The most recommended Milky Way books

Who picked these books? Meet our 19 experts.

19 authors created a book list connected to Milky Way, and here are their favorite Milky Way books.
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Book cover of Minding the Heavens: The Story of Our Discovery of the Milky Way

Barbara J. Becker Author Of Unravelling Starlight: William and Margaret Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy

From my list on the history of astrophysics.

Why am I passionate about this?

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).

Barbara's book list on the history of astrophysics

Barbara J. Becker Why did Barbara love 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…

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 Milky Way Railroad

Celine Rose Mariotti Author Of I Hear the Banjo Playing

From Celine's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Passionate writer Entrepreneur Musician (guitar and banjo) Avid reader Soap opera fan

Celine's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Celine Rose Mariotti Why did Celine love this book?

I love to read books by Japanese authors. This one was special as the young boy Kenji boards this magical train with one of his friends, Minoru. This magical train takes him on a journey to the stars and Heaven, where he meets a lot of people. 

Reading this book made me wish I could go on a magical train to a journey to Heaven, where I could once again see my Dad and Uncle and my grandparents and have a marvelous journey. It made me happy to imagine that.

It was an emotional story-magical and mystical. Kenji returns home, and the professor tells him his father is coming home, and Kenji is happy. This is a book that kept me reading and dreaming.

By Kenji Miyazawa, Ryu Okazaki (illustrator), D.M. Stroud (translator) , Joseph Sigrist (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Milky Way Railroad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One night, alone on a hilltop, a young boy is swept aboard a magical train bound for the Milky Way. A classic in Japan, this tender fable is a book of great wisdom, offering insight into the afterlife. One of Japan's greatest storytellers, Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933) was a teacher, author, poet, and scientist.


Book cover of Hamlet's Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time

Felice Vinci Author Of The Baltic Origins of Homer's Epic Tales

From my list on ancient myths and European prehistory.

Why am I passionate about this?

 I've been fond of the Homeric poems since my youth. I followed classical studies in the high here in Rome, so I studied Latin and Greek before graduating in nuclear engineering. Then, in addition to my professional activity, I've devoted myself to the study of The Iliad and the Odyssey, with their huge contradictions between geography and their traditional Mediterranean setting. The book I published on this topic was translated and published into eight foreign languages (as The Baltic Origins of Homer's Epic Tales), and has given rise to many scientific discussions. I also published The Mysteries of the Megalithic Civilization, a Bestseller here in Italy.

Felice's book list on ancient myths and European prehistory

Felice Vinci Why did Felice love this book?

This extraordinary book makes us understand what the ancients saw in the sky. It is one of those rare books that change our ideas about myth and archaic thought once and for all, explaining the myths of the whole world by an astronomical key. In a word, this is certainly an extraordinarily important book, which should definitely be read by anyone who is passionate about these topics.

By Giorgio de Santillana, Hertha von Dechend,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hamlet's Mill as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Very nice, clean and solid copy.


Book cover of The Brightest Stars: Discovering the Universe Through the Sky's Most Brilliant Stars

David A. Aguilar Author Of Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond

From my list on understanding the first science: astronomy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a naturalist, astronomer, space artist, and a Harvard world lecturer living in the Rocky Mountains outside of Aspen. So far, I’ve written and illustrated twelve kid’s astronomy books for National Geographic and Penguin Random House. I directed the Science Information Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge Massachusetts for fourteen years then left in 2015 to join NASA’s New Horizons Mission Team becoming one of the first humans to see the planet Pluto up close and personal. I am also a Grammy nominated songwriter/musician, astrophotographer, telescope maker who enjoys scuba diving at night and occasionally has been known to parachute out of perfectly operating aircraft.

David's book list on understanding the first science: astronomy

David A. Aguilar Why did David love this book?

The stars have captivated hunter-gatherers, artists and astrologers, sages and scientists, romantics, and civilizations since the beginning of human time. 

In this book we encounter the twenty-one brightest stars visible from earth and dig into their remarkable secrets. Did you know some giant stars spin so fast they flatten out like eggs? There are stars that pulse back and forth like beating hearts? And some stars are cosmic interlopers passing through our Milky Way galaxy on their way back into the void of forever space. This is my go-to book when I want to refresh my imagination with wondrous facts about the stars blazing overhead. It should be within handy reach of every star-struck observer, camper, or poet.

By Fred Schaaf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fred Schaaf is one of the most experienced astronomical observers of our time. For more than two decades, his view of the sky-what will be visible, when it will be visible, and what it will look like-has encouraged tens of thousands of people to turn their eyes skyward.
—David H. Levy, Science Editor, Parade magazine, discoverer of twenty-one comets, and author of Starry Night and Cosmic Discoveries

""Fred Schaaf is a poet of the stars. He brings the sky into people's lives in a way that is compelling and his descriptions have all the impact of witnessing the stars on…


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

Barbara J. Becker Author Of Unravelling Starlight: William and Margaret Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy

From my list on the history of astrophysics.

Why am I passionate about this?

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).

Barbara's book list on the history of astrophysics

Barbara J. Becker Why did Barbara love 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.

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 Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Nidhi Kamra Author Of Simon's Skin

From my list on space exploration.

Why am I passionate about this?

Who doesn’t like space? I love learning about space! Tip: Picture books are easier to comprehend compared to graduate courses – there’s only so much of Newton-Euler dynamics, inertia tensors, eccentricity vectors, etc. one can handle. Plus, there are no nasty mind-boggling equations in picture books. I mean, do you really want to calculate the maximum flight path angle and the true anomaly at which it occurs? Or solve Kepler’s equations for hyperbolic eccentric anomaly? No, right? Always stick to the picture book if you have a choice! I mentioned some fun picture books (fiction and non-fiction) with amusing or complementing illustrations that helped me on my journey to understanding space. Enjoy!

Nidhi's book list on space exploration

Nidhi Kamra Why did Nidhi love this book?

Garcia the bunny craves to shoot up to space while Colette the fox dreams of exploring the deep seas. Garcia builds a rocket and Colette, a submarine. Off they go on their separate adventures with their peanut butter sandwiches, of course! In this cleverly worded book, the author compares the two journeys – their similarities and differences, and how the two friends miss each other’s company. Garcia and Colette finally find a way to enjoy their interests together. The illustrations complement the words perfectly. A great read for little humans.

By Hannah Barnaby, Andrew Joyner (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Garcia & Colette Go Exploring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

'THE FULL-SPEED-AHEAD ENTHUSIASM ... IS INFECTIOUS'
-- Kirkus, starred review


Best friends Garcia and Colette are eager to go exploring -- only they can't agree on where to go. Garcia loves everything about space and Colette is obsessed with the sea.

Garcia builds a rocket ship and Colette constructs a submarine, but even though they find amazing things on their journeys, they soon realise they each left something very important back home ...

From new talent Hannah Barnaby and bestselling Australian illustrator Andrew Joyner comes a book about friendship, adventure and compromise.



PRAISE FOR GARCIA AND COLETTE GO EXPLORING

'full…


Book cover of Understanding Gaia: A Mission to Map the Galaxy

Chary Rangacharyulu Author Of From Atoms to Higgs Boson: Voyages in Quasi-Spacetime

From my list on stargazers' strife and joy since antiquity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been pursuing nuclear and particle physics as a career for nearly half a century, mostly in Western countries and Japan. As a professor of physics and engineering physics, I always strive to bring conceptual clarity to what I teach for application-oriented and abstract physics, even when I cannot bring the same level of connection to physical reality in my research. I am deeply concerned that physicists have gone astray in their mathematical quest to develop a glamorous picture of the building blocks of matter and the basic interactions among them. This book is an outgrowth of my search to understand the limits of human knowledge to unravel nature’s mysteries. 

Chary's book list on stargazers' strife and joy since antiquity

Chary Rangacharyulu Why did Chary love this book?

This book is the result of a collaboration between a professional science journalist and a practicing astronomer. The authors lead us through the research activities of stellar astronomy, reminding us of the questions posed by the scientists at each stage, examining the limitations and the excitement scientists find as they reach their goal, which brings the next question(s), sending the teams on an endless expedition to explore further.  

Quite often, science journalists write on a subject that they are not totally sure of, but they do so as told to them by a science practitioner, who performs many of their chores routinely and does not seek to answer some simple questions.

To me, this book is quite refreshing in that a science journalist who can relate to questions likely to occur to a non-specialist collaborates with an astronomer to whom these questions may not occur. They collaborated, and the result…

By Gabriella Bernardi, Alberto Vecchiato,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Understanding Gaia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is the first to provide a comprehensive, readily understandable report on the European Space Agency's Gaia mission that will meet the needs of a general audience. It takes the reader on an exciting journey of discovery, explaining how such a scientific satellite is made, presenting the scientific results available from Gaia to date, and examining how the collected data will be used and their likely scientific consequences.

The Gaia mission will provide a complete and high-precision map of the positions, distances, and motions of the stars in our galaxy. It will revolutionize our knowledge on the origin and…


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

Marion Dane Bauer Author Of The Stuff of Stars

From my list on the origins of our universe.

Why am I passionate about this?

My expertise on the origins of our universe comes out of fascination, nothing more. I am a long-time children’s writer who began my approach to this topic with awe. Just awe. In order to write The Stuff of Stars I read widely to expand my own understanding. A single line in this text can come out of hours of reading. The books I’m suggesting here, though, are not the scientific ones that informed my telling. Rather, I have searched out books that are exceptionally creative, accessible, interesting. Some are for the very young and some for those who share their learning with the very young.  

Marion's book list on the origins of our universe

Marion Dane Bauer Why did Marion love 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.  

By Will Gater,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Mysteries of the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Travel to the furthest reaches of the Universe and visit 100 remarkable objects along the way with this stunning space book for curious kids aged 7-9.

Space is so much bigger than young minds can fathom and there is always more to learn. The Mysteries of the Universe is a stunning space encyclopedia for young readers to explore, with reference pages packed with fascinating information, little learners will be captivated as they journey through the vastness of the Universe. From planets and asteroids to black holes and galaxies, every page of this enthralling space book reveals the secrets behind more…


Book cover of ABCs of Economics: Simple Explanations of Complex Concepts Like Supply, Demand, Capital, and More for Toddlers and Kids

Blaine Stewart Author Of Hourglass Socioeconomics: Vol. 1, Principles & Fundamentals

From my list on reads that are almost economics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm addicted to discovering what lies within the unknown. The biggest mystery, I believe, that baffles us today is not necessarily what lies at the edge of the universe but what lives within this one here. I enjoy attempting to solve large problems and if I can’t compute a result at least understand what the problem suggests. In the realm of the unknown, I'm an expert of nothing. In hours of research and reading and writing, one comes to a point in their process of learning with the realization that it does not matter how much one learns, there will always be that much more, logarithmically multiplied exponentially by the rate of acceleration, to learn.

Blaine's book list on reads that are almost economics

Blaine Stewart Why did Blaine love this book?

This is a serious recommendation if you are to read my volumes. Why? Shapes and illustrations. I read this book as a kid and, as you might imagine, it was my favorite book. There is no better investment into our future than investing into the basic understanding of society and commerce. But, back to shapes. My own series includes a vast array of shapes and imagery to tell the story, from what to how to because to why. 

By Chris Ferrie, Veronica Goodman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked ABCs of Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chris Ferrie's bestselling scientific series is expanding!
It only takes a small spark to ignite a child's mind! The ABCs of Economics introduces babies (and grownups!) to a new economic concept for each letter of the alphabet. From asymmetric, business cycle, and capital, all the way to zero sum. It's never too early to become an economist!
With scientific and mathematical information from an expert, this is the perfect book for enlightening the next generation of geniuses.


Book cover of Universe

Ian Ridpath Author Of Star Tales

From my list on that have inspired my writings on astronomy and space.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author, editor, lecturer, and sometime broadcaster on astronomy and space. My early interest in the possibilities of extraterrestrial life and interstellar communication led me to write my first books, Worlds Beyond (1975) and Messages from the Stars (1978). This interest also led me to investigate UFO sightings, but I soon realized that their explanation lies in human misperception and not ETs. My investigation and explanation of the famous Rendlesham Forest UFO case of December 1980, widely regarded as one of the top-ten cases worldwide and sometimes known as Britain's Roswell, can be found hereIn conjunction with the outstanding Dutch celestial cartographer Wil Tirion, I have produced two standard observing guides for amateur astronomers. 

Ian's book list on that have inspired my writings on astronomy and space

Ian Ridpath Why did Ian love this book?

I love books full of facts and figures, and for astronomers, this is one of the best. Now in its fourth edition (the first appeared in 2005), Universe (subtitled The Definitive Visual Guide) harnesses a team of expert writers with Dorling Kindersley’s designers, editors, and researchers to produce a sumptuously illustrated review of the Universe from the Earth to the Big Bang, including extensive sections on the night sky and how to view it. Dorling Kindersley’s books are natural successors to the great Reader’s Digest reference books of my childhood. If you want an encyclopedia of the Universe, this is the one to have.

By Dorling Kindersley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Marvel at the wonders of the Universe, from stars and planets to black holes and nebulae, in this exploration of our Solar System and beyond.

Universe opens with a look at astronomy and the history of the Universe, using 3D artworks to provide a comprehensive grounding in the fundamental concepts of astronomy, including the basic techniques of practical astronomy.

The core of the book is a tour of the cosmos covering the Solar System, the Milky Way, and galaxies beyond our own. Explanatory pages introduce different celestial phenomena, such as galaxies, and are followed by catalogues that profile the most…