100 books like Making Stars Physical

By Stephen Case,

Here are 100 books that Making Stars Physical fans have personally recommended if you like Making Stars Physical. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Mapping the Spectrum: Techniques of Visual Representation in Research and Teaching

Barbara J. Becker Author Of Unravelling Starlight: William and Margaret Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy

From my list on the history of astrophysics.

Why am I passionate about this?

Barbara J. Becker received her PhD in the history of science from Johns Hopkins University. Until her retirement, she taught at the University of California at Irvine and now resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is a leading authority on astronomer William Huggins. Her research interests include the role of the amateur in the development of nineteenth-century professional astronomy, the redefining of disciplinary boundaries in the face of new knowledge and new practice, and the role of controversy in shaping the substance and structure of scientific knowledge. She is the author of numerous journal articles and editor of Selected Correspondence of William Huggins (2 volumes).

Barbara's book list on the history of astrophysics

Barbara J. Becker Why did Barbara love this book?

The proverbial scientist at work conjures the image of a solitary investigator bent over a workbench cluttered with arcane instruments nestled among reams of scribbled notes just waiting to be transformed into creative answers to pressing questions about the natural world. The image's simplicity belies the complexity of the process it purports to represent. Adding descriptions of the what, how, and why of scientific inquiry, observation, and analysis still misses a crucial element that makes the improvement, dissemination, and acceptance of new knowledge possible, namely the active behind-the-scenes collaboration between scientists and the illustrators, photographers, printers, and other artisans who use visual representation to shape and successfully communicate that knowledge. 

Mapping the Spectrum is not just an exhaustive and illuminating history of spectrum analysis.  In it, author Klaus Hentschel brilliantly exposes the essential role of visual culture in bringing this all-important tool of modern science to useful life.  He has…

By Klaus Hentschel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ever since the boom of spectrum analysis in the 1860s, spectroscopy has become one of the most fruitful research technologies in analytic chemistry, physics, astronomy, and other sciences. This book is the first in-depth study of the ways in which various types of spectra, especially the sun's Fraunhofer lines, have been recorded, displayed, and interpreted. The book assesses the virtues and pitfalls of various types of depictions, including hand sketches, woodcuts,
engravings, lithographs and, from the late 1870s onwards, photomechanical reproductions. The material of a 19th-century engraver or lithographer, the daily research practice of a spectroscopist in the laboratory, or…


Book cover of Minding the Heavens: The Story of Our Discovery of the Milky Way

Barbara J. Becker Author Of Unravelling Starlight: William and Margaret Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy

From my list on the history of astrophysics.

Why am I passionate about this?

Barbara J. Becker received her PhD in the history of science from Johns Hopkins University. Until her retirement, she taught at the University of California at Irvine and now resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is a leading authority on astronomer William Huggins. Her research interests include the role of the amateur in the development of nineteenth-century professional astronomy, the redefining of disciplinary boundaries in the face of new knowledge and new practice, and the role of controversy in shaping the substance and structure of scientific knowledge. She is the author of numerous journal articles and editor of Selected Correspondence of William Huggins (2 volumes).

Barbara's book list on the history of astrophysics

Barbara J. Becker Why did Barbara love this book?

Young people today casually speak of "galaxies far, far away".  They seem to have an intuitive, even if fanciful, understanding that, like science fiction aliens, they and their fellow humans also reside in a galaxy of their own. A mere century ago, such a belief was a matter of highly debatable conjecture. How did earthbound observers learn that the Sun is just one of the hundreds of billions of stars bound gravitationally in a vast spiral-shaped galaxy? 

As Minding the Heavens ably demonstrates, the answer to that question is a long and fascinating story, one that author Leila Belkora vividly recounts using chapter-length biographies of seven astronomers from the 18th to the 20th centuries.  With help from their assistants and family as well as communication with contemporaries, these curiosity-driven individuals endeavored to determine the form and structure of the celestial realm and learn the true nature of the mysterious hazy…

By Leila Belkora,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Praise for the first edition:

"A terrific blend of the science and the history."

Martha Haynes, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University, New York, USA

"The book is a treat... Highly recommended for public and academic libraries."

Peter Hepburn, now Head Librarian, College of the Canyons, Santa Clarita, California, USA

Today, we recognize that we live on a planet circling the sun, that our sun is just one of billions of stars in the galaxy we call the Milky Way, and that our galaxy is but one of billions born out of the Big Bang. Yet, as recently as…


Book cover of The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars

Fernando J. Ballesteros Author Of E.T. Talk: How Will We Communicate with Intelligent Life on Other Worlds?

From my list on humanistic answers from the skies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an astronomer and astrobiologist, and my field of work leads me to wonder about the origin of life in the universe and how scientific discoveries (and especially those related to space) affect culture, people's lives, or even civilization itself. All of the books listed here focus precisely on answering some of these concerns, which is why I find them extremely interesting.

Fernando's book list on humanistic answers from the skies

Fernando J. Ballesteros Why did Fernando love this book?

I find it a lovely book that highlights the work of many hidden figures in the field of astronomy for the mere fact of being women. The book shows the groundbreaking work of a group of women astronomers at the Harvard College Observatory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who made significant contributions to the field of astronomy.

I always find Sobel's prose fascinating and very enjoyable to read; I love the way she writes. Drawing from letters, diaries, and scientific papers, Sobel paints a vivid portrait of these pioneering women and their remarkable discoveries. Reading the book is like being present in that time.

By Dava Sobel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Dava Sobel, the "inspiring" (People), little-known true story of women's landmark contributions to astronomy

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Economist, Smithsonian, Nature, and NPR's Science Friday

Nominated for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

"A joy to read." -The Wall Street Journal

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or "human computers," to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. At the outset this group included the…


Book cover of The Expanding Universe: Astronomy's 'Great Debate', 1900-1931

Barbara J. Becker Author Of Unravelling Starlight: William and Margaret Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy

From my list on the history of astrophysics.

Why am I passionate about this?

Barbara J. Becker received her PhD in the history of science from Johns Hopkins University. Until her retirement, she taught at the University of California at Irvine and now resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is a leading authority on astronomer William Huggins. Her research interests include the role of the amateur in the development of nineteenth-century professional astronomy, the redefining of disciplinary boundaries in the face of new knowledge and new practice, and the role of controversy in shaping the substance and structure of scientific knowledge. She is the author of numerous journal articles and editor of Selected Correspondence of William Huggins (2 volumes).

Barbara's book list on the history of astrophysics

Barbara J. Becker Why did Barbara love this book?

Thanks to spectrum analysis, the development of improved photographic capabilities, and the construction of powerful new mountaintop telescopes, early 20th century astronomers were able to ask and seek answers to an entirely new range of intriguing questions about the nature and structure of the celestial realm. But the inability to resolve all nebulae into stars left them with a nagging mystery to untangle:  are these luminous clouds relatively nearby embryonic solar systems, or extremely distant aggregates of countless stars? 

In The Expanding Universe, author Robert Smith ably transforms archival material into a lively narrative of the dramatic twists and turns -- the disappointing failures, dead-ends, careless errors, contentious controversies, welcome surprises, and successes -- of the decades-long international effort to find answers to this perplexing quandary.

By Robert W. Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the years between 1900 and 1931 astronomers witnessed three startling changes in their view of the Universe. First, the accepted value of the size of the star system, which increased by a factor of ten; secondly, evidence forced the acceptance of the fact that there are other star systems beyond our own Galaxy; and lastly, that observation of these external galaxies disclosed the expansion of the Universe. This book, originally published in 1982, describes and explains in detail these shifts in opinion, considering them in the light of theories and ideas on the nature of the Universe, were current…


Book cover of The Stargazer's Sister

Charlie McGill Author Of Our Hideous Progeny

From my list on history about women in science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always adored science, and spent my teenage years searching for female role models in the sci-fi and popular science books I loved. I started out at university studying Aerospace Engineering, but upon discovering a severe allergy to lab reports, transferred to a Frankensteinian degree of my own making entitled, “Narratives of Science in Fiction and History,” which examined the interactions of science fiction and scientific history. Fascinated by nineteenth-century paleontology in particular, and wanting to learn more about women’s involvement in science during this period, I proposed as my final year project a joint creative writing/research project which would eventually become my first novel, Our Hideous Progeny.  

Charlie's book list on history about women in science

Charlie McGill Why did Charlie love this book?

Thinking about this book, I’m reminded of the quote “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” a phrase originally coined by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and which is often interpreted to mean that women ought to rebel in order to be remembered – although Ulrich’s original intent was actually to encourage us to appreciate the quiet impact that billions of ordinary women have made upon history.

In The Stargazer’s Sister, Caroline Herschel, the often-ignored sister of famous astronomer William Herschel, is a shy and soft-spoken soul, who starts out assisting with her brother’s work and ends up becoming an accomplished astronomer in her own right.

A beautiful and atmospheric read, this book is a great reminder that women’s contributions to science throughout history often consisted of unglamorous, behind-the-scenes work – but that doesn’t mean that they should be credited any less for their skill and ingenuity! 

By Carrie Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the acclaimed author of The Last First Day, here is a beautiful new period novel: a nineteenth-century story of female empowerment before its time, based on the life of Caroline Herschel, sister of the great composer and astronomer William Herschel and an astronomer in her own right.
 
This exquisitely imagined novel opens as William rescues Caroline from a life of drudgery in Germany and brings her to England and a world of music making and stargazing. Lina, as Caroline is known, serves as William’s assistant and the captain of his exhilaratingly busy household. William is generous, wise, and charismatic,…


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

Sarah Scoles Author Of Astronomical Mindfulness: Your Cosmic Guide to Reconnecting with the Sun, Moon, Stars, and Planets

From my list on making night sky your new BFF.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up intending to become an astronaut. The cosmos always felt within reach of my backyard, from where I could watch the Space Shuttle launch. As I grew up, I began to realize that the space our rockets reached was exceedingly close compared to the rest of the universe. And I became obsessed with what else was out there. I went on to study radio astronomy, fascinated by the parts of the cosmos that our senses can’t detect. After that, I became a science journalist, writing about how space influences Earth and vice versa.

Sarah's book list on making night sky your new BFF

Sarah Scoles Why did Sarah love 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).

By Emily Levesque,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The story of the people who see beyond the stars-an astronomy book for adults still spellbound by the night sky.
Humans from the earliest civilizations through today have craned their necks each night, using the stars to orient themselves in the large, strange world around them. Stargazing is a pursuit that continues to fascinate us: from Copernicus to Carl Sagan, astronomers throughout history have spent their lives trying to answer the biggest questions in the universe. Now, award-winning astronomer Emily Levesque shares the stories of modern-day stargazers in this new nonfiction release, the people willing to adventure across high mountaintops…


Book cover of The Day the World Discovered the Sun: An Extraordinary Story of Scientific Adventure and the Race to Track the Transit of Venus

Larrie D. Ferreiro Author Of Measure of the Earth: The Enlightenment Expedition That Reshaped Our World

From my list on voyages of discovery about science, not conquest.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an engineer, scientist, and historian, I’ve always been fascinated by how science has always served the political goals of nations and empires. Today, we look at the Space Race to land a person on the Moon as a part of the Cold War effort to establish the intellectual and cultural dominance of the United States and the Soviet Union, even as it created new technologies and completely changed our understanding of the world. When I came across the Geodesic Mission to the Equator 1735-1744, I realized that even in the 18th century, voyages of discovery could do more than simply find new lands to conquer and exploit–they could, and did extend our knowledge of nature and mankind.

Larrie's book list on voyages of discovery about science, not conquest

Larrie D. Ferreiro Why did Larrie love this book?

In the late 18th century, European scientists claimed that “the sciences were never at war,” using as an example the international Transit of Venus voyages that took place during the height of the Seven Years’ War.

Even though the two opposing sides–France and Britain–were engaged in one of the bloodiest conflicts of that century, scientists from those two nations, as well as many allied nations on both sides, traveled vast distances across the globe (including Tahiti, South Africa, and Siberia) to witness the two Transits of Venus, 1761 and 1769.

Facing not just war but also fierce cold, disease, and the perils of ocean navigation (see Longitude above), the astronomers combined their observations to give mankind its first glimpse of the enormous scale of our solar system.      

By Mark Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Day the World Discovered the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On June 3, 1769, the planet Venus briefly passed across the face of the sun in a cosmic alignment that occurs twice per century. Anticipation of the rare celestial event sparked a worldwide competition among aspiring global superpowers, each sending their own scientific expeditions to far-flung destinations to time the planet's trek. These pioneers used the "Venus Transit" to discover the physical dimensions of the solar system and refine the methods of discovering longitude at sea. In this fast-paced narrative, Mark Anderson reveals the stories of three Venus Transit voyages--to the heart of the Arctic, the New World, and the…


Book cover of What Miss Mitchell Saw

Katie Munday Williams Author Of Poet, Pilgrim, Rebel: The Story of Anne Bradstreet, America's First Published Poet

From my list on astronomy stories for children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a nurse, mother, and writer, and as such, consider myself a life-learner. When my children come to me with questions, I love being able to grab a beautiful picture book to begin exploring whatever topic is on their minds. I can’t answer all their questions perfectly, but I enjoy searching for the answers with them and hope to impart that love of learning as they grow. Astronomy has always fascinated me, and the books I’ve picked do a fantastic job of discussing everything from gravity to aliens to the first African-American female in space. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!

Katie's book list on astronomy stories for children

Katie Munday Williams Why did Katie love this book?

This book does a great job of capturing the wonder of the stars. In lyrical language and with absolutely stunning illustrations, What Miss Mitchell Saw will capture the reader’s interest right from the cover. This picture book biography delves into the early days of one of our most brilliant astronomers, Maria Mitchell. Budding scientists and astronomers alike, or anyone who just likes to wonder about the mysteries of space, will love this book.

By Hayley Barrett, Diana Sudyka (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Miss Mitchell Saw as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Discover the amazing true story of Maria Mitchell, America's first professional female astronomer.

Every evening, from the time she was a child, Maria Mitchell stood on her rooftop with her telescope and swept the sky. And then one night she saw something unusual-a comet no one had ever seen before! Miss Mitchell's extraordinary discovery made her famous the world over and paved the way for her to become America's first professional female astronomer.

Gorgeously illustrated by Diana Sudyka, this moving picture book about a girl from humble beginnings who became a star in the field of astronomy is sure to…


Book cover of Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love

Dianne Hales Author Of La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World

From my list on italy and italian.

Why am I passionate about this?

Decades ago, I fell madly, gladly, and giddily in love with Italian. This passion inspired La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with the World’s Most Enchanting Language, which became a New York Times best-seller and won an Italian knighthood for my contributions to promoting Italy’s language. Intrigued by the world’s most famous portrait, I wrote Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, an Amazon Best Book of the Year, translated into seven languages. My most recent journeys through Italian culture are La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World and  ‘A’ Is for Amore, an e-book written during the pandemic and available free on my website.

Dianne's book list on italy and italian

Dianne Hales Why did Dianne love this book?

While researching Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, I rented an apartment a few blocks from a house where Galileo lived in Florence. I could stand outside its door every day, but this book transported me inside—not just a building but a family, a home, and an era. 

Dava Sobel’s meticulous research reveals not just new dimensions of Galileo’s life and work as an intrepid scientist but the often hidden realm inhabited by his daughter. Illegitimate and unmarriageable, she entered a convent at age 13 to live in poverty and simplicity. And yet, as her letters demonstrate, Sister Marie Celeste’s soul and spirit soared. The ending—which I dare not spoil—has haunted me since my first reading decades ago.

By Dava Sobel,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Galileo's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspired by a long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of his daughter Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun, Dava Sobel has crafted a biography that dramatically recolors the personality and accomplishments of a mythic figure whose early-seventeenth-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion-the man Albert Einstein called "the father of modern physics-indeed of modern science altogether." It is also a stunning portrait of Galileo's daughter, a person hitherto lost to history, described by her father as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me."

Moving…


Book cover of Illegal Alien

Andrew Fraknoi

From my list on science fiction books that use good astronomy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an astronomer and college professor who loves science fiction. For many years, I have kept a webpage recommending science fiction stories and novels that are based on good astronomy. I love explaining astronomy to non-scientists, and I am the lead author of OpenStax Astronomya free online textbook for beginners, which is now the most frequently used textbook for astronomy classes in the U.S. I actually learned English at age 11 by reading science fiction comics and then books for kids,  After many decades as a fan, I have recently realized a long-held dream and become a published SF author myself.

Andrew's book list on science fiction books that use good astronomy

Andrew Fraknoi Why did Andrew love this book?

I liked this book because it has a sense of humor and yet approaches interesting questions about how we might meet another species of intelligent life in the universe.

Sawyer is not a scientist, but an enthusiastic amateur astronomer, with training in anthropology and a fascination with the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, interests that inform many of his novels.

I also enjoyed this novel as a detective mystery with an astronomical puzzle that is part of its solution. 

By Robert J. Sawyer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When a disabled spaceship enters Earth's atmosphere, seven members of the advanced Tosok race are welcomed by the world. Then a popular scientist is murdered, and all evidence points to one of the Tosoks. Now, an alien is tried in a court of law-and there may be far more at stake than accounting for one human life.


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