10 books like Contact

By Carl Sagan,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Contact. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Rendezvous with Rama

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Book cover of Rendezvous with Rama

Rama is a spaceship, not a space station, but it's huge and ancient, and at first appears to be abandoned. Then the human explorers realize it's just sleeping. This is a prime example of science fiction's "sense of wonder" at the strangeness of the Universe. When I read it, at about age 14, it utterly blew me away with its combination of rock-hard science and utter weirdness. It also has the best final line ever.

Rendezvous with Rama

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Rendezvous with Rama as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the year 2130, a mysterious and apparently untenanted alien spaceship, Rama, enters our solar system. The first product of an alien civilisation to be encountered by man, it reveals a world of technological marvels and an unparalleled artificial ecology.

But what is its purpose in 2131?

Who is inside it?

And why?


Dragon's Egg

By Robert L. Forward,

Book cover of Dragon's Egg

The idea of intelligent life existing on the surface of a neutron star as massive as our Sun, the size of a mountain, and with a surface gravity 67 billion times that of Earth seems like sheer fantasy but Forward presents impeccable science to make it all seem entirely plausible.

Dragon's Egg

By Robert L. Forward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dragon's Egg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“In science fiction there is only a handful of books that stretch the mind—and this is one of them.”—Arthur C. Clarke
 
In a moving story of sacrifice and triumph, human scientists establish a relationship with intelligent lifeforms—the cheela—living on Dragon’s Egg, a neutron star where one Earth hour is equivalent to hundreds of their years. The cheela culturally evolve from savagery to the discovery of science, and for a brief time, men are their diligent teachers.
 
Praise for Dragon’s Egg
 
“Bob Forward writes in the tradition of Hal Clement’s Mission of Gravity and carries it a giant step (how else?)…


Cosm

By Gregory Benford,

Book cover of Cosm

At the other extreme from Contact, Greg Benford’s COSM involves very small wormholes. Or at least, a wormhole that starts out small. In his variation on the theme, an experiment on Earth accidentally opens a wormhole which in effect creates a new universe, which the experimenters can study and eventually communicate with through the wormhole. Again, real science, but technology a little (this time only a little!) beyond our present capabilities. And it raises the intriguing question of whether our Universe might have been made in this way by a race of superior beings (gods?) in another universe.

Cosm

By Gregory Benford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

COSM brings the extraordinary passion, drama and politics of scientific research to life in a stunning near-future thriller.

On an otherwise ordinary day not long from now, inside a massive installation of ultra-high-energy scientific equipment, something goes wrong with a brilliant young physicist's most ambitious experiment. But this is not a calamity. It will soon be seen as one of the most significant breakthroughs in history. For the explosion has left something behind: a sphere the size of a basketball, made of nothing known to science. As the forces of academia, government, theology and the mass media fight for control…


The Coming of the Quantum Cats

By Frederik Pohl,

Book cover of The Coming of the Quantum Cats: A Novel of Alternate Universes

This might seem a bit off-message because Pohl dropped out of college before finishing his science degree. But he did work as a weather forecaster in the US Navy. And I can’t resist including this book, because it deals with the area of science closest to my heart – many worlds, or parallel universes. The existence of these other worlds next door to our own is the best scientific explanation of the mysteries of quantum physics, such as the famous puzzle of Schrödinger’s Cat, and Pohl wraps it all up in entertaining fashion with a story of what happens when those worlds interact. The fact that Pohl includes a version of myself (actually, several versions of me) in the story has no bearing on my choosing it. I repaid the compliment by including him as a character in my story “Untanglement”, included in my anthology Don’t Look Back' ;-).

The Coming of the Quantum Cats

By Frederik Pohl,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Coming of the Quantum Cats as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant novel of alternate universes by an award-winning science fiction master
 
A breakthrough in quantum physics has shattered the boundaries between alternate worlds. History is in chaos as billions of possible futures collide. As a conquering army mounts an invasion of neighboring realities, a handful of men and women from a dozen different timelines risk their lives to safeguard an infinity of worlds.

Blending thrilling suspense with brilliant scientific speculation, Frederik Pohl’s The Coming of the Quantum Cats is a triumph of the imagination by a Hugo and Nebula–winning master of science fiction.
 
“A powerful novel of parallel worlds…


The End of Everything

By Katie Mack,

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

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.

The End of Everything

By Katie Mack,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The End of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE ECONOMIST, OBSERVER, NEW SCIENTIST, BBC FOCUS, INDEPENDENT AND WASHINGTON POST

'Weird science, explained beautifully' - John Scalzi

'A rollicking tour of the wildest physics. . . Like an animated discussion with your favourite quirky and brilliant professor' Leah Crane, New Scientist

From one of the most dynamic rising stars in astrophysics, an eye-opening look at five ways the universe could end, and the mind-blowing lessons each scenario reveals about the most important ideas in cosmology

We know the universe had a beginning. But what happens at the end of the story?…


Slaughterhouse-Five

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Book cover of Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five is a literary classic about a man who becomes "unstuck in time" and travels between different points in his life. The blending of grim reality with science fiction elevates the book above a single anti-war genre. I was so intrigued by the idea of reliving any moment of your life as non-linear events. Everything always has existed and always will.

Foreshadowing and free will are strong undertones. How much of life is designed and how much do we get to choose? Mixed timelines can be confusing, but often the end is worth the journey. After all, a lifetime’s worth of reality and imagination can be pieced together in strange and wonderful ways.

Slaughterhouse-Five

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Slaughterhouse-Five as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A special fiftieth anniversary edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, “a desperate, painfully honest attempt to confront the monstrous crimes of the twentieth century” (Time), featuring a new introduction by Kevin Powers, author of the National Book Award finalist The Yellow Birds
 
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time
 
Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous World War II firebombing of Dresden, the novel is the result of what Kurt Vonnegut described as a twenty-three-year struggle to write a book about what he had…


The City of Ember

By Jeanne DuPrau,

Book cover of The City of Ember

The central theme running through the book’s post-apocalyptic landscape is a series of clues that must be solved, in true mystery fashion. Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow follow the signs left behind by the original builders of the underground City of Ember to escape to the outside world. Along the way, the reader is pulled further and further into the story, trying to understand this strange world and decipher the meaning of the clues alongside our intrepid heroes. Also thrown in is some old-fashioned political corruption to add to the mystery feel.

The City of Ember

By Jeanne DuPrau,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The City of Ember as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ember is the only light in a dark world. But when its lamps begin to flicker, two friends must race to escape the dark. This highly acclaimed adventure series is a modern-day classic-with over 4 MILLION copies sold!

The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to dim. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she's sure it holds a secret that will save the city. Now, she and her friend Doon must race to figure out the clues to…


Variable Stars

By Christina Koning,

Book cover of Variable Stars

Caroline Herschel was the sister of William Herschel, a church organist and piano tutor, latterly the discoverer of the planet Uranus, a mapper of the skies, and an astronomer at the court of King George III. At first, she devoted herself to her brother, acting as his housekeeper, musical accompanist, and PA in Bath and then as his scientific assistant in Slough, near Windsor Castle. She submerged her own volition to his. But gradually she found her own life in astronomy, and discovered 8 comets, pooh-poohed as small by the King but much appreciated by Queen Charlotte and her ladies. She became known internationally in her own right. She lived to a considerable old age in Hannover, where she was born. The book is a fictionalised but real-life story that echoes between the eighteenth century and our own time.

Variable Stars

By Christina Koning,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a story of love and astronomy; music and silence; secrets and truth-telling; of world-changing discoveries, and unrequited desire. Moving from York in the 1780s to Regency Bath, and then to Hanover in the 1840s, it concerns the lives of three people-all astronomers. There is Caroline, torn between her passion for music and her passion for the stars; John, deaf from childhood, whose extraordinary mathematical gifts afford him perspectives not available to others; and Edward, friend and mentor to Caroline and to John, who must conceal his innermost feelings from them both. All three find fulfilment in the heavens…


The Falling Sky

By Pippa Goldschmidt,

Book cover of The Falling Sky

Scottish astronomer and novelist Pippa Goldschmidt mixes astronomy and fiction in her novel. The book provides insight into the way that astronomy is carried out now in modern, remote, mountain-top observatories and in space (I can vouch for its verisimilitude). Jeanette is a young, lonely, junior researcher working in a university department dominated by male egos and incompetents. She puts academic politics and unsatisfactory affairs aside and travels to a mountain-top observatory in Chile for her research, making an unexpected discovery that throws her into conflict with her colleagues. Like her love life, her scientific life spirals out of her control: the Universe is ordered by science but her life and the lives of scientists are not.

The Falling Sky

By Pippa Goldschmidt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A blackly comic campus satire combined with a heart-breaking family mystery, The Falling Sky brilliantly mixes fiction and astronomy into a fascinating, compelling, and moving narrative

Jeanette is a young, solitary post-doctoral researcher who has dedicated her life to studying astronomy. Struggling to compete in a prestigious university department dominated by egos and incompetents, and caught in a cycle of brief and unsatisfying affairs, she travels to a mountaintop observatory in Chile to focus on her research. There Jeanette stumbles upon evidence that will challenge the fundamentals of the universe, drawing her into conflict with her colleagues and the scientific…


Two on a Tower

By Thomas Hardy,

Book cover of Two on a Tower

In this Wessex novel by Thomas Hardy, Lady Constantine’s explorer-husband has been missing for years when she offers patronage to the Byronic astronomer, Swithin St. Cleeve, letting him use a tower on her estate as an observatory. He shows her the stars through his telescope, passionately explaining what lies behind the astronomical images. Presuming her husband dead, she secretly marries St Cleeve, but a complicated legacy intrudes, and it transpires that her husband has been living with an African princess before blowing his head off. Suicide, bigamy, a lost legacy, an illegitimate child, the plot lines (there are many more than I have mentioned!) are resolved by numerous and dramatic deaths.  This scandalous romance is melodramatically plotted, but gains a certain sublime power as an “emotional history of two infinitesimal lives against the stupendous background of the stellar universe".

Two on a Tower

By Thomas Hardy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Two on a Tower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

TWO ON A TOWER (1882) is a tale of star-crossed love in which Hardy sets the emotional lives of his two lovers against the background of the stellar universe. The unhappily married Lady Constantine breaks all the rules of social decorum when she falls in love with Swithin St. Cleeve, an astronomer who is ten years her junior. Her husband's death leaves the lovers free to marry, but the discovery of a legacy forces them apart. This is Hardy's most complete treatment of the theme of love across the class and age divide and the fullest expression of his fascination…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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