The best books on the cosmos (space)

1 authors have picked their favorite books about the cosmos and why they recommend each book.

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The Five Ages of the Universe

By Greg Laughlin, Fred Adams,

Book cover of The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity

What does tomorrow hold for the universe? Through this book, the authors step into the far future of the cosmos, starting from our universe today, lit with stars and galaxies, to a hundred trillion years hence when the last star has died. But at this point, the story has only just begun, and the authors continue to the distant time when matter will eventually melt, and black holes will evaporate into the background. Whilst some of the physics is speculative this is an exciting ride which reminds us, like everything, the universe is slowly and steadily winding down.


Who am I?

With a PhD in astrophysics, cosmology is my day job. My research focuses upon the dark-side, the dark matter and energy that have shaped the evolution of the universe. My scientific journey began long ago with “How and Why Wonder Books”, from dinosaurs and evolution to astronomy and space exploration. I have always devoured tales about the fundamental universe, not only the immensity of the cosmos around us, but also the lives of the tiny bits-and-pieces from which matter is made. I still read a lot of popular science, especially on the history of life on Earth, and the future impact of Artificial Intelligence. 



I wrote...

A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos

By Geraint F. Lewis, Luke A. Barnes,

Book cover of A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos

What is my book about?

Over the last forty years, scientists have uncovered evidence that if the Universe had been forged with even slightly different properties, life as we know it - and life as we can imagine it - would be impossible. Join us on a journey through how we understand the Universe, from its most basic particles and forces, to planets, stars and galaxies, and back through cosmic history to the birth of the cosmos. 

Cosmology

By Edward R. Harrison,

Book cover of Cosmology: The Science of the Universe

Cosmology encompasses our modern understanding of the universe, but what a strange universe it is, born in a fiery Big Bang, dominated by the dark-side, and expanding into a never-ending future. In his classic book, Harrison lays out the science of cosmology, exploring the nature of the Big Bang, the meaning of expansion, and our place in a seemingly infinite cosmos. With a lucid style, I love Harrison’s tour of modern cosmology. It is not just required reading for the cosmologist in training but is also essential for anyone wondering just how our universe works.    


Who am I?

With a PhD in astrophysics, cosmology is my day job. My research focuses upon the dark-side, the dark matter and energy that have shaped the evolution of the universe. My scientific journey began long ago with “How and Why Wonder Books”, from dinosaurs and evolution to astronomy and space exploration. I have always devoured tales about the fundamental universe, not only the immensity of the cosmos around us, but also the lives of the tiny bits-and-pieces from which matter is made. I still read a lot of popular science, especially on the history of life on Earth, and the future impact of Artificial Intelligence. 



I wrote...

A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos

By Geraint F. Lewis, Luke A. Barnes,

Book cover of A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos

What is my book about?

Over the last forty years, scientists have uncovered evidence that if the Universe had been forged with even slightly different properties, life as we know it - and life as we can imagine it - would be impossible. Join us on a journey through how we understand the Universe, from its most basic particles and forces, to planets, stars and galaxies, and back through cosmic history to the birth of the cosmos. 

The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000

By Aleksandra Mizielinska, Daniel Mizielinski,

Book cover of The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000

Welcome to the future in the city of Mamoko! A list of questions launches readers to discover a story about each seek-and-find character. What is strange about Otto Flash’s new jumper? Why is Amelia squeal so excited?  Inventive, cross-sectioned interiors and exteriors, a top-notch, delicious color palette. This book sparks future-curious imaginations. Also in this series: Welcome to Mamoko and The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons.


Who am I?

From the ages of 1-4, my son Finn deeply rooted himself into the detailed world of Richard Scarry. These books could be such slow reads that we only needed two of them for long airplane rides. Through Finn’s love of Scarry books, I began searching for more books that delighted with detail. And when I did not see my family’s bicycle-rich lifestyle reflected in books, I created Cycle City.


I wrote...

Cycle City: (City Books for Kids, Find and Seek Books)

By Alison Farrell,

Book cover of Cycle City: (City Books for Kids, Find and Seek Books)

What is my book about?

When little Etta the Elephant goes to her Aunt Ellen's house, she takes a journey through bicycle-filled Cycle City, a town filled with bikes of all kinds! At the end of the day, a special surprise awaits Etta—the most amazing bicycle parade imaginable.

Detail-rich illustrations in this fun seek-and-find book paint the colors of this unusual town where everyone rides some kind of bike—whether a penny-farthing, a two-wheeled unicycle, or a conference bike, everyone is on wheels! Packed with prompts and lots to see on every page, this is a sweet story for the sharpest of eyes.

The New Ambidextrous Universe

By Martin Gardner,

Book cover of The New Ambidextrous Universe: Symmetry and Asymmetry from Mirror Reflections to Superstrings

In the 1950s it was discovered that the cosmos was broken, a thing we boringly call parity violation. Physicists were shocked as they realized that the universe was not as perfect and symmetrical as they assumed. In his wonderful book, Gardner explores the meaning of symmetry and asymmetry in nature, from the fact that life prefers molecules with a particular twist, to the startling revelation that our universe seen in a mirror is not our universe. Whilst physicists have made their peace with a fundamentally broken universe, for the uninitiated the discovery is still disturbing.   


Who am I?

With a PhD in astrophysics, cosmology is my day job. My research focuses upon the dark-side, the dark matter and energy that have shaped the evolution of the universe. My scientific journey began long ago with “How and Why Wonder Books”, from dinosaurs and evolution to astronomy and space exploration. I have always devoured tales about the fundamental universe, not only the immensity of the cosmos around us, but also the lives of the tiny bits-and-pieces from which matter is made. I still read a lot of popular science, especially on the history of life on Earth, and the future impact of Artificial Intelligence. 



I wrote...

A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos

By Geraint F. Lewis, Luke A. Barnes,

Book cover of A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos

What is my book about?

Over the last forty years, scientists have uncovered evidence that if the Universe had been forged with even slightly different properties, life as we know it - and life as we can imagine it - would be impossible. Join us on a journey through how we understand the Universe, from its most basic particles and forces, to planets, stars and galaxies, and back through cosmic history to the birth of the cosmos. 

Death from the Skies!

By Philip Plait,

Book cover of Death from the Skies!: The Science Behind the End of the World

This is not a fiction book per se but each chapter sets out a possible future, in a story-like form, of how life as we know it might be terminated on Earth. We know for a fact that mass extinctions have happened before but this time, we may well have the smarts to do something about it. This book inspires us to look up not down and marvel at the cosmos that made us but that also might unmake us. It is a clarion call for us to become planetary caretakers, rather than planetary abusers.


Who am I?

Tom spent the first 30 years of his professional life at the cutting edge of the broadcast industry. He has always been fascinated by new technology and more specifically how it allows humans to evolve and work smarter and better. He is also a sci-fi fan and has a keen interest in both cosmology and metaphysics. He says that today's metaphysics is tomorrow’s physics. So his book choices mirror his fascinations which are in what lies in the future for humanity, bearing in mind that science fiction especially has a tendency to become science fact at some time or other. If we humans are capable of imagining something, then we seem to develop the ability to make it happen.


I wrote...

Soulwaves: A Future History

By Tom Evans,

Book cover of Soulwaves: A Future History

What is my book about?

Soulwaves is a metaphysical and cosmological adventure across space and time. If you’ve ever wondered where we are heading, this book explores a possible near-future for humanity and the Earth.

Soulwaves are the missing dark energy and dark matter that cosmologists can’t find. They bond people to people, moons to planets, planets to stars, and stars to other stars to form galaxies. When this book begins in 2059, China has become the predominant force on the world stage. You will discover that events on planet Earth, and all other sentient planets, are managed and directed by more pervasive, yet unseen, forces.

Picturing the Cosmos

By Elizabeth A. Kessler,

Book cover of Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime

A penetrating, creative, and highly accessible exploration of how the incredible images from the Hubble Space Telescope were selected and produced. Most intriguing and revealing is an analysis of the context of these images within the history of frontier landscape art.

Who am I?

I was trained in astronomy and astrophysics, was a staff observer at the Lick and Yerkes Observatories, and always have had a passion for researching and writing the history of modern astrophysics and space astronomy. I hold a PhD in the history of astronomy from the University of Leicester in England, am now a retired museum curator having been a planetarium lecturer, college professor, research associate for the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics, and guitar teacher in the early 1960s.


I wrote...

The Hubble Cosmos: 25 Years of New Vistas in Space

By David H. DeVorkin, Robert W. Smith,

Book cover of The Hubble Cosmos: 25 Years of New Vistas in Space

What is my book about?

Lavishly illustrated popular exposition of the Hubble Space Telescope, how and why it was created, who built it and fought for it, who used it, and how it has changed our view of the universe.

Big Bang

By Simon Singh,

Book cover of Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe

Where do we come from? It’s hard to come up with a bigger question. This book is a fun, illustrated read that explores the history of how we got from Creation myths and Greek philosophers to the Big Bang. But at every step of the way Dr. Singh is clear our ancestors were not idiots but rather had valid logical reasons based on what they saw to believe what they did. His easy prose, coupled with informative cartoons, is my gold standard for how to make science popular. And I learned Hubble (the astronomer, not the space telescope) once got a standing ovation at the Academy Awards! How cool is that?


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

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

By Tyler Nordgren,

Book cover of Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets

What is my book about?

Seeing a total solar eclipse is more than just “seeing”, it is a multisensory experience where the heavens literally align with you as you stand in the cold shadow of the Moon cast by a now black Sun. Imagine how profoundly upsetting it is to see day turned suddenly to tonight, especially if – unlike today – it came with no warning at all. It’s an experience that has altered history and advanced science and today drives a word-wide travel industry that in the next few years will be coming to a town, state, or country near you.

Sun Moon Earth is the story of why you need to go and what you will experience when you get yourself into the path of totality.

The Demon-Haunted World

By Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan,

Book cover of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

It’s not often a world-famous scientist does a great job explaining the scientific method to the general population. Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan teach how to think critically about extraordinary claims. In other words, what’s valid and what’s not. What’s sound logic versus flawed thinking. As Carl famously stated, “…Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”


Who am I?

As a licensed mental health professional, I once had a client claiming to be demonically possessed, and requested that I get an exorcist to drive the evil spirits out of her body. Instead, I utilized a therapeutic approach to challenge “irrational” beliefs. The problem was gone. I realized that people were prone to strange beliefs and started to read and listen to “experts” who were skeptical in nature. To my surprise, I saw Carl Sagan distinguishing astrology (pseudoscience) from astronomy (science). His talk was clear, convincing, and logical. I was hooked.


I edited...

Pseudoscience and Deception: The Smoke and Mirrors of Paranormal Claims

By Bryan Farha,

Book cover of Pseudoscience and Deception: The Smoke and Mirrors of Paranormal Claims

What is my book about?

Pseudoscience and Deception is a compilation of some of the most eye-opening skeptical articles pertaining to extraordinary claims and pseudoscience. The articles explore paranormal, extraordinary, or fringe-science claims and reveal logical explanations or outline the deceptive tactics involved in convincing the vulnerable. Topics include claims of astrology, psychic ability, alternative medicine, after-death communication, psychotherapy, and pseudoscience. The contributors to this book are among the most accomplished critical thinkers, scientists, and educators in the world and tackle their respective topics from a rational, logical, and skeptical perspective. Most students are seldom excited to study “critical thinking”—with the exception of allegedly paranormal phenomena as the subject matter. Educators must seize this golden opportunity to witness and experience students’ genuine engagement in studying critical thinking. 

Star Maker

By Olaf Stapledon,

Book cover of Star Maker

No other book has influenced me so deeply. Arthur C. Clarke wrote it is "probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written." As I now reread Star Maker, published in 1937 when I was three years old, I still find passages so profound that they send my mind into orbit. The book takes us through time and space to a future when that entire conscious cosmos yearns to meet its creator. It ends with a prophetic awareness that “the struggle of our age was brewing” and the hope that our species can make it “before the ultimate darkness.”


Who am I?

My twenty books have won top awards for lifetime scholarship in American studies, science fiction, prison literature, the Vietnam war, and marine ecology. My writing is just part of my six decades as an activist for peace and justice, which made me a major target of the FBI’s operation COINTELPRO and led Stanford to fire me from my tenured professorship.  I then taught for 40 years at Rutgers University in Newark as The John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies. 


I wrote...

Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War

By Howard Bruce Franklin,

Book cover of Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War

What is my book about?

America. The 1939 World’s Fair and World War II shaped my earliest views of America. Then I worked in factory sweatshops and on tugboats amidst the wars for New York Harbor. I flew as an Arctic navigator and intelligence officer and later helped set up the Vietnam deserter network in France. Then I joined the revolutionary movement of the sixties and seventies. Crash Course is a revolutionary history of America and a meditation on Homo sapiens, the most intelligent species on planet Earth, the only known species that has figured out not one way, but two ways, to make our planet unsuitable for our continual existence: nuclear war and global warming. 

At the Mountains of Madness

By H.P. Lovecraft,

Book cover of At the Mountains of Madness

Horrors in Antarctica again, but this time designed to frighten. Along with a detailed description (maybe too detailed) of what the well-equipped Antarctic expedition needed to survive a journey to the Southernmost Continent back in 1930, Lovecraft introduces us to gibbering horrors from beyond the stars. What differentiated much of Lovecraft’s fiction from that of his contemporaries was that his space aliens were neither friend nor foe. Reflecting the author’s view of a terrifyingly vast and cold cosmos, they were largely indifferent to us. Mostly, they could care less if we chose to interact with them or their minions or their artifacts. When we did, it never ended well.

No matter how intelligent or well-intentioned or just plain curious the protagonists of Lovecraft’s stories might be, in his tales humans were just something to be swept aside like so many microbes. John W. Campbell later made use of a similar…


Who am I?

I started collecting science fiction as a teenager. As a collector, as opposed to just a reader, you come in contact with stories that considerably predate what you find for sale in stores. This led me to books from the 1930s and much earlier. John Taine was one of only two SF writers I encountered from the 1920s and 30s whom I still found enjoyable (and exciting) to read (the other was E.E. “doc” Smith).


I wrote...

Triplanetary: Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera

By E. E. 'Doc' Smith,

Book cover of Triplanetary: Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera

What is my book about?

The argument rages: did Dune influence Star Wars and if so, how much? Or was the primary influence on Star Wars the Flash Gordon movie serial? Or 2001: A Space Odyssey? The question is moot, since the granddaddy of them all was the Lensman series of novels.

The first of these, Triplanetary, appeared in the Jan-April 1934 issues of Amazing Stories. It’s all there: multiple intelligent alien species, an evil empire bent on galactic domination, people with heightened mental abilities, gigantic battles in space; all set against a vast galactic background. The science is primitive and so are some of the characters, but the action and scope carries you along. When much of science fiction was struggling to tell stories inside the solar system, Smith was ranging across the entire galaxy. Adjusted and fixed up, all six of the main Lensman novels are still readily available—and for a reason.

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