14 books directly related to astrophysics 📚

All 14 astrophysics books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

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

Why 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.

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

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 How Apollo Flew to the Moon

Why this book?

You’ll find a thousand books that tell the Apollo story, describing the missions and the astronauts and the drama, and A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin is most people’s gateway drug. It’s a great book. But being on the technical side myself–and needing all those messy in-depth technical details to get my own book right–I found Woods’ book perfect for delving deep into the scientific and technical ingenuity of the missions, of all the procedures and maneuvers from launch through splashdown, and many other fascinating aspects that other books leave out. If you’ve ever read an Apollo history and wondered: “But how did that really work, how long did it take, what was the process, why did they do it that way?” or even just “Uh, they did what, now?” then this is totally the book for you.

How Apollo Flew to the Moon

By W. David Woods,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Stung by the pioneering space successes of the Soviet Union - in particular, Gagarin being the first man in space, the United States gathered the best of its engineers and set itself the goal of reaching the Moon within a decade. In an expanding 2nd edition of How Apollo Flew to the Moon, David Woods tells the exciting story of how the resulting Apollo flights were conducted by following a virtual flight to the Moon and its exploration of the surface. From launch to splashdown, he hitches a ride in the incredible spaceships that took men to another world, exploring…

Book cover of The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred

Why this book?

This Harvard-trained cosmologist takes us on a journey into the universe, from colliding black holes to neutrons and protons “faking it” as elementary particles. If you ever wondered why the universe has more matter than antimatter, and what is dark matter made of, this book is for you. And physics is about more than theories; it’s about people doing physics. Black lives matter, and Black lives are the stuff of stars. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein shares her exploration of a universe that is “bigger than the bad things that are happening to us.” Along the way, we gain new clues to the fate of our galaxies full of stars.

The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred

By Chanda Prescod-Weinstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From a star theoretical physicist, a journey into the world of particle physics and the cosmos -- and a call for a more just practice of science.

In The Disordered Cosmos, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein shares her love for physics, from the Standard Model of Particle Physics and what lies beyond it, to the physics of melanin in skin, to the latest theories of dark matter -- all with a new spin informed by history, politics, and the wisdom of Star Trek.

One of the leading physicists of her generation, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is also one of fewer than one hundred…


The Revolt on Venus

By Carey Rockwell,

Book cover of The Revolt on Venus

Why this book?

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet remains my favorite young adult series. What’s not to like? Fights ending in fellowship, villains, and perils defeated, all in a dazzling 24th-century world of atomic spaceflight, electric wristwatches, high-speed slidewalks, hard-nosed Solar Guard officers with hearts of gold, and – remember this was written 70 years ago – brilliant women who are full professors of astrophysics at Space Academy (I’ll always love you, Dr. Joan Dale). Oh yes, and the Paralo-Ray: a weapon that immobilizes but does not kill. Of the eight Corbett books, The Revolt on Venus is the best: tense and thrilling, full of great characters, and politically astute.

The Revolt on Venus

By Carey Rockwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book is a result of an effort made by us towards making a contribution to the preservation and repair of original classic literature. In an attempt to preserve, improve and recreate the original content, we have worked towards: 1. Type-setting & Reformatting: The complete work has been re-designed via professional layout, formatting and type-setting tools to re-create the same edition with rich typography, graphics, high quality images, and table elements, giving our readers the feel of holding a 'fresh and newly' reprinted and/or revised edition, as opposed to other scanned & printed (Optical Character Recognition - OCR) reproductions. 2.…

Book cover of The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking)

Why this book?

Who doesn’t love to think about how the universe—so big, so old already—will ultimately end? Reading the book encouraged me to look at the universe as its own thing, of which I and all of Earth, were tiny parts, and tiny parts that would end long before the cosmos itself would. Katie Mack explores what five such conclusions might look like, getting everybody a little more comfortable with the idea that every story has an ending, even if we don’t know what this one looks like.

The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking)

By Katie Mack,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The End of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE ECONOMIST, OBSERVER, NEW SCIENTIST, BBC FOCUS, INDEPENDENT AND WASHINGTON POST

'Weird science, explained beautifully' - John Scalzi

'A rollicking tour of the wildest physics. . . Like an animated discussion with your favourite quirky and brilliant professor' Leah Crane, New Scientist

From one of the most dynamic rising stars in astrophysics, an eye-opening look at five ways the universe could end, and the mind-blowing lessons each scenario reveals about the most important ideas in cosmology

We know the universe had a beginning. But what happens at the end of the story?…


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

Why 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 enriched his compelling text with an abundant array of illustrations, including four-color plates.

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

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

Why 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 glow commonly known as the Milky Way that, depending on the season and time of night, can be seen arching across the starry sky.  Belkora deftly uses examples drawn from the successes and failures of these puzzle-solvers of the past to inspire modern readers to continue the quest for answers to the tantalizing unsolved cosmological riddles of today.

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

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

Why this book?

This is a very readable account of a group of women working on a project at Harvard University’s observatory in the late nineteenth century. The project involved studying glass-plate negatives of the sky and in doing so learning more about the night sky, the composition of stars, and their evolution. Through the story of these women, Sobel shows the extent to which the university supported and nurtured them, it also brilliantly brings to life these women using their own words to show their awareness of certain injustices. This book is a great way into to understanding science as it properly is: more often than not collaborative and collective rather than the isolating work of a stereotypical lone genius. It is also a great story, engagingly told.

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

By Dava Sobel,

Why should I read it?

3 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 Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God

Why this book?

This book, by one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, offers a personal insight into understanding and appreciating the vastness of the Cosmos. It’s a book that spans so much and paints the most accurate picture I’ve read of how we might fit into the Universe.  

The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God

By Carl Sagan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Ann Druyan has unearthed a treasure. It is a treasure of reason, compassion, and scientific awe. It should be the next book you read.” —Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith

“A stunningly valuable legacy left to all of us by a great human being. I miss him so.”  —Kurt Vonnegut

Carl Sagan's prophetic vision of the tragic resurgence of fundamentalism and the hope-filled potential of the next great development in human spirituality

The late great astronomer and astrophysicist describes his personal search to understand the nature of the sacred in the vastness of the cosmos. Exhibiting a breadth…

Book cover of The Physics of Filter Coffee

Why this book?

Coffee preparation is often accused of being a bit nerdy, but what if you lean into that? This book is a deep exploration of coffee brewing from a passionate astrophysicist. With a rigorous approach to coffee you can learn new and surprising things, and this book is having rippling effects on coffee shops and coffee lovers worldwide.

The Physics of Filter Coffee

By Jonathan Gagne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Physics of Filter Coffee by astrophysicist Jonathan Gagné is perhaps the most significant book ever written on the science of coffee brewing. In the book Jonathan discusses the physics of percolation, extraction, and grinding, as well as water chemistry. He takes the reader down such rabbit holes as pouring-kettle design, optimizing turbulence while pouring, the impact of fines on percolation, the physics of paper filters, and the geometry of various brewers. He also presents some original ideas about coffee brewing and backs it all up with reams of facts and data. The most wonderful thing about The Physics of…

Book cover of Black Hole Survival Guide

Why this book?

Black holes are surely the most mysterious structures known to physics. In this short and highly accessible book, Levin, an astrophysicist at Barnard College of Columbia University, brings her unique poetic style to the puzzles found at the frontiers of physics. Warped spacetime, event horizons, singularities – it’s all here. And Lia Halloran’s delightful illustrations help bring the story to life.

Black Hole Survival Guide

By Janna Levin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Hole Survival Guide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What would happen if you fell into a Black Hole?

Black holes are found throughout the universe. They can be microscopic. They can be billions of times larger than our Sun. They are dark on the outside but not on the inside. Anything that enters them can never escape, and yet they contain nothing at all.

In Black Hole Survival Guide physicist and novelist Janna Levin takes you on a journey into a black hole, explaining what would happen to you and why. In the process you'll come to see how their mysteries contain answers to some of the most…

Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil Degrasse Tyson

By Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer, Frank Morrison (illustrator)

Book cover of Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil Degrasse Tyson

Why this book?

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson visited New York’s Hayden Planetarium for the first time when he was just nine years old and the stars grabbed him. In Starstruck, non-fiction master Kathleen Krull and co-author Paul Brewer use relatable incidents, like a family trip when young Neil sees the dazzling night sky and decides to give up his ambition to be a baseball player to become an astrophysicist. Concepts like the Big Bang Theory and the reclassification of Pluto are explained simply but intelligently. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s road from inspired boy to world acclaimed scientist wasn’t easy, but it’s hard to imagine any kid- or adult- who won’t be motivated by this star-crossed journey.

Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil Degrasse Tyson

By Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer, Frank Morrison (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Step into Reading easy-to-read biography on science superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson, the groundbreaking American astrophysicist whose work has inspired a generation of young scientists and astronomers to reach for the stars!

This Step 3 Biography Reader introduces children to a young Neil deGrasse Tyson who was starstruck when he first visited the sky theater at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. He couldn't believe the crowded, glittering night sky at the planetarium was real--until a visit to the country years later revealed the impossible.

That discovery was like rocket fuel for Neil's passion about space--taking him from the…

Book cover of Centennial History of the Carnegie Institution of Washington: Volume 1, the Mount Wilson Observatory: Breaking the Code of Cosmic Evolution

Why this book?

Exhaustive descriptive and semi-technical history of the observatory where Hubble spent most of his career, using the 100-inch Hooker reflector to explore the visual limits of the known Universe. Sandage, himself a famous astronomer and Hubble successor, places Hubble’s life and career in lucid institutional context.

Centennial History of the Carnegie Institution of Washington: Volume 1, the Mount Wilson Observatory: Breaking the Code of Cosmic Evolution

By Allan Sandage,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Centennial History of the Carnegie Institution of Washington as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since its foundation in 1904, the Mount Wilson Observatory has been at the centre of the development of astrophysics. Perched atop a mountain wilderness, two mammoth solar tower telescopes and the 60- and 100-inch behemoth night-time reflectors were all the largest in the world. Research has centred around two main themes - the evolution of stars and the development of the universe. This first volume in a series of five histories of the Carnegie Institution describes the people and events, the challenges and successes that the Observatory has witnessed. It includes biographical sketches of forty of the most famous Mount…

Book cover of Making Stars Physical: The Astronomy of Sir John Herschel

Why this book?

Denizens of the twenty-first century need to hop on board a time machine if they want to really see and comprehend the structure and workings of the world through nineteenth-century eyes. Making Stars Physical is just the ticket!  It pulls the modern reader back into an era when the science of astronomy was still mainly focused on tracking the movement of Earth's solar system companions against the array of carefully plotted background stars. It also reveals that, despite a public façade of stability and uniformity of purpose, astronomy's disciplinary boundaries were beginning to blur.

Author Stephen Case presents an engaging examination of the prehistory of astrophysics and the pivotal role played in it by polymath John Frederick William Herschel (1792-1871), whose views reflected the complexity, strengths, and limitations of the state of contemporary astronomical knowledge. Although, like many of his contemporaries, he doubted that the chemists' trusted spectroscope would be of much use to astronomers, he remained optimistic that methodical scientific investigation would ultimately resolve the mystery of the true nature of celestial bodies.  By encouraging amateurs and professionals alike to study stars' physical characteristics and apply known terrestrial laws of nature to the celestial realm, Herschel paved the way for the emergence of the new astronomy of astrophysics.

Making Stars Physical: The Astronomy of Sir John Herschel

By Stephen Case,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Making Stars Physical offers the first extensive look at the astronomical career of John Herschel, son of William Herschel and one of the leading scientific figures in Britain throughout much of the nineteenth century. Herschel's astronomical career is usually relegated to a continuation of his father, William's, sweeps for nebulae. However, as Stephen Case argues, John Herschel was pivotal in establishing the sidereal revolution his father had begun: a shift of attention from the planetary system to the study of nebulous regions in the heavens and speculations on the nature of the Milky Way and the sun's position within it.…