View Full Version : Discussion: What are Your Favorite Books?

2004-Sep-16, 06:57 PM
SUMMARY: Every Christmas I get emails asking what books I'd recommend for the space enthusiast. Well, this year I'm planning ahead, and I'll have the list prepared ahead of time. I figured I'd get your input before putting together my final list. So, what books would you recommend? If you have a few minutes head over to forum and post some of your favorites, or just send me an email at info@universetoday.com. What are your favorite books on astronomy, physics, space exploration, science fiction, and even general science? Give me book names and authors. If you can't remember the name, post what you can recall and I'll try and dig it up.


Fraser "Santa's Lil Helper" Cain
Universe Today

P.S. The picture is of two of my favorites: Nightwatch, by Terrence Dickinson and Bad Astronomy by Phil Plait.

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

2004-Sep-16, 07:53 PM
Not very scienctific, but "Galileo's Daughter" was a great read about the history of Galileo's studies and trial.

2004-Sep-17, 12:28 AM
Any astronomy book by Timothy Ferris (or any book by him for that matter, but this is about astronomy). Also, "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman" is an absolutely classic read, as is Leon Lederman's "The God Particle".

2004-Sep-17, 12:39 AM
Best beginner astronomy book - Nightwatch by Terence Dickinson

Best inspirational astronomy book - An Intimate Look at the Night Sky by Chet Raymo

Best astronomy history book - Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris

Best intermediate astronomy observing books - Star-Hopping for Backyard Astronomers by Alan MacRobert and Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno

By the way, have you decided on a telescope yet?

Best regards,

2004-Sep-17, 01:51 AM
Howdy from the Desert Southwest!
Some of my most-used reference books about Stargazing(and thus my favorites) are still the three volumes of Burnham's Celestial Atlas.Yes,they are beginning to show their age: the info and photos are a bit dated in some instances,but the set represents literally the fruits of a good bit of the observing career of a noted Astronomer,and is chock full of information on every aspect of optical observing.There is a basic overview of Big-Bang Cosmology and notes on about any object or class of objects visible in amateur instruments.Also,one can pick up a full set for about $60.00.I got mine for just a few bucks by joining a science book club-one of those that we all get mailers on-and choosing it as a premium.My other addition to this list is Deep Sky Observing by Steven R. Coe.The book is a compilation of the author's personal observing notes over a period of years and includes information on familiar and more challenging subjects.The neat feature of this book is that as time went on and Coe moved up to larger telescopes,notes became available for several different apertures for each object,and are included,ranging generally from 6" to 12.5" with an occasional 30 incher thrown in to make us jealous!
I guess my age is showing but these are my favorites because I use them both all the time.Heck,I'd be lost without "Burnham's"!
A fun read about physics from Big Bang high temperature physics to how these theories dovetail into modern Cosmology is The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav.It's an overview of modern physics with a light but insightful point of view and a bit of a spiritual touch.
Thanks for giving me a chance to share my some of my favorites.

Omkar frm India
2004-Sep-17, 12:46 PM
Space Junk: The Future is Yesterday
by Amy Tucker Carroll

Space Junk is an imaginative book that I got hooked the first day I started reading it. I love the plot of the book and would stay up late to find out what would happen. The characters where great and had such real personalities. I loved the book. Thank you!

2004-Sep-17, 01:06 PM
I started a topic about this in the early days, and there are 40 replies:

http://www.universetoday.com/forum/index.p...p?showtopic=424 (http://www.universetoday.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=424)

Ivan Viehoff
2004-Sep-17, 01:07 PM
My special favourite:

The New Solar System (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0521645875/qid=1095426395/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_10_1/026-1191133-0740426) ed. Beatty, Petersen and Chaikin, Cambridge University Press

The book is written at a level suitable for the scientifically literate non-specialist, so not everyone will like it. It is full of super pictures, and gives you an idea of how secure - or since this is planetary science - insecure, is our knowledge of these matters.

Willy Logan
2004-Sep-17, 03:53 PM
As far as space exploration books go:

-The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe. It's a space classic by now, and it's a joy to read several times over. Way better than the movie.
-A Man on the Moon, by Andrew Chaikin. The epic history of the moon program.
-Chariots for Apollo, by Charles Pellegrino and Joshua Stoff. An interesting and personal account of engineering the Apollo lunar module.
-Carrying the Fire, by Michael Collins. The best astronaut memoir ever.
-Rockets of the World (various editions), by Peter Alway. Not good for casual reading, but a great reference.
-Rocket Boys (also October Sky), by Homer Hickan. About boys who built rockets, not the rockets they built. A great read.

And since Fraser asked for science fiction:

-2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke. The book written in parallel with the screenplay. It has some good technical parts to it. The three sequels vary in quality.


Bee in the hive
2004-Sep-17, 04:53 PM
Any astronomy book over 100 yrs old. Its my collection hobby.
My oldest is from 1851.

Tom Gagen
2004-Sep-17, 05:04 PM
As a good sci. Fi book I suggest :

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart (may not be in print)

Tom Gagen

2004-Sep-18, 02:51 AM
Hi Fraser

My favorite astronomy book of late is The Black Hole At The Center Of Our Galaxy by Fulvio Melia. In the first 30 pages you are transported from the serenity of your reading chair to the unimaginably turbulent core of our galaxy where a near 3 million solar mass black hole snacks on what little has not already been sucked below its event horizon.

You may have to hang on to more than just your hat as this book takes you on quite the ride!


2004-Sep-18, 03:46 AM
I just re-read what was one of my favorite books in college, and a quarter century later it's still mind-blowing and hilarious -- COSMICOMICS, by Italo Calivino. It's a short book of linked stories spanning most of the history of the Universe. The first story takes place before the Big Bang, when everybody was crowded into a dimensionless point. The one I remember best is a love story set in the days when the Moon was closer to the Earth, so that if you rowed out to sea at high tide and set up a ladder in your boat, you could actually climb up onto the Moon. (Calvino also wrote IF ON A WINTER'S NIGHT A TRAVELER, another piece of comic fiction with too complicated a premise to describe here, and he compiled a fat book of ITALIAN FOLKTALES, which are fun to read aloud as adult bedtime stories.) Julian Barnes wrote a book of stories somewhat in the same vein as COSMICOMICS -- THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 13 1/2 CHAPTERS. I don't remember it quite as fondly, but I did enjoy the story narrated by the woodworms on Noah's Ark.

One of my favorite recent novels is MEMORIES OF AMNESIA, by Lawrence Shainberg. It purports to be a first-person account of a neurosurgeon suffering from progressive brain damage, who relates a bizarre (and very funny) odyssey into incoherence. Shainberg wrote a factual book on neurosurgery, and this novel -- while utterly surreal -- benefits from his knowledge of the subject.

Another borderline sci-fi writer is Haruki Murakami, who's written a number of novels which begin in contemporary urban Japan and then make their way into surreal alternate realities. THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE is the one I have on my bookshelf. There are also HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AT THE END OF THE WORLD and a WILD SHEEP CHASE. I get them confused, but they're all entertaining and very unusual.

I don't know how popular the Russian sci-fi writer STANISLAW LEM is these days. He wrote SOLARIS, which has twice been made into a movie, but I most enjoyed THE CYBERIAD, his book of stories about an all-robot universe, and THE FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS, a short novel about a world of the near future where everybody's totally drugged.

Finally, let me recommend two very different novels, neither of them science fiction, which have in common the premise of a main character being subjected to a massive mind**** (a la the movie "The Game," or the TV series "The Prisoner"). The first, about 100 years old, is THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY, by G.K. Chesterton, and it's about a guy who accidentally (or not) becomes a member of a conspiratorial secret society. The other, about 40 years old, is THE MAGUS, by John Fowles, and it's about a young guy who finds himself on a Greek island owned by a towering figure -- part Picasso, part Zorba the Greek (actually he was played by Anthony Quinn in the bad 60's movie of the novel) and part Mr. Roarke from "Fantasy Island" -- who puts the young man through a series of tests, with dubious motives. Unlike these other books, this one is quite long. It's probably not as great or memorable as the others, but it's fun and completely involving. (In his intro, Fowles mentions a novel which profoundly influenced him -- THE WANDERER (orig. LE GRAND MEAULNES), a haunting novel of adolescence by Alain-Fournier, a young Frenchman killed in the First World War. It's not even close to sci-fi, but to me it's always seemed quite magical -- it feels like a fantasy, even though there's nothing supernatural and it takes place in the French countryside of the late 19th Century.)

Just one more -- THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS, a trio of linked sci-fi novellas by Gene Wolfe, from very early in his career, about a trippy culture clash on an alien world. (Wolfe's SOLDIER IN THE MIST, about an ancient Greek soldier with short-term memory loss a la "Memento," is also pretty clever.)

Oh, and if for any reason you haven't read the classic of South American magical realism -- 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE, by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez -- you've really missed out...

Okay, okay, I'll stop. (I'm sure everyone's read Mervyn Peake's GORMENGHAST TRILOGY anyway, so I don't have to feel bad about not mentioning it -- the first volume is TITUS GROAN, by the way.)

Edit: Profanity deleted

2004-Sep-18, 10:19 AM
Bad Astronomy forums are sometime very interesting.
It is worth to see.
My last topics I placed into:
and some my ideas tied with last climate changes are on:
Phil Plait had good idea to create that web, but his bad side is that he prefere only traditional wiew on astronomical things...sometime without prooper proofs...

2004-Sep-18, 12:21 PM
Hi All!, I just thought I let you know what some of my all-time favorite Astronomy books are..... Lunar Atlas,by Dinsmore Alter;Burnhams Celestial Handbook(3 vols.); Backyard Astronomer's Guide by Dickenson and Dyer;Full Moon by Michael Light; and Beyond by Michael Benson.Hey!, Thanks for listening!!! :o

2004-Sep-18, 12:32 PM
I am limiting my book recommendations to beginners for several reasons. Most "experienced" probably already know what books they may want; Christmas is a time to buy a gift for a child (or the "child" within an adult) who has an interest in exploring the sky or wants to know more about stars, planets, etc. and/or get a "first" telescope, thus may also want a book to help the "budding" enthusiast. Enough said: My three favorite books for beginners are (not in ranking order):

l. Exploring the Night Sky by Terence Dickinson
2. Finding the Constellations by H.A. Rey
3. The Lawnchair Astronomer by Gerry Descoteaux

2004-Sep-18, 03:44 PM
And here's my list of lovables:

Hyperspace, by Michio Kaku
Visions, by Michio Kaku
Einstein's Cosmos, by Michio Kaku
Beyond Einstein, by Michio Kaku
Astronomy, by Jay M. Pasachoff
Astronomy Data Book, by J Hedley Robinson and James Muirden
Bad Astronomy, by Phil Plait
A Man on The Moon, by Andrew Chaikin
A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
The Next Fifty Years, edited by John Brockman
The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene
Great Ideas in Physics, by Alan Lightman
The Future of Spacetime, introduction by Richard Price
And, of course, anything by Hawking and Clarke

And then of course, there's always books for the younger fry:
Voyage Through the Universe, the series
And much more, though I'd probably be listing enough to fill a library so I'll stop here. :rolleyes: :D

2004-Sep-19, 07:38 PM
My all time favorites are:

Dune-series - Frank Herbert
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Nemesis - Isaac Asimov
Triffids - John Wyndham

Atlas of the Universe - Patrick Moore

Greetings and salutations from the Netherlands

2004-Sep-19, 11:10 PM
Here are a few that come to mind:
1. 365 Starry Nights by Chet Raymo, best beginer book on enjoying the night sky plus some basic astronomy concepts, a paragraph or two for each night of the year.
2. The New Solar System, edited by Beatty et al., for the advanced beginner and up. A chapter for each topic, each by a different expert.
3. Anything by Dr. Ken Croswell. Well written, advanced topics made accessible, all nicely personalized: Alchemy of the Heavens (history) Planet Quest (discovering planets and extrasolar planets) Universe at Midnight (cosmology) Magnificant Mars, and Magnificent Universe (coffee table style)
4. for alien fanciers: Rare Earth by Peter Ward and Life Everywhere by David Darling have differing perspectives on finding life.
5. On the Cosmic Horizon by Jeffrey Bennett is also a very good read. About the top ten astronomy mysteries on the verge of solution, or that will be in upcoming newspaper headlines this century. (Is there life elsewhere in the solar system, how do galaxies evolve, what is the universe made of, etc) At least one, the solar neutrino problem, was recently resolved.

Ivan Viehoff
2004-Sep-20, 08:51 AM
Originally posted by gnosys@Sep 18 2004, 03:46 AM
I don't know how popular the Russian sci-fi writer STANISLAW LEM is these days. He wrote SOLARIS, which has twice been made into a movie, but I most enjoyed THE CYBERIAD, his book of stories about an all-robot universe, and THE FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS, a short novel about a world of the near future where everybody's totally drugged.
He's Polish. His humorous books are brilliant (add Star Diaries to the above), but his more straightforward sci-fi (Pirx the Pilot, etc) is for sci-fiers, not me.

2004-Sep-20, 12:48 PM
Non-fiction-- no question: Extreme Stars by James Kahler. Fiction: anything at all by Robert Heinlein or Spider Robinson, especially his Callahan series. I am myself a paronomasiac of the pseudointellectual stripe ;) . Steve

bill borsheim
2004-Sep-20, 03:16 PM
Marcia Bartusiak's 1986(?) non-observational book "Thursday's Universe" marked my 2nd unsuccessful attempt into observational astronomy(did it on my own, & eventually quit). However, TU captured my mind & kept me idling till I joined the Everett, Washington Astronomy Club in 1990 & surged into the visual cosmos with wonderful members such as Jim Bielaga & Terry Bacon. Ms. Bartusiak visited leading Pro Astronomers in a short time period, & gave the most up to date chronicles of numerous astro fields that a published hardback book can give. TU's accurate, but understandable explanations of truly complex astro processes helped me to wrap my mind about the cosmos despite my individual failure to easily find dim celestial objects from lite polluted areas(only later thru EWAS did I understand the benefits of dark mountain viewing). TU was so up to date that little was added to certain astro fields for ten plus years. During that time period I truly felt abreast of astro topics. As such Thursday's Universe must become a classic document of astronomical knowledge in that time period. Sadly, Thursday's Universe does not have the following that other astro books seem to command.

2004-Sep-20, 07:07 PM
Here are a couple of my faves:
“The Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky” by Mark R. Chartrand. A fabulous little book with lots of photographs of the constellations, loads of finder charts and my favourite bit, a history of each constellation and the naming of their stars, along with viewing highlights for each one.

“The Backyard Astronomer's Guide” by Dickinson and Dyer. Best for prospective amateur astronomers. Will most certainly steer them clear of the dreaded department store telescope.

In the science fact category, I really enjoyed Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”.

Also, although not astronomy related, the Pulitzer winning “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” and “Dark Sun: the Making of the Hydrogen Bomb” both by Richard Roades. These gems cover the topics by exploring the backgrounds of the physicists and all the technical aspects in a delightfully readable way. They certainly blur the boundary between physics and philosophy and should be required reading even for the most pacifist reader.

2004-Sep-20, 08:22 PM
"Seeing and Believing" by Richard Panek. A brief and enjoyable read on the history of the telescope.

"The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics" edited by Timothy Ferris. A collection papers by the twentieth centuries greatest minds.(ponderous on occasion)

2004-Sep-21, 06:18 PM
I put my vote in with STARLAB in his/her selecting the "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene

2004-Sep-23, 08:58 PM
Astronaut Memoirs
1. Lost Moon, Jim Lovell -- I'll rate this higher than Carrying the Fire because the scope of the book makes it a more engaging story. I like how the story is told from a variety of vantage points.
2. Carrying the Fire, Michael Collins -- The best astronaut memoir.
3. Last Man on the Moon, Eugene Cernan -- An entertaining read.

The Spacecraft Design Experience
Moon Lander: How We Developed the Apollo Lunar Module, Tom Kelly (LM Chief Engineer, Grumman) -- This book gets a little technical and dry sometimes. Kelly describes the project from conception to flight well. Moon Lander gives a personal view of the problems and accomplishments of large project management.

Shape of Things to Come?
Lost in Space: The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age, Greg Klerkx -- From the former director of SETI, Klerkx gives a very one-sided view of NASA suppressing the private space industry. However, he does give a good insight into the world of "alt space," i.e. Space Frontier Foundation, MarchStorm, X PRIZE, et al.

Personal favorite book, not space
Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

2004-Sep-23, 09:20 PM
I think my all-time favorite is "Coming of Age in the Milky Way," by Timothy Ferris. This is a history of astronomical-related thought from ancient times up through about the mid 1980s when it was written. Ferris writes very well, and is almost poetic at times. Two books by Owen Gingerich are also on my list: "The Great Copernicus Chase," and "The Book Nobody Read," both about Copernicus and the period (including discussions of Tycho, Kepler, Galileo, etc.). Very informative books.

My favorite observing book is "The Backyard Astronomer's Guide," by Dickinson and Dyer. An information-packed guide. "Nightwatch" by Dickinson is also good.

2004-Sep-23, 10:12 PM
Ok,OK!!Here's part 2 of my favorite book choices...Firefly books puts out an excellent series of Astronomy books.....among them are my 3 favorites...Mars Observer's Guide by Neil Bone;Moon Observer's Guide by Peter Grego; and Astrophotography by H.J.P.Arnold.These make for an excellent mini-observing library!!!!Thanks again for your time,folks!! :lol:

2004-Sep-24, 02:26 AM
Don't forget the Sun Observer's Guide that just came out:

http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/bo...vers_guide.html (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/book_review_sun_observers_guide.html)

2004-Sep-24, 04:44 AM
The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan

Cosmos (again) by Carl Sagan

Ok, anything by the good Dr. suits me just fine.

2004-Sep-24, 04:45 AM
For me the Night Watch by Terence Dickenson is a good starter book and I always recommend it. Next in line would be The Backyard Astronomer's Guide (Dickinson & Dyer); always a good read and easy to refer to for refresher info. I picked up many good tips on how to use my refractor for opimum viewing. For deep sky, I really like Deep Sky Companions: The Messier Objects by Stephen James O'Meara. Not a lot of pretty photos of what you won't see in your scope, but B&W shots and sketches coupled with very good discriptions from several sourses for each of the "M" objects. In addition are star charts plotting each object on the page(s) discribing it plus plenty of tips on how to look for the faint and fuzzies.

But my all time favorite for beginners is Chet Raymo's 365 Starry Nights. This book is loaded with easy to understand basics on the constellations, when to find them, what's in them all within a framework of basic astronomic science presented in a fun way that scare a novice away. I've lost count of the number of copies I've given away just in the last year and have probably recommended it twice as many people when I haven't had an extra copy in my observatory bag.

If you haven't read some of these, they're all worth the read


2004-Sep-24, 04:51 AM
Ok correction to my previous: "...a framework of basic astronomic science presented in a fun way that scare a novice away." Should read: a framework of basic astronomic science that won't care a novice away.

One of these days I'm sure I'll learn to type.

2004-Sep-24, 08:11 AM
Stargazing, Astronomy without a telescope by Sir Patrick Moore.
This book really shows his enthusiasm with the stars and everything else in the universe that we can see. He talks alot about his own experiences from when he was a younger which is really interesting.

Ola D.
2004-Sep-24, 09:14 AM
These are my favourites: :)

(1) Guide to Stars and Planets - Sir Patrick Moore
(2) Night Watch - Terence Dickinson
(3) Einstien: A Beginner's Guide - Jim Breithaupt

2004-Sep-25, 10:46 AM
One of the most enjoyable books that I have read about NASA and the Space Program is "Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond" by Gene Kranz (former Flight Director, NASA).

The book is very readable and contains a good mix of technical information and personal recollections of Gene's time working with NASA.

The thing that I found most interesting was the development of the concept of mission control and all of the practices and policies that are used in the conduct of a space mission.