The best books on galaxies

Many authors have picked their favorite books about galaxies and why they recommend each book.

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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.

Phoenix

By Sf Said,

Book cover of Phoenix

This book took my breath away when I first read it. An adventure travelling across galaxies, weaving ancient mythology with aliens and spaceships and stars that may literally be singing. I have the hardback edition and the illustrations are stunning. Parts of the book have a graphic novel feel, with the illustrations picking up the storyline and taking it forward. It’s an unforgettable journey.


Who am I?

I grew up in a small Welsh town and I read to escape into other worlds. My love of myth and legend began when I came across a book of Greek myth in the library. I fell in love with the great voyages, the larger-than-life characters, the snake-haired monsters, and flying horses. I’ve been collecting legends ever since. I studied comparative literature at university, which included epic tales from all over the world and I was struck by how the same motifs come up again and again – quests, battles, magic. I love any story that takes you out of your everyday surroundings and into adventure.


I wrote...

Voyage to Magical North

By Claire Fayers,

Book cover of Voyage to Magical North

What is my book about?

Abandoned as a child, Brine Seaborne has been keeping house for an irritable magician and his apprentice, Peter. Until the day she and Peter run away to sea, straight into the path of the legendary pirate ship The Onion.

Before you can say “pieces of eight” the pair are up to their necks in the pirates’ quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don’t even think it exists.  If Brine is lucky, she’ll finally find out who she is.  And if she’s unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.

Man, True Man

By Mari Collier,

Book cover of Man, True Man

I like sci-fi books as well, so I tried this one and it spoke to me. How strange creatures from a different planet and galaxy help a helpless man, not knowing who he was and where he was. 

I didn’t expect but it was an amazing story 

On a planet far, far away, a man awakes. Not knowing who he is and where he was, his existence was attacked by strange creatures.
The people, if you can call them people, strange looking themselves, helped him to escape and call him Loren. Loren then found out, that these people are in trouble and he likes to help them.
Love, life, hardship.


Who am I?

After being rejected in school, because I had to move with my family again and again, I never had really friends and knew how being left alone and rejected felt. So I put my nose into books and developed a love for writing. Since I didn’t know what to do with them, I left them alone when I married. After being diagnosed with cancer later in my life, I couldn’t go back to work, I remembered my love to write and read so I started to write short stories again. I want to help young people going through similar rejections and bullying, to lift them up, and take the negativity out of their minds. 


I wrote...

Talon, Come Fly with Me: Inspirational Story about Adventure and Growth

By Gigi Sedlmayer,

Book cover of Talon, Come Fly with Me: Inspirational Story about Adventure and Growth

What is my book about?

An Australian girl living in Peru with her missionary parents, high up in the great Andes, was rejected by the locals because she has an affliction they don't understand. But when she made friends with a pair of great Condors, and saved their egg from poachers, everything turned around. She had to learn, what she can do to overcome her affliction and become the one, she was meant to be. 

An inspirational, highly emotional, and entertaining read for all ages. Matica, the heroine, is a strong, brave girl, who battles with her handicap and how others view her. But this isn’t a story only about her gaining acceptance or overcoming her challenges. Rather, it’s a tale packed full of exciting moments and tons of emotions.

Polymer

By Sally Rogers-Davidson,

Book cover of Polymer

I picked up a copy of Sally Rogers-Davidson’s book Polymer in a bookshop in Glebe. I admit I took it from the shelf because of the chance resemblance between our names. It entertained me royally on a long bus ride and I instantly wanted to write to the author. I later met Sally R-D and found we had more in common than our names and our penchant for writing science fiction.

Polymer is one of the most wonderful lively, romantic, adventurous space operas I’ve ever read. It’s sharply written, and Polly Meridian herself is a heroine I wish I’d invented. Her hero is an antihero at first, but the story persuades the reader to give him a chance, as Polly does.


Who am I?

I’m Tasmanian. I’ve loved books set in other worlds since I encountered Robert Heinlein’s juveniles in my teens. I often find books set in the mundane world of here-and-now implausible or dull, because the adventures seem contrived or else result from characters doing something stupid or bad. If characters venture to other worlds, or other planets though—that’s a different ballgame! I read a great deal of fantasy and sci-fi, and when I was fourteen, I started writing my own. I enjoy a wide variety of genres, but my favourite stories are those where I can follow relatable characters through wild adventures and believe every line.  


I wrote...

Elysian Dawn

By Sally Odgers,

Book cover of Elysian Dawn

What is my book about?

Marianne Arcadia expected to marry Jeremiah and raise a family. Edsen Balm had no more hope than to stay close to Marianne. Jameel Singh intended to travel home to Terra to meet his fiancée’s parents. Hanaka Moon was meant to oversee the next generation of ship-born and pass the mantle of healer to her daughters. Meera Singh wanted to prove herself as the brightest new diamond in Mother Shiva’s crown. Cornelia Conti hoped to get her embroidery done and to find a shampoo that didn’t contain Stay-colour. All their plans crash-landed with the starship Elysian Dawn but that, as they say, was just the beginning.

Minding the Heavens

By Leila Belkora,

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

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…


Who am I?

Barbara J. Becker received her PhD in the history of science from Johns Hopkins University. Until her retirement, she taught at the University of California at Irvine and now resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is a leading authority on astronomer William Huggins. Her research interests include the role of the amateur in the development of nineteenth-century professional astronomy, the redefining of disciplinary boundaries in the face of new knowledge and new practice, and the role of controversy in shaping the substance and structure of scientific knowledge. She is the author of numerous journal articles and editor of Selected Correspondence of William Huggins (2 volumes).


I wrote...

Unravelling Starlight: William and Margaret Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy

By Barbara J. Becker,

Book cover of Unravelling Starlight: William and Margaret Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy

What is my book about?

Unravelling Starlight is the first scholarly biography of William Huggins (1824-1910), a retired London silk merchant and self-taught amateur astronomer who was celebrated in his own lifetime as the "father" of astrophysics. 

Based on new evidence on Huggins's life and career gleaned from his unpublished notebooks and correspondence, Unravelling Starlight provides a fresh look at his pioneering contributions to the development of astrophysics and sheds important new light on his collaborative work with his wife, the former Margaret Lindsay Murray (1848-1915).  In 2015, it was awarded the prestigious Donald E. Osterbrock Prize by the History of Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society.

Space Opera

By Catherynne M. Valente,

Book cover of Space Opera

Oh. My. Flipping gods turning cartwheels. This is my book.

Oookay, now I got that out of my system, the world. Or rather, the universe. All of it. In this universe, all intelligent life very nearly wiped itself out. In the smoking rubble of the universe, everyone decided that the best way to answer the question 'who is people, and who is meat?' with music. In this universe, teeth and claws and big, big guns aren't the only answer to survival. Sometimes, being unbearably cute and fragile and setting off every maternal instinct in every species is the answer. Or being made out of stuff so inedible that nobody bothers is. Or, in the case of humanity, being very, very odd is.

And we are odd. And beautiful. And stupid. And so is the universe.

The plot is direct: sing, or die. But in that simple arc is packed a…


Who am I?

I come from a reservation town in Wisconsin, and make my livelihood as a horticulturist in the water-strapped state of Colorado. I’m mix-race and LGBT. These influences have shaped what I look for in stories. I write and seek to read about communities in which the person creating medicine and the person growing food is just as important as the fighter, because let me tell you: if you don’t have the means to make food and heal wounds, all the guns in the world won’t save you. I particularly appreciate stories that explore ecology, agriculture, and plant science in innovative ways. These make my little horticulture-geek heart sing.


I wrote...

The Hands We're Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild)

By O.E. Tearmann,

Book cover of The Hands We're Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild)

What is my book about?

It's 2155, and seven corporations call the shots on the land that was the United States of America. Democracy is dead. The Corporations run the City Grids for a profit and own their worker's bodies and souls.

But there are people fighting for a change. There’s a unit in the resistance, nicknamed the Wildcards. Officially Democratic State Force Base 1407, the Wildcards are fighters in the war to bring democracy back. They're everything the Corporations despise: dreamers and fighters, punks and freaks and geeks who won't be told what to be or who to love. They've come up every walk of life to become the best unit the Democratic State Force has and the family every one of them needs. And they are taking the Corps down, one day at a time. Strap in for a series that's been called 'Firefly for the cyberpunk genre'. Hang on tight.

Artificial Absolutes

By Mary Fan,

Book cover of Artificial Absolutes

Full disclosure, Mary Fan and I partner on editing the Brave New Girls series. However, that doesn’t make this book any less awesome. Jane Colt is 20-something working a boring corporate job until she witnesses her friend, Adam, get kidnapped. Before she knows it, she’s embroiled in an interstellar chase along with her brother who has a past in the most lawless corners of the galaxy. This book is a little Blade Runner and a little Firefly, and it explores what it means to be human and the real meaning of family. I love this book because it is fast-paced with a fun and sometimes bratty (in a good way) main character. I’m a sucker for across-the-galaxy adventures and this book definitely delivers.

Who am I?

Science Fiction was just something that we did as a family growing up. We’d always gather to watch various iterations of Star Trek as family. Family movie nights usually consisted of whatever science fiction titles the local movie rental place would have on hand, which usually meant watching a lot of B-movie junk, but it was fun. It might sound silly, but I think growing up with all those science fiction movies and books really informed my career choice, electrical engineer. You see, in these movies and books the women just got the job done. I thought, why can’t I do it too?? 


I wrote...

Project Eleutheria: The Singularity Wars

By Paige Daniels,

Book cover of Project Eleutheria: The Singularity Wars

What is my book about?

Lyvia Bax-Dupree just wants to do her job as independent intergalactic transporter and maybe have enough money for a beer left over at the end of a run. But her ship is on its last leg, one of the Keeper’s goons just stole her last drone, and her best friend, Heidi, an android, is in dire need of repairs. So when a customer offers a fare that seems too good to be true, she has no choice but to go against her instincts, and accept it. Lyvia soon finds that completing this job is the least of her worries and she must reconnect with her estranged husband and her outlaw parents if she wants to survive. But enduring her family might prove to be more challenging than living through the biggest conspiracy the galaxy has seen.

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