It is difficult to start reading about a new topic. Especially with regards to outer space, the line between science and pseudoscience can be hard to distinguish. We asked Dr. Andrew May, a popular science author who studied astrophysics at Cambridge and Manchester, to suggest five space science books that he has enjoyed reading. Dr. May specializes in writing popular science books that communicate complex ideas in succinct ways for general audiences. His recent books include Astrobiology (2019), Destination Mars (2017), and Cosmic Impact (2019).
I found this a real eye-opener as regards the tangled – and often self-defeating – political machinations behind the US space program in the pre-Sputnik years. It’s also really well-written – a gripping read.
As a former astrophysicist, I’ve never understood why so many people – even keen amateur astronomers – consider “astrophysics” such a scary word. But they do – so any book with that word in the title that can top The New York Times’ bestseller list has got to be pretty exceptional. But then Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the world’s foremost science communicators as well as a professional astrophysicist.
This is another great example of a professional astrophysicist conveying their work in a way that’s accessible and engaging for the public. The subject here is an arcane one – Lisa Randall’s theoretical research on “dissipative dark matter” – but by bringing in a potential link to the extinction of the dinosaurs, she makes a gripping story out of it.
Like every other space geek of a certain age in Britain, I was a huge fan of Patrick Moore. As well as his TV appearances, his books were brilliant – managing to be witty and authoritative at the same time. So, I couldn’t have been happier when Springer chose to publish my own Telescopic Tourist’s Guide to the Moon in their “Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy” series. Needless to say, Patrick’s own book on the subject was an indispensable reference while I was writing it.
I enjoy reading biographies of famous scientists, and this is one of the best I’ve come across. It not only explains Kepler’s pivotal role in the history of astronomy, but also conveys just how different the world of science was in his time from today.