The best books on extraterrestrial life 📚

Browse the best books on extraterrestrial life as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Carl Sagan's Cosmic Connection

Carl Sagan's Cosmic Connection

By Carl Sagan

Why this book?

Carl Sagan was that most unusual of creatures: a top scientist who was also a lyrical writer. In an era when scientists were still wary of dealing with the press – an aversion that he helped overturn – his books were particularly influential in promoting the search for extraterrestrial life, both on the planets of our own Solar System (notably Mars) and on planets of other stars. In nearly 40 short, varied essays, The Cosmic Connection outlines our links with the cosmos around us, raises the possibility that we are not alone, and discusses what we might do if an…
From the list:

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

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Book cover of Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space

Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space

By Kevin Hand

Why this book?

The search for life outside the Earth is NASA’s greatest quest, and this book will bring you up to speed on it. Just a few decades ago, scientists thought life arose on the Earth in shallow seas, warmed by the early sun and zapped by energy-producing lightning. The best place to look for alien life was on Mars, where bacterial life may have formed in the shallow pools that covered the young Mars, and then hunkered down in subsurface spots of Martian water and ice as these pools evaporated. Scientists now suspect life arose in warm vents deep in the…

From the list:

The best books to learn about the planets and life outside the Earth

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Book cover of The Risen Empire: Book One of the Succession

The Risen Empire: Book One of the Succession

By Scott Westerfeld

Why this book?

The Succession duology (The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds) is one of the best sci-fi series that few people seem to have heard about. Westerfeld does a masterful job of portraying high-tech, futuristic military combat both on the ground and out in space. It felt so realistic, and I learned so much about spaceship combat that I had never even imagined before. The stories in these books stuck in my head for years, and I find I keep returning to read them again every so often, which only happens with the very best books.
From the list:

The best sci-fi books to enjoy while expanding your mind

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Book cover of Chasm City

Chasm City

By Alastair Reynolds

Why this book?

Chasm City is part of Reynold's Revelation Space series, but this future-noir mystery is perfectly readable as a standalone. It follows a man on a mission of revenge, one that takes him into the crumbling, plague-ridden remains of a once-great civilization that has descended into chaos and squalor. The world-building is top-notch—this is a dying, decaying city that you can feel in your bones—and full mysteries that explore ideas of identity, memory, and redemption in a twisty mystery that ties together past, present, and future.

From the list:

The best gritty and gripping mystery books set in space

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Book cover of A Fire Upon the Deep

A Fire Upon the Deep

By Vernor Vinge

Why this book?

This fascinating book asks “what if” someday we were to meet aliens who form group minds of three to eight individuals whose minds are connected into a collective intelligence by ultrasonic data transfer? With too few individuals such group minds wouldn’t be very smart. Minds with too many individuals would tend to be troubled by internal conflicts. 

When two group minds get too close to one another, the ultrasonic messaging from one confuses the other’s group mind. 

There are many other “what ifs” explored, including the idea that technology and brains work better in some areas of the galaxy, a…

From the list:

The best “what if” books in science fiction

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Book cover of Astrobiology: The Search for Life Elsewhere in the Universe

Astrobiology: The Search for Life Elsewhere in the Universe

By Andrew May

Why this book?

“Are we alone?” An age-old question that we may never answer. Andrew May walks us through the scientific study of whether there might be life elsewhere in the universe, and how we might identify it. And by “scientific study,” I mean actual scientific investigations, not wishy-washy sci-fi fluff. The book is both inspiring and terrifying, because the immense distances in space and time make you realize that intelligent life is both incredibly insignificant and incredibly precious.

From the list:

The best books for people who can’t read five books on the same topic

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