100 books like The Brightest Stars

By Fred Schaaf,

Here are 100 books that The Brightest Stars fans have personally recommended if you like The Brightest Stars. 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 Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe

Edward P.J. van den Heuvel Author Of The Amazing Unity of the Universe: And Its Origin in the Big Bang

From my list on the history of the universe and the life in it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved astronomy since high school when I built my first telescope. I subsequently have been lucky enough to become a professional astronomer. I studied physics and astronomy at Utrecht University. After obtaining my PhD, I was postdoc at Lick Observatory in California, and after that became professor of astronomy, first in Brussels and later in Amsterdam. I have always loved teaching as well as my research on the physics and formation and evolution of neutron stars and black holes in binary systems, on which I, together with my Danish colleague Thomas Tauris, published the first textbook, which came out in 2023 in the USA.  

Edward's book list on the history of the universe and the life in it

Edward P.J. van den Heuvel Why did Edward love this book?

While in the 1960s Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, based on a simple equation (“Drake’s equation”) concluded that intelligent life is abundant in the Galaxy, with as many as a million such civilizations with which we might be able to communicate, the thesis of this book is that intelligent life is exceedingly rare in the Universe.

The authors do not argue that life itself is rare. Their thesis is that simple life, such as single-celled organisms like bacteria, may have developed on billions of planets in the Galaxy. But that, on the other hand, animal life on land (multicellular creatures, able to move around) is exceedingly rare. And that these animals developing intelligence is still very much rarer.

The arguments which the authors put forward are based on what we know from the history of life on Earth in connection with the very special position of Earth in our planetary…

By Peter D. Ward, Donald Brownlee,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Rare Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What determines whether complex life will arise on a planet, or even any life at all? Questions such as these are investigated in this groundbreaking book. In doing so, the authors synthesize information from astronomy, biology, and paleontology, and apply it to what we know about the rise of life on Earth and to what could possibly happen elsewhere in the universe. Everyone who has been thrilled by the recent discoveries of extrasolar planets and the indications of life on Mars and the Jovian moon Europa will be fascinated by Rare Earth, and its implications for those who look 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 Building Blocks of the Universe

David A. Aguilar Author Of Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond

From my list on understanding the first science: astronomy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a naturalist, astronomer, space artist, and a Harvard world lecturer living in the Rocky Mountains outside of Aspen. So far, I’ve written and illustrated twelve kid’s astronomy books for National Geographic and Penguin Random House. I directed the Science Information Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge Massachusetts for fourteen years then left in 2015 to join NASA’s New Horizons Mission Team becoming one of the first humans to see the planet Pluto up close and personal. I am also a Grammy nominated songwriter/musician, astrophotographer, telescope maker who enjoys scuba diving at night and occasionally has been known to parachute out of perfectly operating aircraft.

David's book list on understanding the first science: astronomy

David A. Aguilar Why did David love this book?

A recognized genius in his own right, Isaac Asimov takes us on an easy-to-read tour-de-force through the most basic elements that make up everything. Spoiler Alert: It’s not just sugar and spice. Anyone who has the slightest curiosity regarding astronomy, diet, health, cooking, physics, or chemistry should read this fabulous, easy-to-understand guide. It reveals what you and I are really made of. All that “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” stuff becomes crystal clear.

It is full of interesting anecdotes ranging from why the Hindenburg was never a great idea, the water that quenches fire is composed of two elements that explode when separately exposed to flame, and how life uses oxygen to function and survive. The Building Blocks of the Universe are just what Isaac Asimov says they are….the foundations of everything that exists.

By Isaac Asimov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Edison Foundation Award for the best science book for youth published in 1957.

In this book, which is periodically revised and updated, Isaac Asimov has chosen to call all the chemical elements so far discovered “building blocks of the universe,” and shows why they are just that.

He discusses some of the elements separately, some of them in groups, according to their importance, tells us how they were discovered, who discovered them, how they got their names, what their uses are, and, in some cases, what their dangers are.

The book is full of interesting anecdotes and…


Book cover of The Science Of Aliens

David A. Aguilar Author Of Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond

From my list on understanding the first science: astronomy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a naturalist, astronomer, space artist, and a Harvard world lecturer living in the Rocky Mountains outside of Aspen. So far, I’ve written and illustrated twelve kid’s astronomy books for National Geographic and Penguin Random House. I directed the Science Information Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge Massachusetts for fourteen years then left in 2015 to join NASA’s New Horizons Mission Team becoming one of the first humans to see the planet Pluto up close and personal. I am also a Grammy nominated songwriter/musician, astrophotographer, telescope maker who enjoys scuba diving at night and occasionally has been known to parachute out of perfectly operating aircraft.

David's book list on understanding the first science: astronomy

David A. Aguilar Why did David love this book?

This marvelous book will rock and sock the fun part of your brain when it comes to the possibilities of alien life out there among the stars. The Science of Aliens provides authoritative speculation on a whole range of possibilities including bizarre alien body structures, enhanced senses, capabilities, life at the edge, alien sex, social structures, religion, and lifestyles. 

If you like captivating mental gymnastics and broad, almost humorous depictions of alien life as seen in Hollywood films and sci-fi books, then run, fly, leap, scurry, scoot, teleport or slime your way to the nearest bookstore and pick up this gem. Remember, in this universe, ALL of us are aliens!

By Clifford A Pickover,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

If extraterrestrials ever landed on Earth, they would find us extremely strange. Their first intimation of our existence might well be a Super Bowl broadcast or a stray transmission from the Playboy channel. But, of course, they might seem equally strange to us. How strange? Their senses could be entirely different from ours,they might see in the infrared or hear" radio waves.What would aliens look like? An intelligent octopus-like creature is certainly plausible. What about odd numbers of limbs,a three-legged alien with three arms and three eyes? What about an entire planet of immobile, silicon-based trees" that communicate with each…


Book cover of Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning

John M. Saul Author Of What the Stork Brought: African click-speakers and the spread of humanity's oldest beliefs

From my list on the origins of humanity's earliest beliefs.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a geologist, I met and shared meals – occasionally under the stars – with individuals with strikingly different backgrounds. In time I realized that, whatever their DNA, they all shared certain beliefs, that the happy dead eventually go upward, for example, even if they start by going down or out to the horizon. Eventually, I concluded that the entire human adventure began in a single moment the day one of our forebears asked another "What shall we do about death?" and was understood. Humans have a single genetic heritage; we also have a single cultural heritage.

John's book list on the origins of humanity's earliest beliefs

John M. Saul Why did John love this book?

Allen (1838-1906) was described as a "walking encyclopedia" by people who knew him. It was only after acquiring a reprint of his great book, a decade before the internet, that my own research into ancient cosmology took off. Star Names was first published in 1899 and as Wikipedia notes "there is no direct modern equivalent." As is the case with the internet, large sections can also be plucked out and read for pleasure.

By Richard H. Allen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Here is an unusual book for anyone who appreciates the beauty and wonder of the stars. Solidly based upon years of thorough research into astronomical writings and observations of the ancient Chinese, Arabic, Euphrates, Hellenic, and Roman civilizations, it is an informative, non-technical excursion into the vast heritage of folklore and history associated with the heavenly bodies.
From his studies of the writings of scores of ancient astronomers, the author has come up with a fascinating history of the names various cultures have given the constellations, the literary and folkloristic uses that have been made of the stars through the…


Book cover of Space Atlas: Mapping the Universe and Beyond

Ginger Marin Author Of Monster on Mars

From my list on mars and imaginative worlds in and about space.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an actor and writer who has been delving deep into my imagination for as long as I can remember. I’m originally from New York where I studied film/TV and acting, and worked in the less imaginative world as a writer/producer at NBC News. After moving to Los Angeles, I became a long-time member of the respected "Theatre East", while performing in a number of theater productions, and then went full tilt into film and TV. I also write screenplays of varying genres and in fact my two books are also in screenplay format as I would love to see them on the big and small screens. 

Ginger's book list on mars and imaginative worlds in and about space

Ginger Marin Why did Ginger love this book?

Break out your telescope and this book.

This is one of those coffee table books you’ll pick up time and again. A wonderful resource for kids and adult space fanatics alike to get the imaginative juices going as we all look to the stars and planets and wonder about our place in the universe.

It’s part of a National Geographic book series so you know you’re getting the best-sourced and most recent info. Even writers of fiction need good sources from which to create!

By James Trefil,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For space enthusiasts, science lovers, and star gazers, the newly revised edition of National Geographic's enduring guide to space, with a new introduction by American hero Buzz Aldrin, combines thoroughly updated maps, lavish photographs, and elegant illustrations to chart the solar system, the universe, and beyond.

A guided tour of the solar system, the Milky Way galaxy, the universe, and beyond, with detailed maps and fascinating imagery from recent space missions partnered with clear, authoritative scientific information. Starting with the sun and moving outward into space, acclaimed science writer and physicist James Trefil illuminates each planet, the most important moons,…


Book cover of Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos

Chary Rangacharyulu Author Of From Atoms to Higgs Boson: Voyages in Quasi-Spacetime

From my list on stargazers' strife and joy since antiquity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been pursuing nuclear and particle physics as a career for nearly half a century, mostly in Western countries and Japan. As a professor of physics and engineering physics, I always strive to bring conceptual clarity to what I teach for application-oriented and abstract physics, even when I cannot bring the same level of connection to physical reality in my research. I am deeply concerned that physicists have gone astray in their mathematical quest to develop a glamorous picture of the building blocks of matter and the basic interactions among them. This book is an outgrowth of my search to understand the limits of human knowledge to unravel nature’s mysteries. 

Chary's book list on stargazers' strife and joy since antiquity

Chary Rangacharyulu Why did Chary love this book?

This book by a life-long astronomer is a nice, successful attempt to humanize natural philosophers since classical times. It is rare that we find books that dig deeper into the personal struggles, false starts, and wrong conclusions of philosophers (scientists) as they strive at their research incessantly. A recommended read to all astronomy educators and those youth aspiring to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos.

Societies tend to portray high achievers of the past, whether in science, art, or otherwise, as special beings who were infallible genii of their times and that today’s generations may not reach those heights. To me, this is a very negative approach that discourages the youth from striving for higher goals. Prof. Hirshfeld, a career astronomer, does an excellent job of presenting the human faces of the giants of the past.

By Alan W. Hirshfeld,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the dramatic tradition of the best selling "Longitude", this book charts the historical path of observational astronomy's most daunting challenge: measuring the distance to a star. The greatest scientific minds applied themselves in vain to the problem across the millennia, beginning with the ancient Greeks. Not until the 19th century would three astronomers, armed with the best telescopes of the age, race to conquer this astronomical Everest, their contest ending in a virtual dead heat. Against a backdrop filled with kidnappings, dramatic rescue, swordplay, madness, and bitter rivalry, the author brings to life the heroes of this story. A…


Book cover of The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light

Tyler Nordgren Author Of Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets

From my list on astronomy books that will rock your world and alter your cosmos.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was of that generation of children turned on to science by reading Carl Sagan’s Cosmos - plus watching the Voyager spacecraft at Jupiter on TV, seeing the 1979 total solar eclipse over my house, and having Mt St Helens erupt outside my childhood window. So, one guess what I wanted to be when I grew up? Since then, I’ve earned a PhD, used the largest telescopes on Earth, designed something driving around on Mars, written popular books, and had my science art collected by the Smithsonian. But all of that started with a single book I read as a kid. Thanks Carl.

Tyler's book list on astronomy books that will rock your world and alter your cosmos

Tyler Nordgren Why did Tyler love this book?

Have you ever wondered where all the stars went? When was the last time you saw the Milky Way? We have national parks to preserve beautiful places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone geysers. But somehow, the Milky Way, a billion glowing stars all blended together in a band everyone could see every moonless night everywhere on Earth, has just faded away to invisibility for 80% of Americans. How did that happen and why we should care is what Bogard writes about in this lovely book written not for scientists or amateur astronomers, but for everyone who’s ever thought about simply “sleeping under the stars.”

By Paul Bogard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Streetlamps, neon signs - an ever-present glow that has changed the natural world and adversely affected our health; Paul Bogard illuminates the problems caused by a lack of darkness. We live awash in artificial light. But night's natural darkness has always been invaluable for our spiritual health and the health of the natural world, and every living creature suffers from its loss. Paul Bogard investigates what we mean when we talk about darkness. He travels between the intensely lit cities - from glittering Las Vegas to the gas-lit streets of Westminster - and the sites where real darkness still remains,…


Book cover of The Mysteries of the Universe: Discover the Best-Kept Secrets of Space

Marion Dane Bauer Author Of The Stuff of Stars

From my list on the origins of our universe.

Why am I passionate about this?

My expertise on the origins of our universe comes out of fascination, nothing more. I am a long-time children’s writer who began my approach to this topic with awe. Just awe. In order to write The Stuff of Stars I read widely to expand my own understanding. A single line in this text can come out of hours of reading. The books I’m suggesting here, though, are not the scientific ones that informed my telling. Rather, I have searched out books that are exceptionally creative, accessible, interesting. Some are for the very young and some for those who share their learning with the very young.  

Marion's book list on the origins of our universe

Marion Dane Bauer Why did Marion love this book?

The Mysteries of the Universe doesn’t focus on our Earth but rather on what we see when we look out from Earth. It takes on fascinating topics from moonwalking and Martian dust devils to cliffs on a comet and supernovas. A combination of amazing photographs and artists’ depictions accompanying an accessible text will hold even very young readers.  

By Will Gater,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Mysteries of the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Travel to the furthest reaches of the Universe and visit 100 remarkable objects along the way with this stunning space book for curious kids aged 7-9.

Space is so much bigger than young minds can fathom and there is always more to learn. The Mysteries of the Universe is a stunning space encyclopedia for young readers to explore, with reference pages packed with fascinating information, little learners will be captivated as they journey through the vastness of the Universe. From planets and asteroids to black holes and galaxies, every page of this enthralling space book reveals the secrets behind more…


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…


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