The best books about stars

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

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Book cover of The Cambridge Star Atlas

When you stargaze almost every night, you’re always looking for new targets. There comes a point in your astronomy career when it’s time to move up at a star atlas, which has well, pretty much everything there is to see in a backyard telescope! This book includes season star maps for both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, as well as basic lunar maps. 

Unlike my beginner stargazing books, which typically feature a single target per page, each chart in this book features several hundred targets. Note that most of the included galaxies are only visible from the darkest skies, far from city lights. So, be sure to have that red flashlight on hand and get ready for a busy night!

The Cambridge Star Atlas

By Wil Tirion,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This classic star atlas is ideal for both beginning astronomers and more experienced observers worldwide. The clear, full-color maps show stars, clusters and galaxies visible with binoculars or a small telescope. The atlas also features constellation boundaries and the Milky Way, and lists objects that are interesting to observe. This new edition features a clearer map of the Moon's surface, showing craters and features; a second Moon map, mirror reversed for users of telescopes with star diagonals; enhanced index charts showing the constellations more clearly; and a new data table listing stars hosting planetary systems. It is now spiral bound,…


Who am I?

My journey into astronomy began with a small and rickety telescope purchased at a local pharmacy. I found it fascinating to observe the Moon and Saturn with their rings using such meager equipment. I decided to share these views with others by writing my first book, 50 Things to See with a Small Telescope, an easy-to-understand beginner’s guide which I self-published and sold through Amazon starting in 2013. I have since published a number of other books on space for children. Besides writing, I work as the telescope operator at Burke-Gaffney Observatory. In 2020 I was awarded the Simon Newcomb Award for excellence in science communication.


I wrote...

50 Things to See with a Telescope: A young stargazer's guide

By John A. Read,

Book cover of 50 Things to See with a Telescope: A young stargazer's guide

What is my book about?

50 Things to See with a Telescope covers everything you need to know to identify constellations, planets, stars, galaxies, nebulae, and more. Beginner stargazers will find star hopping easy with clearly plotted routes on images of the sky and detailed views from a backyard telescope. 

This easy-to-read, fully illustrated stargazing book will enrich your experience of the skies above. For those living south of the equator, a Southern Hemisphere edition of this book is also available. This book is part of an award-winning series, including: 50 Things to See on the Moon, 50 Animals that have been to Space, 50 Space Missions that Changed the World, and 110 Things to See with a Telescope (coming July 2021).

Star Names

By Richard H. Allen,

Book cover of Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning

Allen (1838-1906) was described as a "walking encyclopedia" by people who knew him. It was only after acquiring a reprint of his great book, a decade before the internet, that my own research into ancient cosmology took off. Star Names was first published in 1899 and as Wikipedia notes "there is no direct modern equivalent." As is the case with the internet, large sections can also be plucked out and read for pleasure.

Star Names

By Richard H. Allen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Star Names as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is an unusual book for anyone who appreciates the beauty and wonder of the stars. Solidly based upon years of thorough research into astronomical writings and observations of the ancient Chinese, Arabic, Euphrates, Hellenic, and Roman civilizations, it is an informative, non-technical excursion into the vast heritage of folklore and history associated with the heavenly bodies.
From his studies of the writings of scores of ancient astronomers, the author has come up with a fascinating history of the names various cultures have given the constellations, the literary and folkloristic uses that have been made of the stars through the…


Who am I?

As a geologist, I met and shared meals – occasionally under the stars – with individuals with strikingly different backgrounds. In time I realized that, whatever their DNA, they all shared certain beliefs, that the happy dead eventually go upward, for example, even if they start by going down or out to the horizon. Eventually, I concluded that the entire human adventure began in a single moment the day one of our forebears asked another "What shall we do about death?" and was understood. Humans have a single genetic heritage; we also have a single cultural heritage.


I wrote...

What the Stork Brought: African click-speakers and the spread of humanity's oldest beliefs

By John M. Saul,

Book cover of What the Stork Brought: African click-speakers and the spread of humanity's oldest beliefs

What is my book about?

The Bushman of southern Africa and the Hadza people far to the north in Tanzania have a greater difference in their DNA than any other pair of peoples. They represent the oldest split among surviving peoples. Yet Bushman and Hadza traditions both have a special place for "Eland" who long ago mounted the Milky Way to the heavenly Hereafter. 

The heavens, however, are not constant and Eland's path is no longer available, nor is the starry route of the migrating birds who return each spring seemingly reborn or renewed. Following Eland or the birds, "As Above, So Below," does not lead to rebirth. Later religions encountered related problems, which they countered by inventing new "World Ages" and great re-settings, as did the Bushman and the Hadza themselves.

The Brightest Stars

By Fred Schaaf,

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

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.

The Brightest Stars

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…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Book cover of Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond

What is my book about?

Space Encyclopedia is an updated and expanded 2nd edition of my earlier book Planets, Stars & Galaxies presenting the most up-to-date discoveries of the universe including the first breathtaking image of a real black hole. This cosmic compendium contains everything space travelers might need to know about our solar system, a new menagerie of dwarf planets, the formation and ultimate fate of the universe, great-unsolved mysteries, the future of space travel, and the possibility of intelligent life beyond the Earth.

It has almost everything except the kitchen sink. This is your 21st Century passport to the stars. Check your spacesuit for leaks, your journey begins the moment you open it up.

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.

Picturing the Cosmos

By Elizabeth A. Kessler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The vivid, dramatic images of distant stars and galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope have come to define how we visualize the cosmos. In their immediacy and vibrancy, photographs from the Hubble show what future generations of space travelers might see should they venture beyond our solar system. But their brilliant hues and precise details are not simply products of the telescope's unprecedented orbital location and technologically advanced optical system. Rather, they result from a series of deliberate decisions made by the astronomers who convert raw data from the Hubble into spectacular pictures by assigning colors, adjusting contrast, and…


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.

Sulwe

By Lupita Nyong'o, Vashti Harrison (illustrator),

Book cover of Sulwe

Sulwe is a little girl with skin the ‘color of midnight’. But she just wants to be like her mother and sister, who are lighter skinned. This is an emotional read with stunning illustrations that teaches us to love ourselves just as we were made and embrace our own unique beauty. 

Sulwe

By Lupita Nyong'o, Vashti Harrison (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Sulwe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colourism, self-esteem and learning that true beauty comes from within.

Sulwe's skin is the colour of midnight. She's darker than everyone in her family, and everyone at school.

All she wants is to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister.

Then a magical journey through the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

In this stunning debut picture book, Lupita Nyong'o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.


Who am I?

I am passionate about writing books for children that create windows to the world, teaching empathy. Children that are empathic grow up to be kind and compassionate adults. I write because I long for a world that is more accepting and compassionate.  


I wrote...

A Thirst for Home: A Story of Water across the World

By Christine Ieronimo, Eric Velasquez (illustrator),

Book cover of A Thirst for Home: A Story of Water across the World

What is my book about?

Alemitu lives with her mother in a poor village in Ethiopia, where she must walk miles for water and hunger roars in her belly. Even though life is difficult, she dreams of someday knowing more about the world. When her mother has no choice but to leave her at an orphanage to give her a chance at a better life, an American family adopts Alemitu. In her new home, water and food are plentiful but she searches for the connection to her homeland and the mother that gave up so much for her. This is our story that I wrote not only to bring awareness to issues of walking for water, which is typically a girl’s job, but also to honor the incredible sacrifice made by my daughter’s birth mother.

The Wish Gatherers

By Karin Celestine, Tamsin Rosewell (illustrator),

Book cover of The Wish Gatherers

The night-time theme of wishing upon a star is dreamily presented in The Wish Gatherers, written by Karin Celestine, who also made and photographed the creature characters. A wishing star makes someone’s dream come true and is eventually collected by the Star Gatherer, then flown back up to the heavens by the beautiful Celestial Moths. Tamsin Rosewell painted the stunning backdrops of moonlight and starlight, and Joana Rodrigues created the combined images. Children will love the endearing creatures and adults will fall for this sumptuous picture book.

The Wish Gatherers

By Karin Celestine, Tamsin Rosewell (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The year turns, harvest approaches, and the longer night skies fill with stars. And sometimes, just sometimes, maybe once in a thousand lifetimes, the star you see when you look up is a Wishing Star, one that can hear a wish and make a dream come true. But once its work is done, who is it that completes the cycle and returns it to the heavens?

One of a series of four seasonal stories based around British folklore. Includes notes on harvest traditions by Pamela Thom-Rowe.


Who am I?

Picture books are so important. They’re for everyone, not just young children, and often the readers are adult. Writing one is similar to writing a poem while watching the story in my imagination like a film. Usually I know the illustrator and can write to their strengths. Sophy Williams has drawn The Winter Dragon as an awesome creature who's also kind and protective. When I was seven, my teacher sent my stories to Enid Blyton who replied I must not be spoiled (shame!) and wouldn’t write once I was an adult. After making Dragons with children, I watched them bring their creature alive in their play. The Winter Dragon enlarges Rory’s imaginative world.


I wrote...

The Winter Dragon

By Caroline Pitcher, Sophy Williams (illustrator),

Book cover of The Winter Dragon

What is my book about?

The Winter Dragon is the best Dragon to help young Rory cope with winter’s darkness and night-time fears. The Dragon is homemade, yet magical. He comes alive to toast teacakes, warm bath water, and keep the dark at bay. He tells wonderful stories of ancient and mythical creatures, brilliant burning things, dinosaurs, rain dragons, elf-kings, and treasure hoards. He protects Rory with memories to wear like bright armour in the dark and see him safely through to the warmth and light of Spring.

Sophy Williams’s glowing pastel illustrations are both comforting and epic. I’ve read my book to many children. It encourages them to express any night-time worries, comforts them, and indulges their fascination with dragons. (Yes, there is a Welsh language edition.)

Last Day on Mars

By Kevin Emerson,

Book cover of Last Day on Mars

Last Day on Mars was an absolute pleasure to recommend. Set on Mars, which is months away from destruction via a superheated sun, the final remnants of humanity are boarding a spaceship destined for an Earth-like planet far away. Have you ever run for the last flight in an airport? This whole book felt exactly like that—with a pair of main characters who had me shouting, “Hurry up! Get on the ship!!” With the loss of their solar system, their families, and maybe their lives, this science-fiction adventure is everything I love in a novel! 

Last Day on Mars

By Kevin Emerson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last Day on Mars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Last Day on Mars is thrillingly ambitious and imaginative. Like a lovechild of Gravity and The Martian, it's a rousing space opera for any age, meticulously researched and relentlessly paced, that balances action, science, humor, and most importantly, two compelling main characters in Liam and Phoebe. A fantastic start to an epic new series.” —Soman Chainani, New York Times bestselling author of the School for Good and Evil series

“Emerson's writing explodes off the page in this irresistible space adventure, filled with startling plot twists, diabolical aliens, and (my favorite!) courageous young heroes faced with an impossible task.” —Lisa McMann,…


Who am I?

As a children’s novelist, I believe there’s nothing more important than showing kids it’s okay to experience emotion. Nothing is more powerful than watching someone rise to the occasion, and showing vulnerability in the process. Plus, middle-grade books are just fun—they let us create these fantastical ways to show very grounded, human needs. Rockets become friendships? Jellyfish offer understanding? Sign me up! It’s my pleasure to recommend these novels to kids everywhere (even the adult ones)!


I wrote...

The Secrets of Star Whales

By Rebecca Thorne,

Book cover of The Secrets of Star Whales

What is my book about?

On the small space station Azura, Maxion Belmont is constantly torn between his two passions—engineering and music. Both are hobbies handed down from his father, who died two years ago. While his hydrodriver is great for repairing starship parts, every chord played on his father’s old instrument tugs at the latent grief Max hides from his mom and classmates. When a foreign starship appears on the horizon, Azura welcomes its first tourist in years. But there’s something weird about Mr. Hames, the stranger-turned-substitute-teacher. As Max and the rest of Mr. Hames’s class-turned-starship-crew begin to uncover the mysteries of the star whales, they discover they aren’t the only ones looking for the elusive creatures—and not every whaler has good intentions.

The Same Stuff as Stars

By Katherine Paterson,

Book cover of The Same Stuff as Stars

Life is tough for Angel—her dad is in jail, her mom is irresponsible, and she has to take care of her seven-year-old brother. Paterson doesn’t hold back in this unflinching look at family brokenness, but as sad as the circumstances are, there is hope! Angel meets some new adults and through their small kindnesses, she learns that she is stronger than she ever knew. It’s a great message for any kid who is struggling with too much responsibility. It has a redemption arc that I also loved. 

The Same Stuff as Stars

By Katherine Paterson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Angel's dad is in jail and her mum's abandoned her and her little brother at their great-grandmother's crumbling farmhouse. Grandma can't even look after herself, let alone two children, so Angel finds that it's left up to her. In a dreary and lonely world there is only one bright spot - a mysterious stranger who appears on clear nights to teach Angel all about the stars. Katherine Paterson is an internationally acclaimed author who has won the Newbery Medal (twice), the National Book Award for Children's Literature (USA) twice, and the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award.


Who am I?

I am the author of two middle grade books, and I love writing about kids who may not have much materially but abound in heart and courage. I grew up in a small southern town and my childhood was just like that—low on income but full of love, hope, and friendship. I want kids to know that despite their circumstances there is hope for a better life. Like Wavie’s mom tells her in my book, Hope In The Holler, “You’ve got as much right to a good life as anybody. So go find it!”


I wrote...

Hope in the Holler

By Lisa Lewis Tyre,

Book cover of Hope in the Holler

What is my book about?

Before Wavie's mother died, she gave Wavie a list of instructions to help her find her way in life, including: Be brave, Wavie B! You got as much right to a good life as anybody, so find it! But little did Wavie's mom know that events would bring Wavie back to Conley Hollow, the Appalachian hometown her mother left behind. Now Wavie's back in the Holler—in the clutches of her Aunt Samantha Rose. Life with Samantha Rose is no picnic, but there's real pleasure in making friends with the funny, easygoing kids her aunt calls the "neighborhood-no-accounts." With their help, Wavie just might be able to prevent her aunt from becoming her legal guardian and find her courage and place in the world. 

The Star Beast

By Robert A. Heinlein,

Book cover of The Star Beast

This was written by Robert A. Heinlein, one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. It is a delightful story of a boy and his off world pet. It describes the adventures that the two go through, and in the end, is one a pet or are they simply caring friends? I have read most of Heinlein's novels, but this one hit a cord with me. Perhaps, it does so, because it reminds me of my boyhood with my dog or that it shows the love humans have for their animals. Whatever the reason that it stays with me, it showed that you don't need a complex story to capture someone's imagination and emotions.

The Star Beast

By Robert A. Heinlein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lummox had been the Stuart family pet for years. Though far from cuddly and rather large, it had always been obedient and docile. Except, that is, for the time it had eaten the secondhand Buick! But now, all of a sudden and without explanation, L


Who am I?

Since I was a boy, fantasy and science fiction was my favorite type of stories. I was fascinated with what might be possible, rather than the reality of everyday life. As I read and began to create my own stories within my mind, it was a simple jump to writing them down for others to enjoy. I became an engineer and used computers to design everything from nuclear reactors to conveyor belts. So, I soon was writing entire books and publishing them on Amazon.com. I have sold thousands of books and most who read them, appreciate and enjoy my tales of fantasy and science fiction.


I wrote...

Quartermax's Revenge

By A.D. Adams,

Book cover of Quartermax's Revenge

What is my book about?

A boy grows to manhood without a father, in a future of galactic wide corporate corruption. Sam Quartermax's father was killed in a space collision when Sam was only ten years of age. The government reported it as an accident, but the boy could never bring himself to believe this lie. Finally, in college, he discovered the truth, his father was murdered. To find the killers he will travel to the far ends of the galaxy and beyond. The search will require the boy to become a ruthless hunter. In the end, he will have to make a choice. Either kill those who murdered his father and rid the galaxy of the corruption that caused the death of millions, or walk away from his lifelong search for revenge.

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