The best books about Neil Armstrong

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

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Madness, Rack, and Honey

By Mary Ruefle,

Book cover of Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures

A series of poetry lectures not intended for publication, they combine to form an astounding journey into language and art. You don’t need to be a poet to love the casual way she delivers bomb after bomb, and to wish you’d been her student. I guess this is as close as I’ll get, and it’s taken a long time (I’m still not done) because I can just sit on a phrase or a page for an entire subway ride. Definitely would have failed her class, but having the lectures written out is like getting an extension without needing to grovel for it.


Who am I?

People come to songwriting from all different directions. Some have wanted to do this since they were little kids. Some like to make their parents mad. Some are wildly talented but crippled with doubt. All I can say is that no matter which way you’re facing, I think I can help you. I say this because I’ve been teaching college-level songwriting for years now, and every semester I have students who want to meet with me for office hours. They’re all repeat customers and I’ve noticed that many of them ask repeat questions. The point of my book, Music, Lyrics, and Life, is to try to address those repeat questions because chances are good that you have them, too. 


I wrote...

Music, Lyrics, and Life: A Field Guide for the Advancing Songwriter

By Mike Errico,

Book cover of Music, Lyrics, and Life: A Field Guide for the Advancing Songwriter

What is my book about?

Music, Lyrics, and Life is the songwriting class you always wish you'd taken, taught by the professor you always wish you'd had. With humor and empathy, acclaimed singer-songwriter Mike Errico has inspired students on campuses including Yale, Wesleyan, Berklee, and NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.

Alongside his own lessons, Errico investigates larger questions of creativity with a wide range of innovative thinkers: astrophysicist Janna Levin explains the importance of repetition; renowned painter John Currin praises the constraints of form; bestselling author George Saunders unpacks the power of authenticity; and more. No matter where you are on your songwriting journey, Music, Lyrics, and Life will help you build a creative world that's both intrinsic to who you are, and undeniable to whoever is listening.

A Kite for Moon

By Jane Yolen (, Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Matt Phelan (illustrator)

Book cover of A Kite for Moon

I expected to have a bit of a hard time suspending my disbelief in this sweet exploration of a boy’s friendship with the moon. But happily, it wasn’t difficult to identify with the boy’s dream of becoming an astronaut and his commitment to fulfilling their friendship with an in-person visit. For the child who looks up at the moon and dreams of being an astronaut, or the child who must face a struggle to reach a different kind of finish line, this book will be a poetic handbook for the journey.


Who am I?

I love reading about space and the dedication and commitment astronauts must have to eventually be placed on a mission. Their courage seems superheroic and legendary. But I also know that it takes ordinary individuals to make space missions happen. My mother grew up in a textile community and many of my maternal relatives worked in a textile mill that produced a fabric used in the Apollo spacesuits. These workers could never have dreamed of working for NASA or becoming astronauts, but their work was integral to the process of putting men on the moon. Any great achievement requires a legion of hardworking hands to see it through to completion. 


I wrote...

Papa Put a Man on the Moon

By Kristy Dempsey, Sarah Green (illustrator),

Book cover of Papa Put a Man on the Moon

What is my book about?

Papa Put a Man on the Moon is a story that grew out of my own family history. My mother grew up in a small textile community that played a key role in the Apollo Space Program. The book highlights the role ordinary workers played in putting a man on the moon. Marthanne narrates the story of her father’s work in accomplishing this mission: The fabric he weaves at the textile mill forms one layer in the astronauts' spacesuits. Marthanne knows his work is part of history, and she can hardly wait for the Apollo astronauts to blast off. When Neil Armstrong finally takes his first steps on the moon, Marthanne watches in wonder. She knows her papa played an important role in putting a man on the moon.

Moon Lander

By Thomas J. Kelly,

Book cover of Moon Lander: How We Developed the Apollo Lunar Module

I visited Grumman in Bethpage, New York after Apollo 14 and had the rare privilege of entering the cavernous cleanroom where the final moon landers were being assembled. Grumman loved me because my software fix had kept their defective switch from ruining the mission. I believe Tom Kelly was at the table in the executive dining room that day. His book is a gritty account of how, finally, after many failures, many frustrations, NASA pressure, managerial chest-thumping, test and retest, the lunar modules were finally delivered. Even the book’s flaws are interesting, such as how he spins certain inflight events, of which I believe my own account is more balanced.


Who am I?

I have read most of the books written about Apollo, especially those ostensibly written by my fellow participants. I have read these books for pleasure, to find out about parts of the moon effort that I did not see first-hand, and to learn what I could from the authors’ mistakes and successes — with a view to the writing of my own book. The books I have come to value the most are the books that seem to have been created for some other reason than commercial gain, the books unmarred by ghostwriting or heavy-handed editing, the books where the author’s authentic voice speaks from the page.


I wrote...

Sunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoir

By Don Eyles,

Book cover of Sunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoir

What is my book about?

I was in the room and my eyes and ears were open. Almost by chance, I was hired to work on the Apollo project and they handed me the most dangerous and complex part of the mission to program in the LM’s onboard computer — the lunar landing itself. My role took me to interesting places and interesting people, astronauts for instance. I knew my way around Cape Canaveral. My code figured in several inflight dramas, one of which brought me fame for finding the solution. With all this — not to speak of my counter-culture adventures in 1960s Boston — my book is bound to thrill anyone interested in the moon mission.

First Man

By James R. Hansen,

Book cover of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong

Neil Armstrong was an American hero not just because of his skills as a pilot during the Korean War or because of his prowess as an astronaut or by becoming the first man in history to touch the lunar surface. He is a hero because he did all of those things without ever bragging or seeking to make a profit from his success. His commitment to duty, as well as his sacrifice and humility, are lessons for every generation. 


Who am I?

My love of space exploration is an old one. I remember learning about the Apollo missions when I was very young, both from television and children’s books, and was amazed that people had worked together to achieve such a monumental task. I was also massively disappointed to discover that no one had been back to the Moon since 1972! Since then, I’ve read deeply on the history of space exploration and wished intensely that every new NASA plan would bring us back out to explore our solar system. Part of the reason I wrote Ocean of Storms with my buddy Jeremy K. Brown was to create a reality in which that return to the Moon actually came true. 


I wrote...

Ocean of Storms

By Christopher Mari, Jeremy K. Brown,

Book cover of Ocean of Storms

What is my book about?

In the near future, political tensions between the United States and China are at an all-time high. Then a catastrophic explosion on the moon cleaves a vast gash in the lunar surface, and the massive electromagnetic pulse it unleashes obliterates Earth's electrical infrastructure. To plumb the depths of the newly created lunar fissure and excavate the source of the power surge, the feuding nations are forced to cooperate on a high-risk mission to return mankind to the moon. 

Now, a diverse, highly skilled ensemble of astronauts—and a pair of maverick archaeologists plucked from the Peruvian jungle—will brave conspiracy on Earth and disaster in space to make a shocking discovery. Ocean of Storms is an epic adventure that spans space and time as its heroes race to fulfill an ancient mission that may change the course of humanity's future.

Think Like a Rocket Scientist

By Ozan Varol,

Book cover of Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life

What strategies have rocket scientists used to launch spacecraft into the unknown? When are redundant systems and an exit strategy necessary? How can failure fuel success? These and similar questions drive this engaging book. The author, who worked on various NASA projects early in his career, emphasizes nine thought processes that can help anyone tackle a seemingly impossible problem effectively. I found this book informative, engaging, and inspiring.


Who am I?

Trained as an artist, through my work as a college professor I became committed to helping others cultivate and expand their creativity. It has always been heartbreaking to hear friends and acquaintances bemoan their lack of creativity simply because they hadn't developed drawing skills. Creativity is a human characteristic that can be developed in any discipline and with practice and encouragement, is available to anyone. In my reading and my writing, I seek a combination of accessibility and substance. If a book is engaging enough to read at the beach yet substantial enough to provide fuel for thought long afterward, it is a winner!


I wrote...

Creative Inquiry: From Ideation to Implementation

By Mary Stewart,

Book cover of Creative Inquiry: From Ideation to Implementation

What is my book about?

Creative Inquiry introduces students and general readers to the exploratory mindset and hands-on skills necessary for the cultivation and implementation of new ideas. Using active learning, this book combines concise explanations and real-world examples with engaging exercises for readers to complete. 

At the end of major sections, brief self-reflection papers are provided to help readers assess their progress and revise their work. A section on internships connects coursework to careers, while an appendix provides a lively and practical “Top Ten List” of writing strategies for readers who need extra advice. Throughout, the writing style is conversational, yet substantial, and the examples given reflect a wide range of disciplines, from early aeronautics and linguistics to zoology.

Spaceman

By Mike Massimino,

Book cover of Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

Influenced by the Apollo era, “I applied to be an astronaut four times and was rejected three times before I was accepted. So, it’s about following your dream and not giving up.” This is from the son of a New York City fireman, where work ethic, never giving up, and lots of humor frame Mike’s achievement to becoming an astronaut (and even a guest on The Big Bang Theory). I’ve known Mass since 2007 and those ingrained qualities make for an inspirational narrative. Perhaps the most poignant: trying to avoid tearing up during his first EVA spacewalk on the Hubble Space Telescope when he experienced seeing the wonder of our blue-dot, water-world Earth from space.  


Who am I?

I’ve followed the history of space exploration since I was a kid! Although I spent decades photographing assignments in exotic international locations and co-authored visually driven books on astronomical phenomena, my dream was to photograph in NASA’s restricted space exploration work cultures. Never giving up, I achieved unprecedented access into the shuttle mission that saved the Hubble Space Telescope and, for more than a decade, with the New Horizons team that first explored the Pluto system. I’ve been published in media like Smithsonian, Nat Geo, WIRED, New Scientist, and NPR. Honored that my photographs of astronaut space tools are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum.   


I wrote...

Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration

By Michael Soluri,

Book cover of Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration

What is my book about?

Infinite Worlds - the People and Places of Space Exploration is a visually driven, beautifully designed, and printed coffee table book that reveals the sublime art of human and robotic space exploration. With extraordinary access over several years into the restricted, behind-the-scenes work cultures of 3 NASA Spaceflight Centers, Michael photographically documented the craft and humanity that frames the team effort behind the historic last shuttle mission that essentially saved the Hubble Space Telescope. In addition, his observations are woven between 18 insightful first-person essays by some of the NASA astronaut crew, engineers, shuttle techs, and scientists who worked on this historic mission. Mercury astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, wrote the introduction.

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