The best books to make night sky your new BFF

The Books I Picked & Why

The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy's Vanishing Explorers

By Emily Levesque

Book cover of The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy's Vanishing Explorers

Why this book?

Author Emily Levesque seeks out powerful telescopes and the people who run them, looking at the evolution of astronomy from a science based on hands-on observing to one more centered on remote-controlled instruments. In the book, she questions what astronomy may have lost in its shift toward more distanced and abstracted technology—and what sorts of creativity and adventure it could retain if the study of the stars were a little more like it was in centuries past. I enjoyed the hard, but narrative and engaging, look at what professional astronomers gain and lose from the way they look at the stars (and everything else in the sky).


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The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars

By Jo Marchant

Book cover of The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars

Why this book?

This book helped me understand the history of humans’ relationship to the sky, and how our connection to it has in a lot of ways decreased, while civilizational knowledge of what’s actually going on up there has increased. It provides both the means and the motivation for the people of the modern world to act a bit more like the people of the past.


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The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World

By Sarah Stewart Johnson

Book cover of The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World

Why this book?

This book provided me with a way to think of another planet as a real planet—not some abstract spot in the sky. In it, Sarah Stewart Johnson interweaves her own personal story of becoming an astronomer with the science of Mars, the planet she studies, and the efforts of some humans who came before her. Reading it, the philosophical and personal and scientific mixed together in ways that made all three lenses more focused and powerful for me—and made me see the Red Planet in a new way.


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Contact

By Carl Sagan

Book cover of Contact

Why this book?

I read Carl Sagan’s Contact when I was a young teenager, and it’s stayed with me for more than two decades. It details the dogged efforts of an astronomer obsessed with the question “Are we alone?” and explores what it would be like if she found out the answer was “Nope.” The book was an equal mix of science, story, and thought experiments that got me thinking about some of the biggest and oldest questions humans have asked about the universe.


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The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking)

By Katie Mack

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

Why this book?

Who doesn’t love to think about how the universe—so big, so old already—will ultimately end? Reading the book encouraged me to look at the universe as its own thing, of which I and all of Earth, were tiny parts, and tiny parts that would end long before the cosmos itself would. Katie Mack explores what five such conclusions might look like, getting everybody a little more comfortable with the idea that every story has an ending, even if we don’t know what this one looks like.


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