REVIEW: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield

This p511UE0Uq4KL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_robably doesn’t need to be a terribly long review, as if you’ve been around for a while you can probably easily guess what I think of Chris Hadfield.  If not, be aware that I believe him to be among the awesomest of humans, so there was really no chance at all that I wasn’t going to enjoy the hell out of his book.  You should read this.  That’s the tl;dr version.

The slightly longer version:  An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is part self-help/motivation book, part autobiography, and part reference manual for all things NASA.  Reading it should have depressed me a bit, as the main effect of the book was to convince me that nearly every detail in Skylights is wrong, even the ones I deliberately got wrong for story purposes, but oddly it didn’t.  I live for focused astronomical nerdery, and while Hadfield never goes too crazy on the detail it’s very clear that the actual life of a working astronaut is roughly 10000 times as complicated as I thought it was and I have thought about it a lot more than most people have.  The specifically science-focused part of the book certainly doesn’t overwhelm the rest of it– this is a less sciencey book than, say, The Martian was, even though The Martian was a novel and this is not, so you’d think it had more room to get into details.  I talked about it a lot in class this week, and had a few of my girls ask me if they could read it.  It’s probably a bit too high-level for even a bright fifth-grader, but I suspect an eighth-grader who enjoyed  reading would be able to handle it easily.

And this book needs to be in the hands of young people, beyond a doubt.  One of the things Cmdr. Hadfield hammers on repeatedly is how he needed to stay focused on his dream to become an astronaut from a very early age.  Dreams are like that, sometimes; you can cheat yourself out of them before you even know it if you’re not focused and careful.  (I remember thinking once as a very little kid that I was already behind in life, because Michael Jackson was famous at nine and I was ten and couldn’t even sing.  I suspect what I actually did in that case was dodge a bullet, but you get the idea.)  I don’t know that he wrote it with young people in mind, but I’d try hard to get this into the hands of math- and science-inclined high school students in particular.

Highly, highly recommended, guys.  This one will end up on my top 10 list at the end of the year for sure, and I suspect it’ll be very close to the top.

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield

  1. Yeah, that starting-early thing was a problem. I realized as a kid I was too fat to be an astronaut. Nowadays happily I’m thin enough and probably not too tall, although I haven’t got the advantages of youth right now. Maybe later.


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