- There is a wealth of great books about space and the stars that will help you appreciate astronomy.
- Many of the top science fiction movies and shows originated from novels.
- You do want to consider when a book was written due to technology becoming obsolete within the story, which may cause some of the “wow” factor to diminish.
Fascination with astronomy is quickly growing in the mainstream, and it’s simple to understand why: All you have to do is look up.
For as long as humanity has existed, we’ve had an interest in the stars. We’ve used them for directions, knowing the time of day, and even to predict the future. As we continue to study these celestial wonders, our interest only continues to rise.
With the rise of popular culture’s interest in spaceflight technology and astrology, the ‘nonscientist’ is taking it upon themselves to learn more about space.
There are so many resources out there, and it can be tough to know where to begin. To make it easier on you, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best astronomy books you can buy—for the scientists and nonscientists, alike.
emThe Invisible Universe/em, Matthew Bothwell
One of the best books on astronomy also happens to be one of the most recent books written on the topic. Having studied astronomy and science communication at the University of Cambridge, Matthew Bothwell intended to bring the cosmos to the masses for most of his adult life. In November 2021, he did just that with ememThe Invisible Universe/em/em.
This incredible astronomy book for beginners introduces the latest discoveries in cosmology while guiding its readers through the history that led up to them, teaching you all of the important basics. One reader stated, “The Invisible Universe explains things like you are a 5th grader while not treating you like a 5th grader—which appears to me to be much harder than it looks for specialists in complex fields.”
You can purchase emThe Invisible Universe/em on Amazon for about $20 and begin your exploration of the cosmos.
emThe Cosmos Explained/em, Charles Liu
Charles Liu, the book’s author, comes with a list of accolades in the industry. In addition to his work as an associate professor of astrophysics at the College of Staten Island, he’s also a member of the Department of Astrophysics at the Hayden Planetarium. There, he conducts cutting-edge studies with other notable scientists such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and Robert Irion.
Liu writes about the expansive nature of the cosmos and how science observes it in real-time. He uses star formations like a road map of history to teach those hopelessly lost in the stars about the patterns of the universe.
You can find a copy of emThe Cosmos Explained/em on Amazon for under $20.
emCosmos/em, Carl Sagan
- Written by Carl Sagan
- New York Times Bestseller
- Foreword by Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Retraces the fourteen billion years of cosmic evolution that have transformed matter into consciousness
- Explores the origin of life, the human brain, Egyptian hieroglyphics, spacecraft missions, the death of the Sun, the evolution of galaxies, and the forces and individuals who helped to shape modern science
Some astronomy books are so profound that their legacy keeps them relevant even decades after their publish date; One such book is emCosmos/em by Carl Sagan.
One of the most well-known scientists ever, Sagan worked with Harvard University, the Smithsonian, and NASA while advocating against nuclear power. In addition to teaching physics, Sagan connects these discoveries to our human purpose, creating a bond that touches our soul.
Sagan’s books and television shows brought the scientist much fame and accolade. Using his celebrity status, he brought Cosmos to the United States, introducing Americans to the unbelievable expanse of the universe.
You can get emCosmos/em on Amazon for around $15—an affordable price to go on a trip through space.
emThe Science of Interstellar/em, Kip Thorne
With decades of experience in the field of astrophysics, Noble Prize-winning author Kip Thorne now brings his scientific prowess to the big screen. The author, who had previously worked with scientists such as Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan, consulted director Christopher Nolan on the scientific feasibility of the movie Interstellar. This led to the writing of his book, emThe Science of Interstellar/em.
And what a great way to introduce people to the cosmos than by connecting it with popular culture and a cutting-edge film. The Science of Interstellar breaks down popular moments in the epic movie, which won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
When readers can take stunning imagery of the cosmos and connect it to real-life physics, they discover themselves as budding Astro-enthusiasts.
Find emThe Science of Interstellar/em on Amazon for $18, but don’t forget to watch the movie first!
Not all astronomy books need to be jam-packed with scientific jargon; Some are just as effective at grabbing their reader’s attention with stunning photography. And, no astronomy book does this better than the emHubble Legacy/em, a 30-year tribute to the most famous telescope ever created.
There’s no better scientist to put this tribute together than Jim Bell, one of the leading astrophysicists on the Hubble Telescope project. Over the course of his career, Bell brought his discoveries to students at Arizona State and Cornell University, in addition to projects at NASA. He won the Carl Sagan Medal in 2011 for his involvement in NASA’s space exploration missions.
You can find Bell’s emHubble Legacy: 30 Years of Discoveries and Images/em on Amazon for about $23.
emBlack Hole Survival Guide/em, Janna Levin
- By Janna Levin, professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College
- Published by Knopf, November 2010
- 160-page hardcover edition
- An accessible guide to one of the most intriguing phenomena of the universe
Janna Levin takes one of the most theoretical aspects of astrophysics and turns it into a compelling story. The emBlack Hole Survival Guide/em takes the nonscientist through one of science’s most unbelievable phenomena as they discover awe-inspiring black holes in the galaxy.
Not many scientists can make the black hole accessible to the average person like Janna Levin. Her work in theoretical cosmology at Bernard College and MIT coupled with her focus on philosophy allows her to connect with her readers on a deeper level, much like the prolific science writers of past decades.
You can find the emBlack Hole Survival Guide/em on Amazon for $12.
The cosmos is filled with wonder. While many astronomy books attempt to explain the logical science, not many succeed at touching on the wonder. That’s where emWhat We See in the Stars: An Illustrated Tour of the Night Sky/em excels.
Kelsey Oseid is an expert illustrator and brings the universe to life with her hand-drawn artwork. Coupled with the history of astronomy and the constellations, her readers will easily discover just how interconnected everything is—including themselves within the universe.
You can find a copy of emWhat We See in the Stars/em on Amazon for around $14.
emAstrophysics for People in a Hurry/em, Neil deGrasse Tyson
- By celebrated astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Published by W. W. Norton & Company
- 224-page hardcover edition
- Covers topics such as the speed of light, gravity, and dark matter in layman's terms
When one hears the term ‘astrophysics,’ you might sense that you’re entering unreachable territory (and in a way, you’re kind of correct).
Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium and the successor to Carl Sagan’s show Cosmos, attempts to bridge the gap with emAstrophysics for People in a Hurry/em.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry comes in a small, handheld package, giving its readers a comforting feeling of possible accomplishment before even opening the book. Tyson, using his impeccable communication skills, expertly guides readers along the history of the known universe from its (humanly understood) beginning.
Readers can cruise right through, finding more than just foundational knowledge; At the end, you get the sense you can actually explore the cosmos, and are even a part of it.
You can purchase emAstrophysics for People in a Hurry/em on Amazon for around $9.
emThe Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers/em takes a different approach to bring astronomy to the masses.
Using the heroes of the world’s greatest space missions, Emily Levesque unites our curiosity about the universe with our ingrained pursuit for glory. She makes space exploration a noble endeavor that calls upon us to do our part.
While the scientific concepts in this book might challenge some readers, its sense of empowering nonscientists for the greater good compels readers to further their cosmic education. Levesque takes her vast knowledge of stars to other advanced texts, such as emAstrophysics of Red Supergiants/em.
You can discover emThe Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers/em on Amazon for just under $12.
emThe Universe in a Nutshell/em, Stephen Hawking
An astronomy book from one of the most celebrated astrophysicists of our time, Stephen Hawking brings us a synopsis of some of the most advanced concepts in the field in emThe Universe in a Nutshell/em.
Bringing insight to concepts such as the M-theory, 11-dimensional supergravity, and general relativity is no easy task, but Hawking manages to bring it all together with fantastic imagery.
For those that want to pursue the depths of the cosmos, you can find ememThe Universe in a Nutshell/em/em, the sequel to Hawkin’s emA Brief History of Time/em for $23, while A Brief History of Time goes for about $8 on Amazon.
What to Know Before Buying an Astronomy Book
Before you buy an astronomy book, you’ll want to consider the publishing date. This is essential for understanding the relevancy of the information. Some older books include theories from their time period that have been refuted in 2022. For these books, you might be able to take some general information, but with caution.
It’s also helpful to know the background of the author. If your astronomy book is written by someone without experience in the field, you might get inaccurate or subjective information. However, if the book is written by a scientist that doesn’t have a background in communication, you might have a difficult time understanding the content.
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The image featured at the top of this post is ©iStock.com/mik38.