The best space exploration books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about space exploration and why they recommend each book.

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Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

By Hannah Barnaby, Andrew Joyner (illustrator),

Book cover of Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

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.

Who am I?

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!


I wrote...

Simon's Skin

By Nidhi Kamra, Diane Brown (illustrator),

Book cover of Simon's Skin

What is my book about?

Simon thinks his skin is bo-rring. Simon doesn't like boring. So, he tries on different skins, and to his surprise, each comes with its own challenge. Simon soon makes a pleasant discovery about his own skin. This book is about a little boy who discovers he is perfect the way he is.

Gemini

By Virgil I. Grissom,

Book cover of Gemini: A Personal Account of Man's Venture into Space

When researching the early US Space Program, something about Grissom drew me in, wanting to learn more about the man. He completed the first draft of this book just weeks before his tragic death in the Apollo 1 test fire. His editor, Jacob Hay, polished the book into its final form with the approval of Grissom’s wife, Betty, and it was published in 1968. In the introduction to the book, Grissom plainly says he wrote this for his sons, so they could have an idea of the “weird, wonderful enterprise their father was lucky enough to have a part in fulfilling.” It’s not a technical manual or an outside observer’s report, it’s an inside story of what the race to the moon was like and why Grissom thought the moon was a worthy endeavor.   


Who am I?

Growing up on the Space Coast, with my dad working on the Space Shuttle, and launches a regular occurrence, over time I took the program for granted. When the last Shutte launched, though, it left a hole in my heart. Gradually a desire to write about my hometown and its place in space history gave birth to the Jessie Cole trilogy. A combination of stories from my dad’s childhood in Titusville, conversations with docents at our historical society, and scores of books, magazine articles, and archived news footage helped reshape my view of space exploration. It was hard to choose just five books to highlight. More are noted in the Research Library section of my website.


I wrote...

Undaunted

By Rebekah Lyn,

Book cover of Undaunted

What is my book about?

Undaunted is a coming-of-age story for both Jessie Cole and the US Space Program. From the announcement of the Mercury 7, Jessie is determined to become an astronaut when he grows up. The challenges of an alcoholic father, family displacement from their home on Merritt Island, and the turmoil of war in Vietnam never dull his intense determination.

A story of family, country, and dreams that drive us to push beyond our limitations.

Beyond Apollo

By Barry N. Malzberg,

Book cover of Beyond Apollo

In contrast to Marooned (and, in fact, just about every other SF space novel of the ’60s and ’70s) is this short and very dark masterpiece. The first winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, this novel about the aftermath of a doomed mission to Venus is Malzberg’s dark answer to the over-optimistic view of space exploration that was prevalent in the post-Apollo period, and a stark reminder that the universe is an unforgiving and dangerous place.


Who am I?

Okay, so you’ve read Dune, you’ve read Starship Troopers, you’ve read 2001: A Space Odyssey, and maybe you’ve even read From Earth to the Moon and The First Men in the Moon. Seen the movies, too (or maybe you cheat and say you’ve read the books when you’ve only seen the flicks). Bet you think that makes you an expert on science fiction about space, right? Not even close! If you want to read more than just the well-known classics everyone else has, find these books. Some have become obscure and are now out of print, but they’re not hard to find; try ABE, eBay, and local second-hand bookstores. They’re worth searching for, and then you’ll really have something to talk about.


I wrote...

Coyote (Coyote Trilogy)

By Allen M. Steele,

Book cover of Coyote (Coyote Trilogy)

What is my book about?

Coyote is a novel of interstellar exploration by Hugo Award-winning author Allen Steele. It has been translated into several languages and published worldwide, entered the curriculum of several college science fiction courses, and been optioned for TV/film adaptation. It’s followed by four other novels in the same series, along with three spin-off novels and several related short stories. Of Steele’s many novels, this is his most popular book.

Live from Cape Canaveral

By Jay Barbree,

Book cover of Live from Cape Canaveral: Covering the Space Race, from Sputnik to Today

This is a must-read for anyone who wants to follow the history of the US Space program from the very first launch onward. Barbree was the only journalist to cover every launch and while doing so met many of the astronauts and provides behind-the-scenes stories of dedication and comraderie. I had the privilege to participate in a book signing with Mr. Barbree at the US Space Museum in Titusville, FL in 2014. He’s a funny man who has loved all things space since the launch of Sputnik. This book is filled with humor, personal stories, and an understanding of how the media coverage of the space program and NASA has changed over the years. Barbree has also written an outstanding biography of Neil Armstrong, completed just prior to this pioneer’s death. 


Who am I?

Growing up on the Space Coast, with my dad working on the Space Shuttle, and launches a regular occurrence, over time I took the program for granted. When the last Shutte launched, though, it left a hole in my heart. Gradually a desire to write about my hometown and its place in space history gave birth to the Jessie Cole trilogy. A combination of stories from my dad’s childhood in Titusville, conversations with docents at our historical society, and scores of books, magazine articles, and archived news footage helped reshape my view of space exploration. It was hard to choose just five books to highlight. More are noted in the Research Library section of my website.


I wrote...

Undaunted

By Rebekah Lyn,

Book cover of Undaunted

What is my book about?

Undaunted is a coming-of-age story for both Jessie Cole and the US Space Program. From the announcement of the Mercury 7, Jessie is determined to become an astronaut when he grows up. The challenges of an alcoholic father, family displacement from their home on Merritt Island, and the turmoil of war in Vietnam never dull his intense determination.

A story of family, country, and dreams that drive us to push beyond our limitations.

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.

Space Odyssey

By Michael Benson,

Book cover of Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, Space Odyssey is considered the most artful science fiction film about space exploration ever made. Premiered in early 1968, it instills levels of awe, wonder, and mystery. “While realism was important in 2001”, the writer-artist Michael Benson writes, “it was outranked by an ongoing quest for visual purity—for images powerful enough to elide verbal explanation and tell their own stories.” With meticulous research, interviews, and quality access to both the Kubrick archives and the files of Arthur C. Clark – the science fiction writer whose book 2001 inspired the film, Benson unveils the behind-the-scenes odyssey of creating this timeless cinematic masterpiece. I might add that my photographic approach has been influenced by the film’s visually-driven narrative as much as how Kubrick technically created it.


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.

Pluto Gets the Call

By Adam Rex, Laurie Keller (illustrator),

Book cover of Pluto Gets the Call

Poor Pluto! Earthlings are wretched, despicable creatures. How dare they ask Pluto if they can call him Plutoid!

In this hilarious, fact-filled book, Pluto gets the call from us dreadful, “Earth’s meanest jerks” – humans, giving him the ‘news.’ All of us on Earth heard the news, but Pluto was informed of his downgrade a wee bit later. Follow newly-demoted Pluto and the rest of the planets on a fun journey of acceptance. The author has done a fabulous job of interleaving (mostly) facts and fiction. The story is told with speech bubbles, many of which will leave you chuckling. There are also some great puns. Don’t miss this one!


Who am I?

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!


I wrote...

Simon's Skin

By Nidhi Kamra, Diane Brown (illustrator),

Book cover of Simon's Skin

What is my book about?

Simon thinks his skin is bo-rring. Simon doesn't like boring. So, he tries on different skins, and to his surprise, each comes with its own challenge. Simon soon makes a pleasant discovery about his own skin. This book is about a little boy who discovers he is perfect the way he is.

Planet Kindergarten

By Sue Ganz-Schmitt, Shane Prigmore (illustrator),

Book cover of Planet Kindergarten

In this brilliant book, the author draws parallels between the first day of kindergarten and a space mission – it turns out the two are not that different, after all. There are gravity issues in kindergarten as well, with kids trying hard to stay in their seats, and hands flying up. There’s the equivalent commander in the teacher, mission control in the principal, crewmates, experiments, and a flight plan! Peppered with space lingo, this charming book is double the reading pleasure, with its combined introduction to space and kindergarten. I am all set for kindergarten now. Can’t wait! Again, a great read for little humans.

Who am I?

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!


I wrote...

Simon's Skin

By Nidhi Kamra, Diane Brown (illustrator),

Book cover of Simon's Skin

What is my book about?

Simon thinks his skin is bo-rring. Simon doesn't like boring. So, he tries on different skins, and to his surprise, each comes with its own challenge. Simon soon makes a pleasant discovery about his own skin. This book is about a little boy who discovers he is perfect the way he is.

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

By Chris Hadfield,

Book cover of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything

“Weightlessness is like a new toy you get to unwrap every day, again and again — and it’s a great reminder, too, that you need to savor the small stuff, not just sweat it.” One of many lessons learned offered by the Canadian astronaut (yes, the one who sang a creative version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”) and flew on both the American Shuttle and Russian Soyuz. Like other next-generation astronauts influenced by the Apollo era, Chris reveals a non-jargon view about training and spaceflight with international crews. As Commander of the International Space Station during Expedition 34/35, he writes, “… don’t assume you know everything, and try to be ready for anything” is wisdom that can be related to here on Earth and up there in 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.

Lost Moon

By Jim Lovell, Jeffrey Kluger,

Book cover of Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13

Most everyone who loves space exploration has probably seen the Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13, about the mission on which all three astronauts nearly lost their lives while heading to the Moon. This book is co-written by Jim Lovell, who commanded Apollo 13, and describes in page-turning detail both what occurred onboard and in Mission Control as everyone scrambled to save the crew’s lives. Fantastic stuff. 


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.

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