Narrowing down this week’s Nonfiction November topic to nonfiction 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 nonfiction 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 nonfiction 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. 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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Nonfiction Books About Space
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
First up on my list of nonfiction 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. 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?