The best astronaut books

19 authors have picked their favorite books about astronauts and why they recommend each book.

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Omon Ra

By Victor Pelevin, Andrew Bromfield,

Book cover of Omon Ra

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.


Who am I?

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.  


I wrote...

The Return: Russia's Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev

By Daniel Treisman,

Book cover of The Return: Russia's Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev

What is my book about?

A refreshing and deeply reported look at the political, economic, and cultural changes in Russia, with an in-depth examination of Vladimir Putin's rise, the power of the oligarchy, and what it means for the world.

Almost twenty-five years after Mikhail Gorbachev began radically reshaping his country, Russia has changed beyond recognition. In his third book on this subject, Professor Daniel Treisman takes stock of the country that has emerged from the debris of Soviet communism and addresses the questions that preoccupy scholars of its history and politics: Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Could its collapse have been avoided? Did Yeltsin destroy too much or too little of the Soviet political order? What explains Putin's unprecedented popularity with the Russian public?

El Pequeño Planeta Perdido

By Ziraldo Alves Pinto,

Book cover of El Pequeño Planeta Perdido

This book marked my childhood in the '80s (there is a modern version but the original is the one), being one of the main reasons I do what I do. This is the story of an astronaut that lands on a planet far far away, after running out of fuel. Somehow everyone on earth can hear his loneliness and tries to help. It is a beautiful story about self-understanding and helping others, that mixes illustrations and photographs, allowing children's imaginations to flow: the little planet is represented by an orange photo and the rocket is just a regular bread piece, which as a kid blew my mind.  


Who am I?

I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I'm the head behind DGPH illustration and design studio. I'm also an illustration professor of the illustrator major at Palermo University (UP). My passion for kids books and illustration turned me into a full time illustrator combining both passions, illustration, and design. And with time, I started writing my own stories too.


I wrote...

Dino

By Diego Vaisberg,

Book cover of Dino

What is my book about?

A heart-warming story about the complications of having a dinosaur as a pet.

The book follows an "average" day with a t-rex as a family member. It's actually based on my experience with my first son Simon, and how it was our first year as a family. The book was made using a Risograph printing technique, illustrated with just 2 colors mixing photographs, collage, and digital illustration.

Mae Among the Stars

By Roda Ahmed, Stasia Burrington (illustrator),

Book cover of Mae Among the Stars

“If you can dream it, if you believe it and work hard for it, anything is possible.” This passage is why I absolutely love this book. This is repeated several times throughout this beautiful picture book that is based on the life of astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison. Mae’s parents were very supportive of her dream of going to space, but Mae’s teacher suggested that perhaps she become a nurse rather than an astronaut. She proved her wrong! Mae also became a doctor, a Peace Corp medical officer, and the first Black female astronaut. Mae is definitely among the stars!


Who am I?

I am a mom and life-long educator who has often scratched my head and wondered why kids give up so easily when things become a little challenging. I learned about fixed and growth mindset principles and decided to apply them to an education setting. What I realized during this time is that both adults and kids give up too easily and demonstrate fixed mindset thinking way too often! As a result, I wrote a few books for teachers, parents, and kids about ways to develop a growth mindset! I am sharing some of my favorite books that can be a catalyst for discussing resiliency and perseverance with the kids in our life!


I wrote...

Nothing You Can't Do!: The Secret Power of Growth Mindsets

By Mary Cay Ricci,

Book cover of Nothing You Can't Do!: The Secret Power of Growth Mindsets

What is my book about?

Nothing You Can’t Do! The Secret Power of a Growth Mindset is an engaging, funny, and interactive book for kids who need some support sticking with stuff. Things like sports, school, music, art...just about anything that a kid faces! The book is divided into “secrets.” Here are a few: (Shhhhh don’t tell anyone that I am sharing some secrets) Secret #9: Your Brain Can Get Smarter and Stronger! Secret #10: Bounce Back from Setbacks. Secret #14: Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes. Secret #25: Have Some Strategies in Your Back Pocket.

Readers can learn to observe life through an optimistic lens, handle mistakes in a positive way and reflect on the potential that we all have when we learn the secrets of a growth mindset. 

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

By Chris Hadfield,

Book cover of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything

“Weightlessness is like a new toy you get to unwrap every day, again and again — and it’s a great reminder, too, that you need to savor the small stuff, not just sweat it.” One of many lessons learned offered by the Canadian astronaut (yes, the one who sang a creative version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”) and flew on both the American Shuttle and Russian Soyuz. Like other next-generation astronauts influenced by the Apollo era, Chris reveals a non-jargon view about training and spaceflight with international crews. As Commander of the International Space Station during Expedition 34/35, he writes, “… don’t assume you know everything, and try to be ready for anything” is wisdom that can be related to here on Earth and up there in space.” 


Who am I?

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.   


I wrote...

Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration

By Michael Soluri,

Book cover of Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration

What is my book about?

Infinite Worlds - the People and Places of Space Exploration is a visually driven, beautifully designed, and printed coffee table book that reveals the sublime art of human and robotic space exploration. With extraordinary access over several years into the restricted, behind-the-scenes work cultures of 3 NASA Spaceflight Centers, Michael photographically documented the craft and humanity that frames the team effort behind the historic last shuttle mission that essentially saved the Hubble Space Telescope. In addition, his observations are woven between 18 insightful first-person essays by some of the NASA astronaut crew, engineers, shuttle techs, and scientists who worked on this historic mission. Mercury astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, wrote the introduction.

Operation Moonglow

By Teasel Muir-Harmony,

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

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.


Who am I?

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!


I wrote...

Astronomy for Dummies

By Stephen P. Maran,

Book cover of Astronomy for Dummies

What is my book about?

Do you know the difference between a red giant and a white dwarf? From asteroids to black holes, this easy-to-understand guide takes you on a grand tour of the universe. Featuring updated star maps, charts, and an insert with gorgeous full-color photographs, Astronomy For Dummies provides an easy-to-follow introduction to the night sky. Plus, this new edition also gives you the latest theories, explanations, and insights into the basic workings of the universe.

A Man on the Moon

By Andrew Chaikin,

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

Between 1968 and 1972, 24 Apollo astronauts flew to the moon and 12 of them landed to first explore its surface. By the late eighties when it seemed nobody cared about the Apollo era missions, Andy had the vision, persistence, and respect for history to research, track down, and by 1994, interview each of those astronauts in their own words. Knowing Andy, it is understandable why these essentially forgotten first explorers to another celestial body, including engineers and scientists, opened up and provided remarkable unscripted accounts. It is a transcendent portrait of the Apollo era that continues to inspire the imagination. Including Tom Hanks (Apollo 13) who had used the book as an essential guide toward the production of HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon


Who am I?

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.   


I wrote...

Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration

By Michael Soluri,

Book cover of Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration

What is my book about?

Infinite Worlds - the People and Places of Space Exploration is a visually driven, beautifully designed, and printed coffee table book that reveals the sublime art of human and robotic space exploration. With extraordinary access over several years into the restricted, behind-the-scenes work cultures of 3 NASA Spaceflight Centers, Michael photographically documented the craft and humanity that frames the team effort behind the historic last shuttle mission that essentially saved the Hubble Space Telescope. In addition, his observations are woven between 18 insightful first-person essays by some of the NASA astronaut crew, engineers, shuttle techs, and scientists who worked on this historic mission. Mercury astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, wrote the introduction.

Forever Young

By John W. Young, James R. Hansen,

Book cover of Forever Young: A Life of Adventure in Air and Space

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.


Who am I?

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. 


I wrote...

Ocean of Storms

By Christopher Mari, Jeremy K. Brown,

Book cover of Ocean of Storms

What is my book about?

In the near future, political tensions between the United States and China are at an all-time high. Then a catastrophic explosion on the moon cleaves a vast gash in the lunar surface, and the massive electromagnetic pulse it unleashes obliterates Earth's electrical infrastructure. To plumb the depths of the newly created lunar fissure and excavate the source of the power surge, the feuding nations are forced to cooperate on a high-risk mission to return mankind to the moon. 

Now, a diverse, highly skilled ensemble of astronauts—and a pair of maverick archaeologists plucked from the Peruvian jungle—will brave conspiracy on Earth and disaster in space to make a shocking discovery. Ocean of Storms is an epic adventure that spans space and time as its heroes race to fulfill an ancient mission that may change the course of humanity's future.

First Man

By James R. Hansen,

Book cover of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong

Neil Armstrong was an American hero not just because of his skills as a pilot during the Korean War or because of his prowess as an astronaut or by becoming the first man in history to touch the lunar surface. He is a hero because he did all of those things without ever bragging or seeking to make a profit from his success. His commitment to duty, as well as his sacrifice and humility, are lessons for every generation. 


Who am I?

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. 


I wrote...

Ocean of Storms

By Christopher Mari, Jeremy K. Brown,

Book cover of Ocean of Storms

What is my book about?

In the near future, political tensions between the United States and China are at an all-time high. Then a catastrophic explosion on the moon cleaves a vast gash in the lunar surface, and the massive electromagnetic pulse it unleashes obliterates Earth's electrical infrastructure. To plumb the depths of the newly created lunar fissure and excavate the source of the power surge, the feuding nations are forced to cooperate on a high-risk mission to return mankind to the moon. 

Now, a diverse, highly skilled ensemble of astronauts—and a pair of maverick archaeologists plucked from the Peruvian jungle—will brave conspiracy on Earth and disaster in space to make a shocking discovery. Ocean of Storms is an epic adventure that spans space and time as its heroes race to fulfill an ancient mission that may change the course of humanity's future.

The Right Stuff

By Tom Wolfe,

Book cover of The Right Stuff

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Flight through Fire

By Carol Fiore,

Book cover of Flight through Fire

What is my book about?

On October 10, 2000, an experimental test aircraft crashed on takeoff, dragging a wing, before turning into a fireball. Barely alive and suffering horrific burns, test pilot Eric Fiore was the only survivor hauled from the wreckage. He has asked his wife to promise him something.

Based on actual events, Flight through Fire is an unforgettable love story centered on a deep devotion to aviation. Deftly interweaving the past and present, the author takes the reader on a wondrous adventure around the world with a complicated and passionate man who was born to be a pilot. Insightful, brutally honest, and unexpectedly humorous, this is the story of what it takes to be a test pilot, and what it costs to love one.

Carrying the Fire

By Michael Collins,

Book cover of Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys

Michael Collins walked in space on the Gemini 10 mission in 1966, and three years later orbited the Moon as the Command Module Pilot on Apollo 11. But in addition to being an adventurous and thoroughly competent astronaut, Collins was also a fabulous writer. Detailed, evocative, thoughtful–philosophical, even, and often subtly humorous–Michael Collins weaves a fascinating story about his experiences on Earth and in space. If you only ever read one book penned by an astronaut, make it this one. It’s almost as good as being in space yourself.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Hot Moon

By Alan Smale,

Book cover of Hot Moon

What is my book about?

Apollo 32, commanded by career astronaut Vivian Carter, docks at NASA’s Columbia space station in lunar orbit en route to its main mission: exploring the volcanic Marius Hills region of the Moon. Vivian is caught in the crossfire as four Soviet craft appear without warning to assault the orbiting station. In an unplanned and desperate move, Vivian spacewalks through hard vacuum back to her Lunar Module and crew, and escapes right before the station falls into Soviet hands.

Their original mission scrubbed, Vivian and her crew are redirected to land at Hadley Base, a NASA scientific outpost with a crew of eighteen. But soon Hadley, too, will come under Soviet attack, forcing its unarmed astronauts to daring acts of ingenuity and improvisation. 

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