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28 In Books

Books About Space: Out of this World Nonfiction

Narrowing down this week’s Nonfiction November topic to books about space was a difficult task. Our prompt, hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey is “be the expert/become the expert.” Since I read almost no nonfiction, I clearly fall into the “become the expert” territory. However, choosing one topic out of the endless nonfiction options is not easy. I brainstormed with Jay about historical events, baking books, politics, time periods and more. My last Nonfiction November post focused on various historical figures and time periods, so I ruled those out. When he eventually suggested books about space, I was all in!

If you’ve ever had a chance to visit the Kennedy Space Center, you’ll understand why I’m excited to track down books about space. The Space Race was a fascinating time period in American history and that’s just the beginning. My space books list includes books about Mars, discovering where our galaxy fits into the universe, and a comprehensive history of space.Β  Plus, Jay recently read and loved one of the Apollo books (Rocket Men) that made it on my list, so it was helpful to have a starting spot! Step out of this world and come discover the best nonfiction books about space!

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The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

First up on my list of books about space is The Right Stuff, by renowned journalist Tom Wolfe. Wolfe offers a unique spin on the history of man’s trips to the moon by getting into the minds of the astronauts who went there. You’ll read about the lives and families of some of the most famous American astronauts.Β  Jay recommended this space book since he’s heard glowing reviews of both the author and this specific book.

 

First Man by James Hanson

If you’d rather read an entire book devoted to arguably the most famous astronaut, this one’s for you. First Man was recently made into a movie starring Ryan Gosling as well. Armstrong himself actually sat down for interviews with Hanson and gave him access to private documents to compile this biography. Since Armstrong is a notoriously private person, it’d be fascinating to read what Hanson discovered.

 

Rocket Men by Robert Kurson

Jay keeps trying to get me to read this since he thought it was extremely well written. So far, it’s at least made it on my To Be Read List for November! Rocket Men tells the story of the three men to who took on man’s first mission to the moon. The Apollo 8 mission was America’s boldest, riskiest attempt thus far and it all took place around Christmas.

 

Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz

Gene Kranz is a veteran NASA flight director who’s storied career includes the Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 missions. In his memoir, he recounts thrilling details from over thirty years of American space history. Included within these pages are his experiences with the disastrous beginning of the space program, the Apollo missions, and more.

 

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

The origins of the universe, black holes, antimatter, and the big bang may seem like daunting topics to cover in 200 page book. Thankfully, Stephen Hawking breaks down these complicated concepts in a manner that we all can understand. Explore the secrets of the universe in this classic science book.

 

The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin

The Case for Mars lays out a concrete plan for sending humans to Mars and making the planet livable. This space book was originally published in 1996, but was updated in 2011 with additional content. Zubrin added photographs, illustrations, and anecdotes from this prolific space writer. It’d be interesting to compare our current space capabilities with Zubrin’s original plan from the 90’s.

 

Finding Our Place in the Universe by Helene Courtois

Just published in 2019, this book tells the story of the discovery of Laniakea, the home of our galaxy. Helene Courtois is an astrophysicist who was on the team that made the discovery that was twenty years in the making. She shares her first hand account of the process and how one of the most important astrophysics findings happened. This topic sounds completely out of my league, but initial reviews say it’s written in an accessible manner for us non-astrophysicists…

 

A Book To Avoid: Hidden Figures

I have to mention one additional nonfiction space book that’s had recent commercial success, Hidden Figures. The concept, bringing to light the crucial contribution of black women who worked at NASA, is important and intriguing. However, the execution is…terrible. I hate that this book doesn’t do their stories justice. The narrative jumps wildly from one women’s story to another at different points in their lives in a manner that’s impossible to follow. It diminishes their enormous impact since you’re never sure exactly what’s happening with each women and when. However, I ADORED the movie. It’s remarkably well done and accomplishes everything that the book tried but failed to do.

 

Have you read any nonfiction books about space that deserve to be on this list?

28 Comments

  • Reply
    Erin @ Cracker Crumb Life
    November 11, 2019 at 8:02 am

    This looks like a fantastic collection of books about space! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Unruly Reader
    November 11, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Failure Is Not an Option — how did I miss this book? I adore reading about the early NASA years, and the guy in the white vest is one of my favorites. Adding to my TBR… Thanks for mentioning this book!

    • Reply
      Rachel Kamery
      November 11, 2019 at 10:54 am

      I’m so excited that there’s one here you missed! If you have any other recommendations from what you’ve read already please share πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    heather
    November 11, 2019 at 9:28 am

    I love The Right Stuff! I read Bringing Columbia Home this year which is about the aftermath of the Columbia explosion. It was fascinating.

    • Reply
      Rachel Kamery
      November 11, 2019 at 10:55 am

      Ooh yes I’d love to read more about that tragedy as well. Thanks for suggesting.

  • Reply
    Bryan G. Robinson
    November 11, 2019 at 10:52 am

    I love how you tackle Hidden Figures head on. The book club at our library read it recently and even though I’m not in the club, I work at the library and could overhear the discussion. It seems like they were on the same page as you with the book. Hated the book, but loved the movie.

    • Reply
      Rachel Kamery
      November 11, 2019 at 10:56 am

      Thanks for your comment! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one with that reaction. The movie is absolutely worth seeing at least!

  • Reply
    Stacie @SincerelyStacie
    November 11, 2019 at 11:30 am

    ENDURANCE by Scott Kelly is a fascinating memoir of his life leading up to becoming an astronaut and then his time in the ISS. Highly recommend!

  • Reply
    Lisa of Hopewell
    November 11, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    Very well done. Have you read Rocket Girl? [No pressure at all to read my review] here is my review: https://hopewellslibraryoflife.wordpress.com/2019/06/17/review-rocket-girl-by-george-d-morgan/

  • Reply
    Lisa notes
    November 11, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Love this list. I live near the Rocket City (Huntsville, AL) so it’s all about space here. My dad worked for NASA and I had a short stint as a Space Camp counselor in between accounting jobs. It was the most fun job I’ve ever had. πŸ™‚ I admit I’ve seen more of these movies than read the books. ha.

    • Reply
      Rachel Kamery
      November 11, 2019 at 3:06 pm

      Wow those are incredible connections! By the way, I’m an accountant now! I’ve never had any fun space counselor jobs though…

  • Reply
    Christine
    November 11, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    What a great book list. Can you please remind me to get on nonfiction November next year…please!?! I am literally the worst book blogger alive when it comes to seasonal, timely things like this. I keep seeing all of these amazing nonfiction lists, and I am just mad jellie over here, hehe. …And you think it’s not too late, but for me, it is. I just CAN’T! lol

    I really want to read A Brief History of Time. Hawking has always been an inspiration to me (and was always talked about on The Big Bang Theory).

    The only books that I have read about space are fiction: The Martian by Weir (it was sooooo dry for me, but the movie was a tad better) and a jfic book called, Space Case. I guess Ender’s Game counts too. Maybe I should try some nonfiction out of this world books. Thanks for the inspo! Xxx

    • Reply
      Rachel Kamery
      November 11, 2019 at 3:15 pm

      Yes! I promise I will let you know. I happened upon it literally a few days before it started, so I got a bit lucky this year. It’s ridiculously helpful having prompts, especially with the flexibility to talk about topics that interest me! It forces me to think outside of my comfort zone since I don’t normally research or read many nonfiction books. It’s funny you mention The Martian because I actually LOVE both the book and the movie πŸ™‚ I do have a particular interest in Matt Damon, though. Swoon. Maybe nonfiction will be more to your liking haha!

  • Reply
    Brona
    November 11, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    The latest Australian space book on my radar (see what I did there πŸ™‚ is called Dr Space Junk by a space archaeologist (doesn’t that sound like the coolest job ever!) https://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books/here-comes-dr-space-junk/

  • Reply
    Lauren Elena
    November 11, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    What an awesome list! I think choosing space books was a great idea. I recently saw Apollo 11 in theaters and really liked it. Can you imagine what it’s like being up there in space? Geez. One day regular people will get to go. Can you imagine when that’s on your travel list? Ugh I wish it could happen in my lifetime! Unimaginable! Do you want to go to the Grand Canyon this year or should we go view planet Earth from the moon?

    I can’t believe Hidden Figures the book was so bad when it was such a good movie!
    Rocket men does sound good!

    • Reply
      Rachel Kamery
      November 12, 2019 at 7:49 pm

      Was it the first time you saw Apollo 11?? I love that movie – so intense. It is beyond my comprehension that regular people like us might one day be able to go to space. I’m for sure going to be one of those old people that absolutely refuses to leave Earth. The thought of going somewhere where there’s no oxygen terrifies me!!

      • Reply
        Rachel Kamery
        November 14, 2019 at 7:16 am

        Annnndd I just realized the movie I’m thinking of was Apollo 13 hahah!! I just noticed there’s a new movie about Apollo 11! Now I want to see it!

  • Reply
    Angela
    November 11, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    I’ve read a lot of fiction books set in space but not a ton of nonfiction. I agree that Hidden Figures the movie was better than the book. Have you read Ask An Astronaut by Tim Peake? He’s an astronaut who spent time on the International Space Station.

    • Reply
      Rachel Kamery
      November 12, 2019 at 7:48 pm

      I haven’t, but sounds like a good book to add to the list!

  • Reply
    Rachel
    November 12, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Too bad you didn’t like Hidden Figures. That’s on my to-read list next year! lol

  • Reply
    Tina
    November 13, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    Oh wow, this reminds me of a book a friend from HS bought me- Rocket Boys! it inspired the movie October Sky. I couldn’t tell you if it’s good though, as I’ve had it for about 15 years and still haven’t read it lol.

  • Reply
    Jade @ Reading with Jade
    November 14, 2019 at 7:05 am

    An interesting & varied collection of books you hope to read about space. I imagine space to be such a fascinating topic to learn more about, with so many elements and perspectives. I hope you enjoy reading more about this specific topic.

  • Reply
    Cathy@ WhatCathyReadNext
    November 14, 2019 at 7:05 am

    I don’t have any non-fiction books on your subject to recommend but I’d use any excuse to watch Apollo 13 again. I love the scene where the boffins at the space centre have to use whatever is available to the astronauts to cobble together a repair. If it’s ‘allowed’, and as you say you read mostly fiction, a book that was one of the first I got from NetGalley when I started blogging is The Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar.

  • Reply
    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out
    November 14, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    What an interesting topic, thanks for sharing.
    You might like to add Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt to your list.

    Please stop by to see my NonFicNov: Become The Expert

  • Reply
    Liz
    November 18, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    You might like “Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell To Earth” by English journalist Andrew Smith. Smith writes to try to find the answer to the question: “What do astronauts do/how do they cope when they’ve been to the moon and then have to live on earth for the remainder of their lives? How do they handle the ordinariness of earth life after traveled to space?” It’s a fascinating and well-written book with a great sense of humor (very dry). Highly recommended.

    • Reply
      Rachel Kamery
      November 18, 2019 at 8:04 pm

      Dry humor sounds great! It would be neat to read about their lives after their missions. Not something we think about too often…

  • Reply
    raidergirl3
    November 24, 2019 at 9:52 pm

    Ooh, great topic! I would add Col Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, and amazing memoir by a Canadian astronaut. Also, Packing for Mars by Mary Roach answers a lot of questions you might have about space but were afraid to ask. She’s quite humourous!

  • Reply
    Katie @ Doing Dewey
    November 26, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    I’ve read a decent amount about modern physics and women involved in the space program, but I haven’t read anything on the Apollo missions! The Right Stuff and Rocket Men feel like classics on the topic that I should really pick up eventually πŸ™‚

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