100 books like Space Race

By Deborah Cadbury,

Here are 100 books that Space Race fans have personally recommended if you like Space Race. 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 Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon

Nick Abadzis Author Of Laika

From my list on the Soviet space program.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote and drew a book about the Russian dog called Laika, the first living being to go into orbit around the planet Earth. Part of the conception of this book was that I wanted to create a graphic novel that almost anyone could read - a comic for people who might not usually read comics. It had to be accessible - you didn’t have to be steeped in comics lore, geek culture or space history to find your way into it. I've been creating books, magazines, comics, and stories for both adults and children for more than thirty-five years, with work published all over the world. 

Nick's book list on the Soviet space program

Nick Abadzis Why did Nick love this book?

Korolev is one of the true architects of the 20th century and the technologically advanced world we live in today, yet most people in the West don’t have any idea who he is. A designer and engineer in the Soviet hierarchy and survivor of Stalin’s purges, he was a remarkable individual who united various small Soviet design bureaus to create the illusion of military-industrial organization that was equal and opposite in might to that of the USA. That was for the purposes of his masters; Korolev really did just want to put a Russian on the Moon. Harford’s book gives a sense of the visionary that lurked just beneath the surface of the canny political operator who changed history. The Russians led the world into space, but it was Korolev who led the Russians there.

By James Harford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive Beat America to the Moon. "Fascinating ...packed with technical and historical detail for the space expert and enthusiast alike ...Great stuff!"-New Scientist "In this exceptional book, James Harford pieces together a most compelling and well-written tale...Must reading."-Space News. "Through masterful research and an engaging narrative style, James Harford gives the world its first in-depth look at the man who should rightly be called the father of the Soviet space program."-Norman R. Augustine, CEO, Lockheed Martin. "In Korolev, James Harford has written a masterly biography of this enigmatic 'Chief Designer' whose role the Soviets…


Book cover of Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974

Nick Abadzis Author Of Laika

From my list on the Soviet space program.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote and drew a book about the Russian dog called Laika, the first living being to go into orbit around the planet Earth. Part of the conception of this book was that I wanted to create a graphic novel that almost anyone could read - a comic for people who might not usually read comics. It had to be accessible - you didn’t have to be steeped in comics lore, geek culture or space history to find your way into it. I've been creating books, magazines, comics, and stories for both adults and children for more than thirty-five years, with work published all over the world. 

Nick's book list on the Soviet space program

Nick Abadzis Why did Nick love this book?

This really is the bible for anyone seeking to know about the USSR’s Space Program in detail. Siddiqi’s research is forensic and utterly exhaustive and includes all manner of original Russian language sources as well as interviews with many a Soviet space veteran and scholar. He tells the story of the nascent Soviet space effort and its development into a vast project that shaped the world; it includes the story of every major character and player involved. It’s absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the other team that played in the Space Race.

By Asif A. Siddiqi, Nasa History Office,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Taking advantage of the Soviet archives, which were opened in the 1990s, Siddiqi has written a groundbreaking work that examines why the Soviet Union fell behind in the space race of the 1960s after changing the course of human history with the first artificial satellite launch, Sputnik, in 1957.


Book cover of Animals in Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle

Nick Abadzis Author Of Laika

From my list on the Soviet space program.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote and drew a book about the Russian dog called Laika, the first living being to go into orbit around the planet Earth. Part of the conception of this book was that I wanted to create a graphic novel that almost anyone could read - a comic for people who might not usually read comics. It had to be accessible - you didn’t have to be steeped in comics lore, geek culture or space history to find your way into it. I've been creating books, magazines, comics, and stories for both adults and children for more than thirty-five years, with work published all over the world. 

Nick's book list on the Soviet space program

Nick Abadzis Why did Nick love this book?

This book came out right after I completed Laika, but I wish I’d been able to use it in my research (although Dubbs’ earlier book, Space Dogs: Pioneers in Space Travel was extremely useful).

If Siddiqi’s book focuses more on the human journey behind the Soviet space program, this is a parallel account of some other unwitting (and undersung) pioneers: the experimental animals who were sent ahead of humankind. We share this world with animals and they were dispatched on our behalf to test the deep waters of the heavens also. It was thought - correctly - that if they could survive, so could we. Laika may very well be the most famous of these pathfinders (at least beyond Russia), but there were many more. This book is a history of all those other animal astronauts launched into space both prior to Laika and aboard more recent missions.

By Chris Dubbs, Colin Burgess,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book is as a detailed, but highly readable and balanced account of the history of animal space flights carried out by all nations, but principally the United States and the Soviet Union. It explores the ways in which animal high-altitude and space flight research impacted on space flight biomedicine and technology, and how the results - both successful and disappointing - allowed human beings to then undertake that same hazardous journey with far greater understanding and confidence. This complete and authoritative book will undoubtedly become the ultimate authority on animal space flights.


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 Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut

David Lee Summers Author Of Vampires of the Scarlet Order

From my list on vampires you want to root for.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first started reading vampire stories when I worked at Kitt Peak National Observatory in the 1990s. One of my co-workers suggested that we were the vampires of the mountain because we were only seen between sunset and sunrise. She encouraged me to read Anne Rice, whose work gave me a taste for heroic vampires. A while later, I moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, known as the City of Crosses. Another friend suggested I write a story asking what a vampire would make of such a thing. That became an early chapter in Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

David's book list on vampires you want to root for

David Lee Summers Why did David love this book?

In this Japanese light novel, vampires are an oppressed people living in a country adjoining a Soviet Union-like country, the Republic of Zirnitra. In this world, almost all of the stories you've heard about vampires being evil and hunting humans are Zirnitran propaganda, but vampires do drink blood and are sensitive to sunlight. Irina is a young vampire woman who volunteers to be a test subject for the Zirnitran space program so she can get closer to the moon, which she loves. The story is based on the real Soviet space program of the 1960s and I rooted for Irina as she overcame her own fears and Zirnitran oppression to fly in orbit and see her beloved moon up close before any human went into orbit.

By Keisuke Makino, KAREI (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fierce space race between two global superpowers gives rise to the Nosferatu Project, a top-secret plan to train up some unusual cosmonauts - vampires! When Lev Leps, a human soldier, is ordered to supervise vampire test subject Irina Luminesk, the unlikely pair bonds over their shared dream of reaching the stars. Together, can the human and vampire duo rise above the chaos and corruption down on Earth and blast off into the final frontier?


Book cover of Omon Ra

Daniel Treisman Author Of The Return: Russia's Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev

From my list on the Soviet Union under Brezhnev.

Why am I passionate about this?

Daniel Treisman is an expert on post-Soviet Russia, whose articles have appeared in Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, and CNN.com, among other publications. A professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, he is the founder of the Russia Political Insight project, an international collaboration to analyze Kremlin decision-making. He is the author of The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev and editor of The New Autocracy: Information, Politics, and Policy in Putin’s Russia.  

Daniel's book list on the Soviet Union under Brezhnev

Daniel Treisman Why did Daniel love this book?

Pelevin exploded onto the Russian literary scene in the 1990s, propelled by a postmodern sensibility and satirical flair. In his masterpiece, Omon Ra, the Soviet space program becomes a metaphor for all the lies and cant of post-War communism. The Politburo cannot admit it trails the US in rocket technology. So it trains naïve recruits to secretly pilot “unmanned” one-way space missions. In fact, it’s even stranger than that, but no spoilers here. Hilarious satire, while at the same time weirdly true to life. A tale of pimply youths and slogans, empty sacrifices, moon landings, and port wine guzzled in garages.

By Andrew Bromfield, Victor Pelevin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Victor Pelevin's novel Omon Ra has been widely praised for its poetry and its wickedness, a novel in line with the great works of Gogol and Bulgakov: "full of the ridiculous and the sublime," says The Observer [London]. Omon is chosen to be trained in the Soviet space program the fulfillment of his lifelong dream. However, he enrolls only to encounter the terrifying absurdity of Soviet protocol and its backward technology: a bicycle-powered moonwalker; the outrageous Colonel Urgachin ("a kind of Sovier Dr. Strangelove"-The New York Times); and a one-way assignment to the moon. The New Yorker proclaimed: "Omon's adventure…


Book cover of Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier

David Hitt Author Of Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story

From my list on for a graphic novel exploration of space.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was five years old, my father sat down with me in front of the television and we watched together as the Space Shuttle Columbia launched for the first time. Four decades later, I’ve authored a history of those early shuttle missions, been a part of developing future space missions, and, most importantly of all, watched several space firsts with my own son. Space exploration is humanity at its greatest – working together using the best of our abilities to overcome incredible challenges and improve life here on Earth – and I’m always grateful for the opportunity to share that inspiration with others.

David's book list on for a graphic novel exploration of space

David Hitt Why did David love this book?

For better or worse, this isn’t really a book that lives up to its name – or, at least, its subtitle. “Astronauts” isn’t really a history of women in space; it’s two early anecdotes tacked onto the story of Mary Cleave, one of NASA’s early female astronauts. And what a story it is – while many space graphic novels focus on the early years of spaceflight, “Astronauts” relates the experience of the Space Shuttle program that made up more than half of human spaceflight history and more closely resembles the space missions of today.

By Jim Ottaviani, Maris Wicks (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Astronauts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

America may have put the first man on the moon, but it was the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space. Meanwhile, in the United States, NASA's first female astronauts were racing toward milestones of their own. These trail-blazing women were admitted into Group 9, NASA's first mixed-gender class. They had the challenging task of convincing the powers that be that a woman's place is in space. But once they'd been admitted into the training program, they discovered that NASA had plenty to learn about how to make space travel possible for all humans.

In…


Book cover of Laika

David Hitt Author Of Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story

From my list on for a graphic novel exploration of space.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was five years old, my father sat down with me in front of the television and we watched together as the Space Shuttle Columbia launched for the first time. Four decades later, I’ve authored a history of those early shuttle missions, been a part of developing future space missions, and, most importantly of all, watched several space firsts with my own son. Space exploration is humanity at its greatest – working together using the best of our abilities to overcome incredible challenges and improve life here on Earth – and I’m always grateful for the opportunity to share that inspiration with others.

David's book list on for a graphic novel exploration of space

David Hitt Why did David love this book?

Beyond the science and technology that it takes to launch something into space, there’s a story with a deeply human heart. That human heart is very much the center of “Laika,” the story of the Soviet dog that was the first living creature to orbit Earth. This book is a glimpse into how space history was made, but also a sweet tribute to the dog that made it. (And if you like this book, consider picking up First in Space by James Vining, the story of space-chimp Ham, who helped pave the way for America’s Mercury 7 astronauts to fly!)

By Nick Abadzis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Laika as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Nick Abadzis masterfully blends fiction and fact in the intertwined stories of three compelling lives. Along with Laika, there is Korolev, once a political prisoner, now a driven engineer at the top of the Soviet space program, and Yelena, the lab technician responsible for Laika's health and life. This intense triangle is rendered with the pitch-perfect emotionality of classics like Because of Winn-Dixie, Shiloh, and Old Yeller. Abadzis gives life to a pivotal moment in modern history, casting light on the hidden moments of deep humanity behind history. Laika's story will speak straight to your heart.


Book cover of The Whole Mess and Other Stories

Karen Haber Author Of That Unfortunate Problem with Grandmother's Head and Other Stories

From my list on science fiction and fantasy books that keep me reading.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began reading science fiction when I was 8 years old and "borrowed" my father’s library books until, in defense, he got me my own library card. Not only have I spent decades reading SF, I’ve written it as well. As a veteran reader and writer with plenty of kill marks on my fuselage, I'm literally married to the SF mob (Grandmaster Robert Silverberg, is my spouse). I can both walk the walk and talk the talk. And after writing 9 SF novels including a Star Trek Book and reading uncounted SF and F tales, I still think science fiction and fantasy can be a literature of ideas illuminating the human condition.

Karen's book list on science fiction and fantasy books that keep me reading

Karen Haber Why did Karen love this book?

All of these stories are superb but my favorite here is "The Last Garden," in which a woman with mother issues finds a surprising solution to them via hardware. Runnerup: "Arlington," with its brilliant use of time travel leavened by a nice dash of romance.

Jack Skillingstead is a cult writer who keeps a fine focus on the human condition, its pathos, comedy, kindness, and cruelty which he captures in surreal and satirical situations in the near and far future. I love his mordant humor, his playful imagination, and the crazy compounding situations he drops his characters into. Odd twists and unexpected endings. Very funny use of sentient hardware, 

Characters who are damaged and find healing in unexpected places, ways, and times. His notes on the background of these stories and generous essay about writing make this much more than a short story collection: the reader will gain insight into…

By Jack Skillingstead,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Whole Mess and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What does it mean to be human in a universe of shifting, sometimes terrifying realities? Eighteen stories from Jack Skillingstead's second decade of publishing feature intense and surprising explorations of who we are, who we wish to be, and who we can't be.

In "The Whole Mess" a genius math professor solves a multiverse equation only to find himself pursued by ancient Masters across the many iterations of his could-have-been lives. "Straconia" gives us a Kafkaesque world where all the lost things go, including people who must first find themselves before they can find a way back home. "Tribute" looks…


Book cover of Live from Cape Canaveral: Covering the Space Race, from Sputnik to Today

Rebekah Lyn Author Of Undaunted

From my list on on space exploration.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up on the Space Coast, with my dad working on the Space Shuttle, and launches a regular occurrence, over time I took the program for granted. When the last Shutte launched, though, it left a hole in my heart. Gradually a desire to write about my hometown and its place in space history gave birth to the Jessie Cole trilogy. A combination of stories from my dad’s childhood in Titusville, conversations with docents at our historical society, and scores of books, magazine articles, and archived news footage helped reshape my view of space exploration. It was hard to choose just five books to highlight. More are noted in the Research Library section of my website.

Rebekah's book list on on space exploration

Rebekah Lyn Why did Rebekah love this book?

This is a must-read for anyone who wants to follow the history of the US Space program from the very first launch onward. Barbree was the only journalist to cover every launch and while doing so met many of the astronauts and provides behind-the-scenes stories of dedication and comraderie. I had the privilege to participate in a book signing with Mr. Barbree at the US Space Museum in Titusville, FL in 2014. He’s a funny man who has loved all things space since the launch of Sputnik. This book is filled with humor, personal stories, and an understanding of how the media coverage of the space program and NASA has changed over the years. Barbree has also written an outstanding biography of Neil Armstrong, completed just prior to this pioneer’s death. 

By Jay Barbree,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Live from Cape Canaveral as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“From Sputnik to the International Space Station, Jay Barbree has seen it all, and reported it well. ‘Live from Cape Canaveral’ encapsulates the most technically exciting half century in history.” –Neil Armstrong

Some fifty years ago, while a cub reporter, Jay Barbree caught space fever the night that Sputnik passed over Georgia. He moved to the then-sleepy village of Cocoa Beach, Florida, right outside Cape Canaveral, and began reporting on rockets that fizzled as often as they soared. In "Live from Cape Canaveral," Barbree—the only reporter who has covered every mission flown by astronauts—offers his unique perspective on the space…


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Interested in the Soviet space program, space race, and the Soviet Union?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Soviet space program, space race, and the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Space Program Explore 8 books about the Soviet space program
Space Race Explore 17 books about space race
The Soviet Union Explore 329 books about the Soviet Union