Life in space, whether grounded in reality or told in fiction, helps us better understand ourselves and the galaxies around us. Not only does science fiction provide a safe space for us to explore social issues of the time, but reading it also helps younger readers develop critical thinking skills.
Whether you want to learn more about the universe around you or want to get lost in a fictional universe, here are our top recommendations.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune is one of the most famous sci-fi novels in the world and tells the story of Paul Atreides, heir of a noble family, who has gone on to rule a desert world. There is a coveted resource called “spice” on this planet, valuable enough to kill for, and when Paul’s family gets betrayed, it sets him on a journey towards ruling the known universe. Winner of the Nebula and Hugo awards—some of the most distinguished sci-fi awards on the market, Dune shaped the narrative of many sci-fi stories that came after it.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Another classic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, follows Arthur Dent as he travels the universe following the destruction of Earth. Much of the book and its sequels are written in parody form, making light of the situations that plague the protagonist.
Surprisingly, the book predicted many of the technological advancements that would come in the four decades after its publication in 1979.
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian follows the journey of astronaut Mark Watney after he gets stranded alone on Mars. Watney and the crew had planned to stay for a month on Mars, but after an intense dust storm, and thinking Watney dead, they take off to protect themselves, leaving Watney to survive alone on an alien planet. Since publication, Weir has been praised for the scientific accuracy of the novel.
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
A list of space books wouldn’t be complete without an entry authored by H.G. Wells. Published in 1897, The War of the Worlds is one of the first sci-fi books about aliens and centers on the struggle between humans and the Martians who invade the planet. The conflict becomes apocalyptic as the invasion takes the lives of many.
The War of the Worlds set the tone for many sci-fi novels to come, introducing the idea that aliens may not be friendly. It wasn’t until much later that sci-fi stories explored the idea that humans and aliens could co-exist in peace.
A Brief History of Time by Steven Hawking
Writing about space, time, the basic building blocks of the universe, and the forces that govern its operation, Stephen Hawking distills cosmology down for readers with no knowledge of physics. In a later edition of the book, time travel and wormholes are discussed.
Since the publication of the first edition, scientists have observed and confirmed many of Hawking’s predictions.
Finding Our Place in the Universe by Helene Courtois
Helene Courtois led a team of researchers for twenty years to map the universe around us. During this journey, Courtois and her team describe their discovery of Laniakea, which is the galaxy structure where we exist. Laniakea contains around 100,000 galaxies just like ours and many smaller galaxies.
In the book, Courtois writes in a way that anyone can understand, and explains in fascinating detail the steps her team took to make this discovery.
Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan
Written by Carl Sagan, one of the most famous astronomers of our time, Pale Blue Dot was inspired by a 1990 photograph of our planet. In his book, Sagan writes about our place in the universe, along with describing the then-current knowledge of the Solar System.
Sagan also explores how we are not the center of the Universe, and what that means for human habitation on other planets. Though it was written two decades ago, Pale Blue Dot is a fascinating read and shows the reader how far space exploration and knowledge have truly come.
UFOs by Leslie Kean
In this deep dive, Leslie Kean presents evidence that UFOs exist through 10 years of her journalistic research. The book is full of information from experts on the topic, including Air Force generals and a previous head of the British Defence Ministry’s UFO Investigative Unit. The knowledge uncovered in Kean’s UFOs also has the support of John Podesta, former White House Chief of Staff.
Whether you want to explore fictional stories in space, or long to better understand the Universe around us, there are dozens of books out there to fill your desires. Do you know of a great space book that we left off this list? Tweet it to us @bookclubdotcom.