Nonfiction Books About Space: 8 Out of this World Reads

Nonfiction Books About Space for Adults

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.

Nonfiction books about space will transport you back in time and take you out of this world into the exciting world of space.

My nonfiction books about space list includes books about Mars, discovering where our galaxy fits into the universe, and a comprehensive history of space. 

Plus, my husband 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?

nonfiction books about space for adults


  1. 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!

    1. 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 🙂

  2. 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.

    1. 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!

  3. 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. 🙂 I admit I’ve seen more of these movies than read the books. ha.

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

  4. 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

    1. 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 🙂 I do have a particular interest in Matt Damon, though. Swoon. Maybe nonfiction will be more to your liking haha!

  5. 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!

    1. 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!!

      1. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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

  11. 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!

  12. 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 🙂

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