22 books like Failure Is Not an Option

By Gene Kranz,

Here are 22 books that Failure Is Not an Option fans have personally recommended if you like Failure Is Not an Option. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Fly for Your Life: The Story of R. R. Stanford Tuck

Jay A. Stout Author Of Jayhawk: Love, Loss, Liberation, and Terror Over the Pacific

From my list on personal accounts of World War II air combat.

Who am I?

I am an aviation historian and writer, a defense analyst, and a retired, combat-experienced, Marine Corps fighter pilot. I am one of the lucky ones. Since early childhood, I wanted nothing more than to become a fighter pilot. It was a combination of good fortune, hard work, and a bit of talent that made it possible for me to realize that dream. I was inspired by the memoirs and recollections of World War II fighter pilots, and I read every book on the topic that I could find.  Following my military service, I transitioned from a reader to a writer; my experience as a military pilot helps to make my books real and credible.

Jay's book list on personal accounts of World War II air combat

Jay A. Stout Why did Jay love this book?

A classic biography about one of the Royal Air Force’s most colorful fighter pilots during the early part of the war.  Robert Stanford Tuck was born into a wealthy family, but had an individualistic spirit that was sometimes at odds with that family.  Prior to the war, he went to sea aboard a tramp steamer where he did much growing up. Upon his return, he was drawn to the excitement of flight and joined the Royal Air Force. Not an intrinsically gifted pilot, he nearly washed out of training, but ultimately flourished. He excelled as a leader as one of the “few” during the Battle of Britain. 

By Larry Forrester,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fly for Your Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the story of a magnificent pilot, a reckless, steely-nerved warrior of the sky, feared by the Luftwaffe and known as a legend in the Royal Air Force Fighter Command. He was shot down four times, wounded twice, crash landed in the Channel, and survived two air collisions. Officially, he bagged 29 enemy planes. Unofficially, he destroyed 35. He won the Distinguished Service Order and was only the second man in history to gain a second bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was a national hero recognized by his King, his Queen, and the people of the world.…


Book cover of Fat Dogs and French Estates, Part 4

Nick Albert Author Of Living the Dream in Rural Ireland

From my list on dealing with unexpected events.

Who am I?

Nick Albert is British, but for close to 20-years, he has lived in a ramshackle farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland with his wife and several unruly but affectionate dogs. He's the author of the bestselling comedy memoir series, Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds, and the twisty thriller Hunting the Wrecking Crew. Nick's greatest pleasure in life has always been to make people laugh. Although outwardly capable and in control of his life, Nick considers himself to be the poster boy for the saying, "If it can go wrong, it will!" Therefore, he has a good eye for inspiring books about dealing with unexpected events.

Nick's book list on dealing with unexpected events

Nick Albert Why did Nick love this book?

I think it is an excellent example of how ingenuity and mutual loving support can overcome an otherwise devastating event.

When Beth Haslam and her hilariously grumpy husband, Jack, and their lovable dogs, set off to buy a second home in rural France, they didn't expect to become part-time foresters, raising rare breed pheasants and caring for wild boar. In this fourth episode of Beth's excellent five-part memoir series, the Haslam's have their lives turned upside-down when a raging storm devastates vast sections of their forest. As if this disaster wasn't already bad enough, the authorities then demanded that the 1,000s of fallen trees be removed. But at what cost? Is their idyllic French retirement over, or can they recover and rebuild without going bust?

By Beth Haslam,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fat Dogs and French Estates, Part 4 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Beth, her beloved dog, Sam, and grumpy husband, Jack, return to France, disaster strikes. As they battle to restore order to their home, French authorities visit with shocking news. Obliged to sit examinations in French, coping with furred and feathered babies, and wrangling French tradesmen, there’s no let-up in this action-packed episode of the Haslams’ adventures.


Book cover of Two Old Fools on a Camel

Nick Albert Author Of Living the Dream in Rural Ireland

From my list on dealing with unexpected events.

Who am I?

Nick Albert is British, but for close to 20-years, he has lived in a ramshackle farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland with his wife and several unruly but affectionate dogs. He's the author of the bestselling comedy memoir series, Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds, and the twisty thriller Hunting the Wrecking Crew. Nick's greatest pleasure in life has always been to make people laugh. Although outwardly capable and in control of his life, Nick considers himself to be the poster boy for the saying, "If it can go wrong, it will!" Therefore, he has a good eye for inspiring books about dealing with unexpected events.

Nick's book list on dealing with unexpected events

Nick Albert Why did Nick love this book?

The author and her husband are trapped in an almost untenable situation, but they pull together to see things through to a satisfactory conclusion. I thought it was a great example of that British philosophy to "Keep calm and carry on."

In this third memoir in her enjoyable Two Old Fools series, Victoria and her husband Joe find that rising costs and a shrinking bank balance are threatening their idyllic retirement. After applying online, they leave their beloved Spanish mountain village to teach for a year in Bahrain. But their timing couldn't have been worse. Just after they arrive, the Arab revolution erupts, throwing the country into violent events that would make world headlines. Suddenly they are trapped. Should they leave and risk losing their Spanish dream or stay and face a greater hazard?

By Victoria Twead,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

★ New York Times Bestselling author ★
"James Herriot meets Driving over Lemons"

Reluctantly, Vicky and Joe leave their Spanish mountain village to work for a year in the Middle East. How could they know that the Arab revolution was poised to erupt, throwing them into violent events that would make world headlines?

Teaching Arab kids, working with crazy teachers, forming life-long friendships and being placed under house arrest, Vicky and Joe laugh and lurch through their year in Bahrain.

Includes FREE photobook and Arabic recipes from Nadia Sawalha.


Book cover of Watery Ways

Linda Kovic-Skow Author Of French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley

From my list on unusual travel stories.

Who am I?

Linda is an award-winning author and travel enthusiast. Her two-book memoir series, French Illusions, is based on her diaries from 1979 and 1980. She has completed an adaption of these books into a screenplay and is currently seeking representation. Originally from Seattle, Linda now resides in Saint Petersburg, Florida with her longtime husband near her youngest daughter and grandchildren. To this day, she tells people that she is thankful for her storybook life.

Linda's book list on unusual travel stories

Linda Kovic-Skow Why did Linda love this book?

With humor and grace, Valerie describes her trials and tribulations as she transitions from a divorce and corporate job in Johannesburg, to renting and eventually purchasing an old barge in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. As she points out, “one of the first things you learn about living on a barge is that an awful lot of stuff is going to end up in the water.”

By Valerie Poore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this account of her first year of living on a barge in Rotterdam's Oude Haven, Valerie Poore’s overriding impression is that “one of the first things you learn about living on a barge is that an awful lot of stuff is going to end up in the water”.The year in question is 2001, and at forty something, the author takes the plunge to exchange her life in the corporate fast lane of Johannesburg, for life on a historic Dutch barge. Every month brings new challenges, obstacles and experiences. She meets a whole world of fascinating people, not least of…


Book cover of Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965

Michelle Evans Author Of The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings Into Space

From my list on to contemplate our place in the universe.

Who am I?

My passion for science and technology is the fault of my father, who first took me to Edwards AFB when I was five years old. He would pawn me off on a colleague to keep me busy while he would do the work he needed to do. That meant that I got to wander around the hangars, watching all the fascinating things happening to take the X-15 into space, and getting to meet the people who made it all happen. That passion spilled over into science fiction as well, along with the idea of trying to discover what the universe was not only like, but what it could be.

Michelle's book list on to contemplate our place in the universe

Michelle Evans Why did Michelle love this book?

This book is written by two dear friends who are the reason I am a published author myself. However, I don’t recommend it just because they are close to me, but because it is a wonderful book that kicked off the entire Outward Odyssey series, of which my book is a part. This magnificent book set a new standard for historical work on space exploration by focusing on the people instead of the hardware. The stories you’ll read here will show you why we are who we are and why humans will always strive for the unknown.

By Francis French, Colin Burgess,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Into That Silent Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was a time of bold new technology, historic moments, and international jousting on the final frontier. But it was also a time of human drama, of moments less public but no less dramatic in the lives of those who made the golden age of space flight happen. These are the moments and the lives that Into That Silent Sea captures, a book that tells the intimate stories of the men and women, American and Russian, who made the space race their own and gave the era its compelling character. These pages chronicle a varied and riveting cavalcade of human…


Book cover of Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight

Slava Gerovitch Author Of Soviet Space Mythologies: Public Images, Private Memories, and the Making of a Cultural Identity (Russian and East European Studies)

From my list on astronauts and cosmonauts.

Who am I?

My interest in space history began with stamp collecting and continued much later with visits to Russian archives, Star City, and aerospace companies, and interviews with cosmonauts and space engineers, who often told their personal stories for the first time. As a historian of science and technology teaching at MIT, I was especially interested in cases where technology and society intertwined: cosmonauts and engineers lobbied politicians with competing agendas, personal rivalries tore apart ambitious projects, and pervasive secrecy perpetuated public myths and private counter-myths. My digging into tensions and arguments that shaped the Soviet space program resulted in two books, Soviet Space Mythologies and Voices of the Soviet Space Program.

Slava's book list on astronauts and cosmonauts

Slava Gerovitch Why did Slava love this book?

The book interweaves the human story of risk and decision-making and the technological account of successes and failures of onboard computing in the Apollo program. It makes a fascinating comparison with the parallel story of techno-human systems in the Soviet space program explored in my book. While Soviet cosmonauts routinely served as a backup for automatics, American astronauts successfully fought to seize control of their missions from the computer and to perform manually each of the lunar landings.

By David A. Mindell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The incredible story of how human pilots and automated systems worked together to achieve the ultimate achievement in flight—the lunar landings of NASA’s Apollo program
 
As Apollo 11’s Lunar Module descended toward the moon under automatic control, a program alarm in the guidance computer’s software nearly caused a mission abort. Neil Armstrong responded by switching off the automatic mode and taking direct control. He stopped monitoring the computer and began flying the spacecraft, relying on skill to land it and earning praise for a triumph of human over machine. In Digital Apollo, engineer-historian David Mindell takes this famous moment as…


Book cover of Spacefarers: Images of Astronauts and Cosmonauts in the Heroic Era of Spaceflight

Slava Gerovitch Author Of Soviet Space Mythologies: Public Images, Private Memories, and the Making of a Cultural Identity (Russian and East European Studies)

From my list on astronauts and cosmonauts.

Who am I?

My interest in space history began with stamp collecting and continued much later with visits to Russian archives, Star City, and aerospace companies, and interviews with cosmonauts and space engineers, who often told their personal stories for the first time. As a historian of science and technology teaching at MIT, I was especially interested in cases where technology and society intertwined: cosmonauts and engineers lobbied politicians with competing agendas, personal rivalries tore apart ambitious projects, and pervasive secrecy perpetuated public myths and private counter-myths. My digging into tensions and arguments that shaped the Soviet space program resulted in two books, Soviet Space Mythologies and Voices of the Soviet Space Program.

Slava's book list on astronauts and cosmonauts

Slava Gerovitch Why did Slava love this book?

I was fascinated by how much cultural representations of astronauts and cosmonauts reveal about our societies in this rich and diverse volume. US pop culture is analyzed through astronaut gender representations in TV series, different portrayals of pilots-astronauts and scientists-astronauts in the movies, and the use of American frontier mythology tropes. Comparing representations of spacefarers in different national cultures shows that even glossy magazines carried an ideological message: Soviets traced their achievements to the advantages of socialism, while Americans touted liberty and openness. Finally, cultural attitudes are revealed by media attention to the changing professional, gender, and race demographics of the astronaut corps in the 1980s. In particular, the media treated women astronauts differently from men by emphasizing their feminine traits and family life instead of focusing on space work.

By Michael J. Neufeld,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The recent 50th anniversaries of the first human spaceflights by the Soviet Union and the United States, and the 30th anniversary of the launching of the first U.S. Space Shuttle mission, have again brought to mind the pioneering accomplishments of the first quarter century of humans in space. Historians, political scientists and others have extensively examined the technical, programmatic and political history of human spaceflight from the 1960s to the 1980s, but work is only beginning on the social and cultural history of the pioneering era. One rapidly developing area of recent scholarship is the examination of the images of…


Book cover of Flight: My Life in Mission Control

Patrick Chiles Author Of Frozen Orbit

From my list on space history that read like novels.

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with space exploration since watching the Apollo missions as a child. As an adult, I devoured every book I could find on the subject while nursing my own desire to create “what if” stories that were not too far removed from present day. A career in managing flight operations gave me some appreciation of the technical challenges and personality types, experiences which I’ve extrapolated into my fiction. Some of my novels have been described as “Airport for the 21st century” and “Apollo 13 meets The Hunt for Red October.” The books on this list were the foundation of my early research and remain favorites to this day.

Patrick's book list on space history that read like novels

Patrick Chiles Why did Patrick love this book?

This is an enlightening memoir from the founder and driving force of Mission Control at the beginning of the space program. Kraft’s account offers a more complete understanding of this era, with behind-the-scenes perspectives which are no less gripping than those of the more celebrated astronauts.

He deftly illustrates the tension of making rapid-fire decisions with life-or-death consequences, often with incomplete information. While both controllers and astronauts had strong technical backgrounds, and equally strong personalities, flight directors required a different mindset which Mr. Kraft likens to conducting an orchestra. His accounts of certain events, when juxtaposed against those of the astronauts involved, demonstrate why the people doing the flying are not necessarily the ones who should be running the program—which can be a staggeringly hard sell when pitted against forceful characters hailed as national heroes.

By Christopher Kraft,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his New York Times bestseller, Chris Kraft delivers an unforgettable account of his life in Mission Control. The first NASA flight director, Kraft emerged from boyhood in small-town America to become a visionary who played an integral role in what would become the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It's all here, from the legendary Mercury missions that first sent Americans into space through the Gemini and Apollo missions that landed them on the moon. The great heroes of space are here, too-Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, and Buzz Aldrin-leading the space race that would change the…


Book cover of Apollo in the Age of Aquarius

Janet Vertesi Author Of Shaping Science: Organizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASA's Teams

From my list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective.

Who am I?

Also known as “Margaret Mead among the Starfleet,” I’m a Princeton professor who has been embedded with NASA missions for two decades as a social scientist. I’ve observed missions to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, and beyond; consulted with NASA as a sociological expert; and written two books, with a third on the way. Growing up, I always loved science and technology, but not just for the ideas: for the people behind the findings, the passion they bring to their work, and the ways in which culture and politics play a role in how science gets done. Writing about this, I hope to humanize science and make it accessible for everyday readers.

Janet's book list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective

Janet Vertesi Why did Janet love this book?

“A rat done bit my sister Nell, but Whitey’s on the moon,” quipped Gil Scott Heron in 1970.

As the Apollo missions blasted into space one by one, they took off from an America rocked by the Vietnam War, a growing environmentalist lobby, and the transformative civil rights movement. We often forget about this overlap, but historian Maher recovers what was a rich exchange between members of these social movements and NASA.

After reading this book, I can’t think about JFK’s famous moonshot without thinking about the 1960’s culture wars and how this vibrant backdrop also brought America to the moon.

By Neil M. Maher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Apollo in the Age of Aquarius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Eugene M. Emme Astronautical Literature Award
A Bloomberg View Must-Read Book of the Year
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the Year

"A substance-rich, original on every page exploration of how the space program interacted with the environmental movement, and also with the peace and 'Whole Earth' movements of the 1960s."
-Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

The summer of 1969 saw astronauts land on the moon for the first time and hippie hordes descend on Woodstock. This lively and original account of the space race makes the case that the conjunction of these two era-defining events was not…


Book cover of Light from Other Stars

Rita Chang-Eppig Author Of Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea

From my list on if you find genre boundaries kind of silly.

Who am I?

As an immigrant, an Asian American, and a gender-questioning person, I’ve never fit comfortably anywhere. So perhaps it’s no surprise that my writing isn’t easily categorizable either: many have told me that my work is too literary to be considered SF/F and too SF/F to be strictly literary. But what is genre anyway? My favorite books have always been the ones that straddled genres, and every time I read a wonderful book that can’t be easily labeled or marketed, I grow even more sure that the future of literature lies in fluid, boundary-crossing, transgressive texts. Here are some of my favorites—I hope you enjoy them.

Rita's book list on if you find genre boundaries kind of silly

Rita Chang-Eppig Why did Rita love this book?

It is my sincerest belief that science fiction loses its purpose when it focuses too much on the science and too little on the humans (or aliens, or sentient spores) at the center of the story.

No one can accuse Swyler’s Light from Other Stars of that. Straddling the line between literary and science fiction, this novel is about space travel, yes, but it’s also about parent-child bonds, friendship, and the people of a small town in Florida in all their idiosyncrasies, virtues, and flaws.

This novel will make you think (mostly about physics), but it will also make you deeply feel.     

By Erika Swyler,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Light from Other Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Long Island Reads 2020 Selection * A Real Simple Best Book of 2019

From the bestselling author of The Book of Speculation, a “tender and ambitious” (Vulture) novel about time, loss, and the wonders of the universe.

Eleven-year-old Nedda Papas is obsessed with becoming an astronaut. In 1986 in Easter, a small Florida Space Coast town, her dreams seem almost within reach--if she can just grow up fast enough. Theo, the scientist father she idolizes, is consumed by his own obsessions. Laid off from his job at NASA and still reeling from the loss of Nedda's newborn brother several…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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