovery of a lifetime: a tenth planet, Eris, slightly bigger than Pluto. But instead of its resulting in one more planet being added to our solar system, Brown’s find ignited a firestorm of controversy that riled the usually sedate world of astronomy and launched him into the public eye. The debate culminated in the demotion of Pluto from real planet to the newly coined category of “dwarf” planet.…


Book cover of Contact

Philip Plait Why did I love this book?

Carl Sagan is still one of the most well-known astronomers, renowned for his ability to create wonder and awe in his descriptions of the Universe.

In this book, he’s at his finest form, a science fiction tale of the discovery of an intelligent alien signal coming from space, and how the world reacts to it. It’s a wonderful treatise on religion, science, belief, and evidence.

If you’ve seen the movie, read the book: It’s far superior, and the very last page will give you chills and leave you questioning what you think reality is.

By Carl Sagan,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Contact as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In December 1999 a multinational team journeys out to the stars, to the most awesome encounter in human history. Who - or what - is out there?


You might also like...

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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