The best astronomy books

15 authors have picked their favorite books about astronomy and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Cosmos

Cosmos

By Carl Sagan,

Why this book?

I read Cosmos when I was young and it inspired the love of science I still carry today. I found Sagan’s musings about the pale blue dot mesmerizing, and the science was thrilling. I ended up going to Space Camp when I was 14 and Governor’s School for Physics when I was 16 to further my scientific knowledge. When I wrote A Paradox of Fates, I used some of the science I learned in Governor’s School to explain time travel, which has always been a fascinating subject to me.

From the list:

The best books for fellow science dorks

Book cover of Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe

Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe

By Terence Dickinson, Roberta Cooke (illustrator), Adolf Schaller (illustrator)

Why this book?

This classic book is a veritable encyclopedia of stargazing knowledge, including telescope operation, celestial mechanics, and astrophotography. Terence brings his decades of stargazing experience to bear, offering tips and tricks that will push your backyard observations to the next level. Even if you only have binoculars, this book contains more than enough stargazing activities to keep you busy for years.

From the list:

The best books on stargazing

Book cover of Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope - And How to Find Them

Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope - And How to Find Them

By Guy Consolmagno, Dan M. Davis,

Why this book?

Turn Left at Orion is arguably the most famous stargazing book of all time. This book dives deep into the nuances of amateur astronomy, from choosing the right stargazing location, to combatting dew on your lenses, and cleaning your optics. In addition to detailed star maps customized for various types of telescopes, it is filled with tables, listing literally thousands of potential stargazing targets for those blessed with dark skies, far from city lights. 

From the list:

The best books on stargazing

Book cover of Pluto's Secret: An Icy World's Tale of Discovery

Pluto's Secret: An Icy World's Tale of Discovery

By Margaret Weitekamp, David H. DeVorkin, Diane Kidd (illustrator)

Why this book?

Pluto’s Secret is the tale of Pluto’s discovery, naming, and demotion from planet to “icy world.” Along the way, it is jam-packed with details about astronomy, with Pluto jumping in with its endearing point of view. Immersed in Pluto’s world this way, Pluto’s Secret is a fun and upbeat way to learn about planets as well as the way astronomy is done.

From the list:

The best children’s books about astronomy

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

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

By Will Gater,

Why 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.  

From the list:

The best children’s books about the origins of our universe

Book cover of Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations

Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations

By Jacqueline Mitton, Christina Balit (illustrator),

Why this book?

The Greeks imagined a whole menagerie of animals in the stars, but the constellations can sometimes be difficult to figure out. National Geographic’s Zoo in the Sky changes all that. It lines up the stars with Christina Balit’s vibrant artwork, bringing the Great Bear, the Great Dog and the other animal constellations to life. It’s a gorgeous way to learn and enjoy the stars for both young and old readers alike.

From the list:

The best children’s books about astronomy

Book cover of Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe

Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe

By Peter D. Ward, Donald Brownlee,

Why this book?

Some people may think “Hail Caesar” coursing through Frank Drake’s equation on the possibility and abundance of intelligent life out there in the universe. But hold up Hoss, Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee are about to pour cold water all over Frank’s imaginative equation. This was the first book to offer an accurate assessment of the possibility of life among the stars beyond slime, sludge, and bacteria. Intelligent life, capable of technology and communications, may be rarer than we ever imagined.  This is barn-burning thought provoking-informative and sobering look at how unique the sometimes intelligent human species may really be.

From the list:

The best books to really understand the first science: astronomy

Book cover of Astronomy Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Activities

Astronomy Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Activities

By Michelle Nichols,

Why this book?

I love science and this book specializes in astronomy. Nichols helps kids get excited about the night sky, planets, and much more. She shows them how to make their own telescope and uses a microwave and a chocolate bar to teach them about the speed of light. A great dip into a wonderful topic.
From the list:

The best family activity books

Book cover of The Promise of Space

The Promise of Space

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Why this book?

Although Arthur C. Clarke is usually regarded primarily as an author of science fiction (think 2001, Rendezvous with Rama) he was also a masterful exponent of science fact. Written at a time when humans were still preparing to land on the Moon, this book opened the door to the vistas of outer space for this budding author. A man generations ahead of his time, Clarke would have been as disappointed as any at our slow rate of progress in space exploration since the Apollo Moon landings. An uplifting view of our technological future, some of it still to…
From the list:

The best books that have inspired my writings on astronomy and space

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

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

By Paul Bogard,

Why 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…

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The best astronomy books to rock your world and alter your cosmos

Or, view all 52 books about astronomy

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