100 books like First Man

By James R. Hansen,

Here are 100 books that First Man fans have personally recommended if you like First Man. 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 A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts

Christopher Gainor Author Of The Bomb and America's Missile Age

From my list on the exploration of space.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, I was inspired by the feats of the first astronauts and cosmonauts, culminating with the Apollo expeditions to the Moon. As I grew up, I found that I was more of a historian than an engineer or a physicist. So, I began writing the stories of some of the people who were involved in the 1960s space race. I have since written about topics ranging from the strategic missiles that kicked off the space race to the Hubble Space Telescope, and today, I am the editor of Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly. 

Christopher's book list on the exploration of space

Christopher Gainor Why did Christopher love this book?

I have read many books about the Apollo astronauts and their journeys to the Moon, but this very readable book is the only one that took me along on the greatest human adventure in space.

Chaikin also left me knowing each one of these astronauts better than I did when I started.

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 Forever Young: A Life of Adventure in Air and Space

Christopher Mari Author Of Ocean of Storms

From my list on history of space exploration.

Why am I passionate about this?

My love of space exploration is an old one. I remember learning about the Apollo missions when I was very young, both from television and children’s books, and was amazed that people had worked together to achieve such a monumental task. I was also massively disappointed to discover that no one had been back to the Moon since 1972! Since then, I’ve read deeply on the history of space exploration and wished intensely that every new NASA plan would bring us back out to explore our solar system. Part of the reason I wrote Ocean of Storms with my buddy Jeremy K. Brown was to create a reality in which that return to the Moon actually came true. 

Christopher's book list on history of space exploration

Christopher Mari Why did Christopher love this book?

The autobiography of John Young is almost a history of NASA itself since he began his career there in 1962 and retired from it in 2004. Young was the only astronaut to fly two Gemini missions, two Apollo missions, and two Space Shuttle missions. His book covers all of the various challenges the U.S. space agency faced during that period, and he also touches on the future of spaceflight up until 2012, when the book was published.

By John W. Young, James R. Hansen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

He walked on the Moon. He flew six space missions in three different programs--more than any other human. He served with NASA for more than four decades. His peers called him the ""astronaut's astronaut.""

Enthusiasts of space exploration have long waited for John Young to tell the story of his two Gemini flights, his two Apollo missions, the first-ever Space Shuttle flight, and the first Spacelab mission. Forever Young delivers all that and more: Young's personal journey from engineering graduate to fighter pilot, to test pilot, to astronaut, to high NASA official, to clear-headed predictor of the fate of Planet…


Book cover of Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13

Patrick Chiles Author Of Frozen Orbit

From my list on space history that read like novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

By now, nearly everyone has seen Apollo 13, the movie based on this gripping account by the mission’s commander. The book delves into both the events themselves and the background of the mission in ways a movie cannot, including an unlikely event during the spacecraft’s assembly, which ultimately led to the oxygen tank explosion.

Of all the hard-charging, high-achieving astronauts, Mr. Lovell was perhaps the most “normal” of the group, which I think is illustrated by the fact that he was one of the few to get through the Apollo program with his marriage intact. His humanity, intelligence, and determination shine forth in this account, illustrating what it took to survive their ordeal.

By Jim Lovell, Jeffrey Kluger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In April 1970, during the glory days of the Apollo space program, NASA sent Navy Captain Jim Lovell and two other astronauts on America's fifth mission to the moon. Only fifty-five hours into the flight of Apollo 13, disaster struck: a mysterious explosion rocked the ship, and soon its oxygen and power began draining away. Commander Lovell and his crew watched in alarm as the cockpit grew darker, the air grew thinner, and the instruments winked out one by one. The full story of the moon shot that almost ended in catastrophe has never been told, but now Lovell and…


Book cover of The Right Stuff

Carol Fiore Author Of Flight through Fire

From my list on on loss that do more than make us cry.

Why am I passionate about this?

Loss, with its many contours, finds us all. For me, it came quite unexpectedly. During a long decade of profound grieving, I found inspiration in books. Through real characters and fictional ones, I learned and questioned and found strength. Adversity should evoke more than sadness. When we cheer for the characters on the page, we learn about ourselves. These are books that have helped me dig deeper into my own loss and to live fuller. I start with The Right Stuff because I know what it means to be married to a test pilot and to get the knock on the door. Loss does not have to be the end.

Carol's book list on on loss that do more than make us cry

Carol Fiore Why did Carol love this book?

It seems incomprehensible that I didn’t read this book until my test pilot husband died. He’d applied to NASA, just before the plane crash.

This book is popular in the aviation community because Tom Wolfe nailed it—the pilot lingo, the tall tales from the cockpit, the egos, the spot-on descriptions, and mostly, the brilliance and love of adventure. I’ve spent most of my life around pilots (I’m a licensed private pilot) and Wolfe gets it. He is an extremely talented writer who helped bring Chuck Yeager’s ultra-cool bravery into the mainstream. Wolfe traces the successes and horrific failures of the early NASA program, weaving characters together in a way that is more action fiction than true life. This book will change the way you look at airplanes and the people who fly them. 

My late husband was buried with his tattered copy of The Right Stuff.

By Tom Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Right Stuff as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A wonderful novel and perfect book club choice, The Right Stuff is a wildly vivid and entertaining chronicle of America's early space programme.

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY US ASTRONAUT SCOTT KELLY

'What is it,' asks Tom Wolfe, 'that makes a man willing to sit on top of an enormous Roman Candle...and wait for someone to light the fuse?' Arrogance? Stupidity? Courage? Or, simply, that quality we call 'the right stuff'?

A monument to the men who battled to beat the Russians into space, The Right Stuff is a voyage into the mythology of the American space programme, and a dizzying…


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

Nancy Atkinson Author Of Eight Years to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Missions

From my list on books about the Apollo missions to the moon.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author and science journalist with a passion for telling the stories of people involved in space exploration and astronomy. I’ve written over 6,000 articles, sharing the latest news from space. My two books: Eight Years to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Missions, which shares little-known stories from the engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make the Apollo missions possible; and Incredible Stories From Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos shares compelling insights from over 35 NASA scientists and engineers, taking readers inside nine robotic missions that are exploring the solar system and beyond.

Nancy's book list on books about the Apollo missions to the moon

Nancy Atkinson Why did Nancy love this book?

This is the quintessential book on the Apollo program and probably my favorite book of all time. Even though I was very young during the years when astronauts were landing on the moon, the excitement and historic nature of those missions stayed with me, leading me to my career as a space journalist.

Andrew Chaikin’s book let me re-live it. This is the most comprehensive look at the Apollo program, I call it the “Apollo Bible” because it tells the entire story of Apollo, with unique insights into this fascinating period of history. Chaikin was able to interview all the living astronauts and NASA officials who were part of the program, as well as many of the engineers who worked behind the scenes.

This provides an intimate and comprehensive look at Apollo. Magnificently written and a monumental book on space history.

By Andrew Chaikin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Man on the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Reaching for the Moon

Evonne Blanchard Author Of Amelia, the Merballs and the Emerald Cannon

From my list on space books that will launch your kids into orbit.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a science fiction and fantasy children’s book author, who loves everything about space and science fiction. I’ve been fascinated by space ever since I was little; mesmerized by clips of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon. As a teenager, War of the Worlds by H.G Wells was my favorite book! My daughter’s complete lack of interest in space inspired me to write a space adventure series. How could I make space entertaining? When it comes to children, I’m a big fan of mixing space facts with a dollop of space fiction, so I hope you will enjoy the collection of books on this list!

Evonne's book list on space books that will launch your kids into orbit

Evonne Blanchard Why did Evonne love this book?

If there’s any book that deserves the title inspirational, it’s surely this children’s book narrated by astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Here he recounts his life story, beginning with his childhood and how he acquired the name Buzz⎯such a cute story! This is followed by the significant events that led him to become an astronaut, then eventually to his epic moon landing. Buzz believed in education, discipline and he felt strongly that any goal was possible. He certainly lived up to those ideals! On July 20, 1969, after blasting off in the Apollo 11, he and Neil Armstrong became the first people ever to set foot on the moon. An incredible achievement! Children will love Wendell Minor’s gorgeous paintings and enjoy reading about the personal story of a great American hero.

By Buzz Aldrin, Wendell Minor (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reaching for the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

I walked on the moon. This is my journey. But it didn't begin when I stepped on board Apollo 11 on July 1, 1969. It began the day I was born. Becoming an astronaut took more than education, discipline, and physical strength. It took years of determination and believing that any goal is possible-from riding a bike alone across the George Washington Bridge at age ten to making a footprint on the Moon. I always knew the Moon was within my reach-and that I was ready to be on the team that would achieve the first landing. But it was…


Book cover of Full Moon

Michael Soluri Author Of Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration

From my list on space exploration, astronauts, the moon, and beyond.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve followed the history of space exploration since I was a kid! Although I spent decades photographing assignments in exotic international locations and co-authored visually driven books on astronomical phenomena, my dream was to photograph in NASA’s restricted space exploration work cultures. Never giving up, I achieved unprecedented access into the shuttle mission that saved the Hubble Space Telescope and, for more than a decade, with the New Horizons team that first explored the Pluto system. I’ve been published in media like Smithsonian, Nat Geo, WIRED, New Scientist, and NPR. Honored that my photographs of astronaut space tools are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum.   

Michael's book list on space exploration, astronauts, the moon, and beyond

Michael Soluri Why did Michael love this book?

As explorers carrying cameras, the Gemini and Apollo astronauts (1965-72) were like the pioneer photographers of the 19th century who, with their cameras, responded to the unknowns of the American West. These astronauts, however, were responding to the new and unexplored by photographing their experiences inside their spacecraft and outside in the vacuum of space. During the late 90s the photographer Michael Light gained access to NASA’s Apollo-era photo archive and made the first drum-scanned digital files from perfect copies of the original flight films. Light’s artful editing and juxtaposition of superbly reproduced full-page black and white, and color images creates a cinematic-like journey to the moon and back. In the annals of published space photography, there are very few well-designed books as timeless.

By Michael Light, Andrew Chaikin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The most thrilling of all journeys--the missions of the Apollo astronauts to the surface of the Moon and back--yielded 32,000 extraordinarily beautiful photographs, the record of a unique human achievement. Until recently, only a handful of these photographs had been released for publication; but now, for the first time, NASA has allowed a selection of the master negatives and transparencies to be scanned electronically, rendering the sharpest images of space that we have ever seen. Michael Light has woven 129 of these stunningly clear images into a single composite voyage, a narrative of breathtaking immediacy and authenticity that begins with…


Book cover of Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon, 1963-1972

Alan Smale Author Of Hot Moon

From my list on the excellence behind the Apollo Moon missions.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hot Moon, my new alternate-Apollo thriller set entirely on and around the Moon, is my labor of love and the book I always wanted to write. I grew up in Yorkshire, England, far from Cape Kennedy and Mission Control, but was always obsessed with the Apollo Program and with astronomy and space in general. This passion (nudged along by shows like Doctor Who, UFO, and Star Trek) eventually led to degrees in Physics and Astrophysics from Oxford. I now live in the US and work for NASA studying black holes and other bizarre celestial objects.

Alan's book list on the excellence behind the Apollo Moon missions

Alan Smale Why did Alan love this book?

As a break from the two hardcore technical volumes above, my next pick is a coffee table book stuffed with awesome historical photos and graphics, that tells the story of the Apollo Program in a more straightforward and traditional fashion, but also delves into the politics, the science of what we learned about lunar geology, and so on. There’s no shortage of big glossy Apollo books, but for my money this is the most complete and absorbing, and has all the best pictures. 

By David West Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

 

Space expert David West Reynolds takes you on a historical journey through the world’s most renowned space program. Featuring a wealth of rare photographs, artwork, and cutaway illustrations, Apollo recaptures the excitement of the USA’s journey to the moon. From the adventurous astronauts to the scientists and engineers who designed and built the state-of-the-art spacecraft, Reynolds covers every aspect of this epic voyage. Through concise description, he introduces the uninitiated to this thrilling episode in U.S. history while also providing engaging details for the space aficionado. All of the key events and personalities are presented, creating a clear picture of…


Book cover of Operation Moonglow: A Political History of Project Apollo

Stephen P. Maran Author Of Astronomy for Dummies

From my list on space from someone with 35 years at NASA.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve studied space for 60+ years, including spotting Sputnik from atop 30 Rock for Operation Moonwatch; monitoring an exploding star for a PhD at University of Michigan, leading the Remotely Controlled Telescope project at Kitt Peak National Observatory, hunting pulsars from Arizona and Chile, and helping develop scientific instruments for the Hubble Space Telescope. I worked for 5 years at Kitt Peak and 35 years for NASA. As Press Officer (now retired) of the American Astronomical Society, I organized press conferences on many notable cosmic discoveries. Minor Planet 9768 was named Stephenmaran for me, but I haven’t seen it yet. What I have spotted are five exceptional books on space.  Enjoy!

Stephen's book list on space from someone with 35 years at NASA

Stephen P. Maran Why did Stephen love this book?

When NASA’s manned spaceflight program began, engineers focused on technology to launch men, sustain them in orbit, and eventually take them to the Moon and back. But U.S. Presidents approved the program to improve America’s image, not for scientific purposes. They wanted to counter the successive shocks of the USSR’s first artificial satellite and first person in space. This wasn’t about bragging rights, but to deter emerging nations from choosing communism over democracy. NASA launches welcomed media and US astronauts were sent abroad, guided by the State Department. They gave unscripted speeches, so listeners could relate to them as regular folks. After John Glenn orbited Earth, his Friendship 7 capsule went on tour, drawing 4 million visitors in Bombay alone. Operation Moonglow explains the unspoken politics that drove early NASA.

By Teasel Muir-Harmony,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On July 20th, 1969, over half of the world's population tuned in to witness the first lunar landing, waiting with bated breath as Neil Armstrong ventured outside the cabin door of Apollo 11 and declared "that's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." As the most expensive civilian scientific and technological program in American history, Project Apollo symbolised the unmatched prestige of American space exploration. Yet despite appearances, the project was never just about winning the Space Race, advancing scientific progress, or even conquering the final frontier. Instead, the ambitions of Project Apollo would ultimately reveal…


Book cover of The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America's Race in Space

Alan Smale Author Of Hot Moon

From my list on the excellence behind the Apollo Moon missions.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hot Moon, my new alternate-Apollo thriller set entirely on and around the Moon, is my labor of love and the book I always wanted to write. I grew up in Yorkshire, England, far from Cape Kennedy and Mission Control, but was always obsessed with the Apollo Program and with astronomy and space in general. This passion (nudged along by shows like Doctor Who, UFO, and Star Trek) eventually led to degrees in Physics and Astrophysics from Oxford. I now live in the US and work for NASA studying black holes and other bizarre celestial objects.

Alan's book list on the excellence behind the Apollo Moon missions

Alan Smale Why did Alan love this book?

If you only ever read two books penned by astronauts, this should be the second. Gene Cernan flew on Gemini 9, Apollo 10, and Apollo 17; on this final mission in 1972 he was the last man to walk on the Moon as part of the Apollo Program. Like Collins, Cernan sheds the astronaut tough-guy image to show us the human cost of the Apollo Program, as well as the bravery and glory of the enterprise. He’s unflinchingly honest, but also thoughtful and sometimes lyrical about his space experiences, and always entertaining. Of all the astronauts, Cernan might have been my first choice as a dinner companion; I’d have loved to talk with him about his three EVAs covering 22 hours of lunar exploration. That would have been terrific.

By Eugene Cernan, Donald A. Davis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Last Man on the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Eugene Cernan is a unique American who came of age as an astronaut during the most exciting and dangerous decade of spaceflight. His career spanned the entire Gemini and Apollo programs, from being the first person to spacewalk all the way around our world to commanding Apollo XVII, man's last mission to the moon. Between those two historic events lay more adventures than an ordinary person could imagine as Cernan repeatedly put his life, his family and everything he held dear on the altar of an obsessive desire. Written with "New York Times" bestselling author Don Davis, this is the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in astronauts, pilots, and the moon?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about astronauts, pilots, and the moon.

Astronauts Explore 63 books about astronauts
Pilots Explore 45 books about pilots
The Moon Explore 128 books about the moon