I came across this summation of book reviews pertaining to our Apollo 11 Book yesterday, and it sums it up nicely.
The best astronomy and space books of 2019
Our pick of the top astronomy and space books we reviewed over the past 12 months.
By Iain Todd
December 4, 2019 at 12:43 pm
There is a wealth of books published each year covering all aspects of space, astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology, from practical stargazing to histories of spaceflight, and from the latest burning cosmic questions to beginners’ guides explaining the basic principles of our Solar System, Galaxy and Universe.
In each issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine we pick the best astronomy and space books that have caught our eye that month and send them out to our expert reviewers for full scrutiny.
Below is a list of some of the top space and astronomy books we reviewed in 2019. If you’re on the hunt for a Christmas present to give to an astronomer in your life, or perhaps searching for a good read to escape the festive hubbub, look no further.
Our reviewer said: Kerss manages to cover a broad range of nitty-gritty lunar facts, ranging from the phases to the Apollo missions and a practical section on lunar photography using a smartphone or DSLR. The most exciting and informative segment is the ‘Introduction to the Lunar Atlas’, which divides the Moon into 16 sections and includes lunar photographs along with a map for the reader to learn the names of craters and mares. There is a two-page segment on the surface features and the categories they fall into, which ties in nicely with the maps and provides enough information for the observer to identify features on the Moon’s surface. There is much to learn from this instructive and enthusing book, which will appeal to selenophiles everywhere.
Reviewer Katrin Raynor Evans is a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the librarian for Cardiff Astronomical Society.
Brief Answers to the Big Questions
Our reviewer said “How did it all begin? Is there other intelligent life in the Universe? Is time travel possible?” These are just a few of the big questions that Stephen Hawking discusses in his final book. Hawking does not simply give us one-word answers, but walks us through his own thinking and divergences on each subject. The language is easy to follow and each chapter’s length keeps you engaged. In places the book touches on some complicated physics, but you will never feel lost. There are many inspiring parts that will stay with you and shape the way you think about these big questions in the future.
Reviewer Laura Nuttall is a Senior Lecturer in Gravitational Waves at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth
Ultimate Guide to Viewing the Cosmos
Our reviewer said: Authors Dickinson and Cain are here to ease you into astronomy, providing a complex but highly readable guide for amateurs (or even veterans who need a refresher), introducing the night sky and the tools needed to observe it. They introduce us to stargazing, discuss software and equipment to aid our understanding, braving the minefield of choosing the right telescope, the right aperture, the right mount and the right eyepiece. They show us how to build a basic Newtonian refracting ‘scope for under $50. This is a companion for any astronomer at any level, but its main message is that we should not forget to simply revel in astronomy for the awe-inspiring experience that it is.
Reviewer Ben Evans is the author of several books on human spaceflight
Our Universe: An Astronomer’s Guide
Our reviewer said: Dunkley takes her readers on a grand tour of space and time, from our nearest planetary neighbours to the edge of the observable Universe. The book follows a well-trodden path, starting with an overview of the history of astronomy and a description of our Solar System. Stellar evolution is next, followed by galaxies, clusters and the mystery of dark matter. The birth, evolution and future of the Universe are discussed in the final chapters. Explanations are always clear, metaphors are to the point and arguments easy to follow. If you feel like refreshing your background knowledge, or are looking for a present for your curious niece or nephew, this little gem certainly won’t disappoint.
Reviewer Govert Schilling is an astronomy writer and author of the book Ripples in Spacetime.
Space Shuttle: A Photographic Journey
Our reviewer said: The Shuttle was the first reusable spacecraft. Its fleet of five flew 135 times into orbit. The many successful missions were, of course, marred by two tragic accidents that cost the lives of 14 astronauts in 1986 and 2003. Those dreadful events are indeed recalled in this book, but the photos focus on the positive aspects of the Shuttle project. The bulk of the pages are packed with colour images of the Shuttles, from launch preparations through lift-off and orbit, to landing. The book ends with a gallery of individual mission insignia, followed by pages listing key data for each flight. However, it is the splendid collection of Shuttle images that makes this book so special.
Reviewer Paul Sutherland is a space writer and journalist, author of Philip’s Essential Guide to Space
Mars: The Missions That Have Transformed Our Understanding of the Red Planet
Our reviewer said: Author and NASA consultant Rod Pyle has written a lot about the history of space exploration, but this book is a masterpiece. Pyle writes about the mission scientists and the emotions felt as they witnessed the first ever landing on the Red Planet. This book not only illustrates the brightest moments from different Mars missions, but also talks about failures and lost spacecraft, spelling out the history of our species’ curiosity with Mars and explorations of its surface. It’s an excellent read, both for those who know a lot about Mars and those who have only recently become fascinated by the Red Planet.
Reviewer Sandra Kropa is a science journalist and writer
Picturing Apollo 11
Our reviewer said: Historian JL Pickering and journalist John Bisney’s anthology of rare photographs, Picturing Apollo 11, honours the people who strove against all odds to land a man on the Moon. Only a handful of their chosen images are readily recognisable; most have not been seen before. The book covers January to August 1969, from crew selection to their emergence from quarantine onto the world stage. The authors avoid familiar images in favour of rarer ones, often quirky, including 7-year-old Andy Aldrin trying on his father’s helmet. The book conveys the sense of awe at Apollo’s monumental scale and the photographic clarity is profound.
Reviewer Ben Evans is the author of several books on human spaceflight and is a science and astronomy writer
No Shadow of a Doubt
Our reviewer said: At 2.13 GMT on 29th May 2019 it was exactly 100 years since Arthur Eddington and Frank Dyson stood before their telescopes ready to capture images of an eclipse they hoped would confirm Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The book tells of the lead up to the eclipse expeditions, details the expeditions themselves and looks at the aftermath: how Eddington and Dyson’s results were received at the time and the discussions regarding their validity up until the present day. It also discusses the role of this expedition in making Albert Einstein a household name. This is a fascinating book, full of insight into the relationship between theory and experimental proof.
Reviewer Dr Emily Winterburn is the author of The Stargazer’s Guide: How to Read our Night Sky.
The Secret Lives of Planets
Our reviewer said: Paul Murdin manages to compress billions of years of Solar System history into fewer than 300 pages, as well as providing a timeline and glossary of both our nearest and furthest neighbours. The details of each object’s classification, rotation, diameter and surface temperatures are given in helpful boxouts so the reader doesn’t get lost in all the information. The Secret Lives of Planets aims to be “a user’s guide to the Solar System”, but it also turns out to be an inspiration to look at the Solar System as a long cosmic journey, and find our place in it.
Reviewer Sandra Kropa is a science journalist and writer
The Crowd & the Cosmos
Our reviewer said: Over ten years ago, The Sky at Night’s Chris Lintott started Galaxy Zoo, a citizen science project to classify galaxies. It was an instant success. At present, the Zooniverse encompasses over 70 science projects. In his entertaining book, Lintott describes the origin and evolution of the Zooniverse, with a focus on the astronomy projects, including discoveries like Hanny’s Voorwerp and Tabby’s Star. The real strength of the book is in the accessible description of astronomical research and future big-data facilities like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Once you start reading, his book is hard to put down.
Reviewer Govert Schilling is an astronomy writer and author
Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System
Our reviewer said: If you fancy snowboarding off Pluto’s slopes and frozen mountains, experiencing ‘diamond’ rain on Uranus or taking a 20-year plane journey from the Moon to the Sun, you could take a family trip around the Solar System with space scientist and The Sky at Night presenter Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. In her book, aimed at older pre-teen children, a cartoonified Dr Maggie takes readers on an informative journey. It’s beautifully designed, with an appealing layout and plenty of illustrations. Packing in the entirety of the Solar System, its planets, objects, exploratory missions and history in 120 pages aimed at children is no easy task. Aderin-Pocock has made a valiant effort to do so.
Reviewer Shaoni Bhattacharya is a science writer and journalist
Curious Cosmic Compendium
Our reviewer said: Which is the biggest and the most massive star in the Universe? Where is it located and when was it born? All the answers to these questions and many more, plus maps of places of universal importance, can be found in this Curious Cosmic Compendium. The author, artist and internet sensation Martin Vargic displays the history and wonders of the Universe in the typically creative way that brought his Miscellany of Curious Maps and Map of the Internet such praise. In more than 100 pages filled with facts and illustrations he takes the reader on a journey through the history of the cosmos.
Reviewer Sandra Kropa is a science journalist and writer
Space: 10 Things You Should Know
Our reviewer said: Dr Becky Smethurst has a wonderful gift for communicating some extremely exciting but also tough astrophysics in 10 bite-sized essays. If you’d like to know about supermassive black holes, the hunt for exoplanets and the expanding Universe (plus a lot more), then this book is a nice starting point. I really enjoyed the conversational writing style and the divergences that come with this. It made me feel as though Dr Becky was sat next to me. My favourite chapter is the last, which touches on the importance of searching for the unknown knowns. There’s something wonderfully inspiring communicated through the pages, and I closed the book feeling a bit more excited about my own research.
Reviewer Laura Nuttall is a Senior Lecturer in Gravitational Waves in the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth
Dark Matter & Dark Energy
Our reviewer said: In the past few decades, it’s become clear that we have focussed on a mere 5% of the Universe – the rest remains almost entirely unknown. Astronomers divide this mysterious majority into two types of ‘stuff’: dark matter and dark energy. Brian Clegg’s book is a clear and compact look at the current state of knowledge about these twin cosmic mysteries. After an introductory account of the discovery of both phenomena, the first half of the book focuses on dark matter. The second half tackles dark energy, with some basic cosmological groundwork followed by a discussion of dark energy and what it could mean for the future of the cosmos. It’s hard to fault as a brief, easily digestible introduction to some of the biggest questions in the Universe.
Reviewer Giles Sparrow is a science writer and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society
Zwicky: The outcast genius who unmasked the Universe
Our reviewer said: Fritz Zwicky is a name most astronomers learn early their careers, due to both his scientific achievements and his combative personality. This biography explores the life of this world-renowned physicist. The book spans an eventful period in world history that formed the backdrop to Zwicky’s astronomy research along with his contributions to the US war effort and rocketry. It includes details of many of Zwicky’s personal encounters, putting his various feuds and confrontations in context. It’s very interesting to read and provides a fascinating insight into a rich, complicated character and his engagement with the world he was part of.
Reviewer Dr Chris North is an Odgen science lecturer and Science & Technologies Facilities Council public engagement fellow at Cardiff University
Our reviewer said: ‘Saturn’ is a detailed exploration of the most well-known of the ringed planets in our Solar System. It is an amazing account of how much we can learn from so little; how, over time, new things slowly reveal themselves, and how many questions we have yet to answer about this infamous giant world. As well as drawings from early observations of the planet, the book features some spectacular images taken by the Cassini orbiter and other missions, which combine with Sheehan’s writing to show how our understanding of Saturn has gradually deepened over the centuries. The book concludes with a detailed guide to observing Saturn in the hope that further monitoring, by both amateur and professional astronomers, will help to reveal the planet’s many remaining secrets.
Reviewer Hannah Wakeford is an astronomer who studies the atmospheres of exoplanets at Space Telescope Science Institute
Handprints on Hubble
Our reviewer said: Penned by America’s first female spacewalker, Handprints on Hubble tells the story of Kathy Sullivan, whose career took her from a pressurised space suit to the highest altitude ever reached by the Space Shuttle. As one of the first women picked by NASA for astronaut training, her memoir mixes autobiography with a solid appreciation of the Hubble Space Telescope, arguably the most important science instrument ever placed into orbit. As a ringside spectator of Challenger, Sullivan’s memories are tinged by tragedy and she remained soberly aware that she might never return from a mission. Behind every scene Hubble itself looms large – “like a beautiful silver gift from Tiffany’s” – whose contribution to understanding our place in the cosmos needs no qualification.
Reviewer Ben Evans is the author of several books on human spaceflight and is a science and astronomy writer.
I am happy to announce that our book “Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments” is back in stock on Amazon.
The 50th anniversary of the moon landing is on July 20, 2019. Looking for a way to celebrate this amazing human achievement? Just pick up a book! Books about the moon landing offer a detailed look at the event that left an indelible mark on our culture—including rare and never-before-seen images.
To help you wade through the massive selection of titles, we’ve picked some great books about the moon landing. One publication, titled The Moon 1968 – 1972, gives us a first-hand look at what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin saw while walking its surface—literally. The book features images taken from their Hasselblad cameras and curates from a staggering 1,400 pictures. In doing so, it gives you an overall sense of what it was like to be looking down on the Earth.
Some of the publications on our list aren’t focused on the 1969 moon landing, specifically, but they demonstrate how artists and photographers are influenced by it. Color of the Moon: Lunar Painting in American Art, for instance, highlights the different ways in which artists have recreated the celestial body. Moon Viewing: Megaliths by Moonlight is another book that shares how monoliths, created by man, are illuminated by Earth’s satellite. While incredible in scale, the megaliths still pale in comparison to the moon that looms from way above.
Check out our picks for creative books on the moon landing and beyond, below.
Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments by J. L. Pickering and John Bisney
Picturing Apollo 11 offers a new photographic history of the iconic space mission. It features “unpublicized and recently discovered images” that highlight the people, places, and events that helped Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin successfully land on the moon.
The Color of the Moon: Lunar Painting in American Art by Hudson River Museum
The moon is an alluring subject for American painters. Through an exhibition organized at the Hudson River Museum, this accompanying catalog showcases the different ways in which artists have explored the celestial body.
The Moon 1968 – 1972 by E.B. White and John Kennedy
The Apollo missions sent many men into space between the years of 1968 and 1972. Although each was well-documented, the astronauts were given cameras to snap pictures. Included is writing by the likes of E.B. White and President John Kennedy, making the book an exploration of the sublimity of space.
Hasselblad & the Moon Landing by Deborah Ireland
Similar to The Moon 1968 – 1972, Deborah Ireland’s book Hasselblad & the Moon Landingis an examination of the shots that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin snapped using their Hasselblad 500EL cameras. While it shares these firsthand images of the moon, the work also touches on the challenge of creating a camera that could take these pictures in the first place.
Moon Viewing: Megaliths by Moonlight by Barbara Yoshida
Megalithic monuments (such as Stonehenge) are found around the world. Barbara Yoshida documents these monoliths with 10 years of travel, and her published work showcases how the giant stones look against the moon and stars.
Moon: The Art, Science and Culture of the Moon by Alexandra Loske and Robert Massey
We are endlessly fascinated with the moon and express our allure for it through storytelling, artwork, and, of course, scientific explorations. Alexandra Loske and Robert Massey trace the visual history of the moon in this “illuminating volume.”
Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography by Mia Fineman and Beth Saunders
The field of photography has undergone immense changes since the advent of the first photograph. Apollo’s Muse showcases the history of photographic representations of the moon from daguerreotypes to video art.
Earthrise: How Man First Saw the Earth by Robert Poole
What happened when our imagined visions of Earth met the reality of it? Earthrise is the story of the first photographs of Earth from outer space and the impact it had on our culture, science, and religion.
We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program by Richard Paul and Steven Moss
The Space Age began as the fight for civil rights “forced Americans to confront the long and bitter legacy of slavery, discrimination, and violence against African Americans.” During this time, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson used federal equal employment opportunity laws to open jobs at NASA and NASA contractors to African Americans. Authors Richard Paul and Steven Moss profile 10 African American space workers whose roles at NASA and the space program helped promote civil rights.
Apollo to the Moon: A History in 50 Objects by Teasel E. Muir-Harmony
Using 50 artifacts from the Smithsonian archives, author Teasel E. Muir-Harmony tells the story of the Apollo 11 landing and man’s subsequent walk on the moon. The curated objects range from the lunar rover to space food to moon rocks, and each tells an interesting story that ultimately helped make the mission a success.
Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most remarkable moments in American history: the day that astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission remains one of NASA’s most incredible achievements, and photographs from the moon landing are some of the most recognizable images in the world.
If you’re interested in the stories behind the historic mission (or are the parent of a young space buff), there’s no shortage of reading material that will help you understand Apollo 11 and the turbulent history of the era in which it took place. Here are eight books inspired by the moonshot for readers of all ages.
“Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11,” James Donovan
Dallas author Donovan’s new book is a narrative chronicle of the famous NASA voyage set against the backdrop of the Cold War. Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins called the book “extensively researched and meticulously accurate” and “the best book on Apollo that I have read.”
“One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon,” Charles Fishman
Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins tend to get all the glory, but the moonshot was the result of hard work by hundreds of people whose names aren’t as familiar to most Americans. Fishman’s 2019 book takes a look at the scientists, mathematicians and factory workers who helped make Apollo 11 a success.
“The NASA Archives: 60 Years in Space,” Piers Bizony, Andrew Chaikin and Roger Launius
Publisher Taschen is known for its elaborately constructed and gorgeous art books. Its new volume about NASA is an illustrated history of the space agency that features more than 400 photographs documenting America’s history in space. In a review for the L.A. Times, Drew Tewksbury wrote that the book “catalogs with beautiful detail the rapid pace of scientific and engineering advances during the 20th-century space race.”
“Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11,” Brian Floca
Kids with an interest in space will likely be fascinated by this story of the moon landing from award-winning children’s book author and artist Floca. The book tells the story of NASA’s historic mission, from takeoff to touchdown, using simple language and dramatic illustrations.
“Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson,” Katherine Johnson
Apollo 11 wouldn’t have been possible without Johnson, the mathematician whose work helped launch many of NASA’s most important projects. In her new autobiography for young readers, the 100-year-old Johnson (one of the subjects of the hit book and movie “Hidden Figures”) writes about her childhood and her remarkable career, when she was forced to deal with racism and sexism on a daily basis.
“The Penguin Book of Outer Space Exploration: NASA and the Incredible Story of Human Spaceflight,” edited by John Logsdon
Space-obsessed readers will likely find plenty to hold their interest in this curated collection of historical documents dealing with Apollo 11 as well as other NASA missions. Edited by the founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, the book features a foreword by everyone’s favorite science guy, television personality Bill Nye.
“I Love You, Michael Collins,” Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Baratz-Logsted’s 2017 book for middle-grade readers follows 10-year-old Mamie Anderson, whose class is given an assignment to write letters to the Apollo 11 astronauts. Mamie, whose family is in the midst of an upheaval, chooses the space explorer she has the greatest connection with: Michael Collins, the only one of the three astronauts who didn’t get to set foot on the moon.
“Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments,” J.L. Pickering and John Bisney
The Apollo 11 moon landing was responsible for some of the most iconic images in American history. In their new book, Pickering and Bisney present a host of never-before-seen photographs of the mission, including images of the three astronauts, the Kennedy Space Center and spectators gathered to watch history being made before their eyes.