During the past week, I had a conversation on social media about books and what to read. I of course recommend anyone interested in space to read my blog, but on top of that I figured I would share some of my favorite books about space and science.
Whether you are looking for some summer reading or to expand your “want to read”-list then here are some books for inspiration about space, statistics and science.
1 – Factfulness, by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling & Ola Rosling
This book describes the world from a statistical viewpoint. This may sound boring, but it’s not. Professor Hans Rosling worked with public health for many years and this gave him an incredible knowledge base that he shares with great competence. The book is narrated by him and it describes how to interpret public health statistics in a very accessible and easy-to-read manner. Hans Rosling also shares experiences from his own research as a professor of international health at the Caroline Institute in Stockholm.
This book is without (or at least with very little) false perception of the world. It describes why using the phrase “The West” to describe the “developed part” of the world does not make any sense, and it shows with numbers and photos why we humans are not as different from each other as we might think.
It also describes poverty, what is is and what it is not. It describes in convincing detail e.g. how the invention of the washing machine was a revolution for humans and how corporations are putting great efforts into inventing stuff no one needs because their market strategy is based on perception and prejudice instead of facts.
This book is uplifting and shows how to base your view on facts instead of fear.
2 – Invisible Women, by Caroline Perez
This book is in the same category as “Factfulness” mentioned above, but the focus is on what Caroline Perez calls the gender data gap. She uses statistics to show how much of our perception of humans in general is actually just a description of a man. This book presents the (sometimes very scarce) scientific data there is to show how anything from snow clearing on public roads and car safety to clothes design and even medical aid is based on the behavior and anatomy of man only, which has incredible implications for women’s behavior and safety.
This is not a political book, nor is it a book that lectures on what to do or how to do it. This book, in all it’s scientific simplicity, shows the world in numbers and reveals the foundation under many of these numbers.
As a woman, it is definitely frightening to read this book because it exposes the risks that many of us unconsciously take everyday just by being what we are – female.
3 – A Brief History Of Time, by Stephen Hawking
This book is a must-read for anyone interested in space and science.
In 12 chapters, Hawking explains what black holes are and how the universe expands along with a bunch of other concepts that are normally hard to grasp, such as the uncertainty principle and why time goes forward.
It is NOT a space exploration book. Instead, it’s a book that allows you to understand some of the general concepts in astrophysics and even if for just a brief moment in time makes you feel like an astrophysicist. With this book, you will not only learn about the fabric of the universe and the complexity in it, you will also get a tinder for your curiosity.
I think books like these are under-rated. If you tend to think astrophysics can be a bit on the heavy side then try to read this book in the same way as you would read a book about the build-up of the “Lord of the Rings” world. Try to distance yourself from having to learn something particular, and instead just enjoy the complexity and beauty of space. The universe is an equally beautiful and chaotic place, and this book does an excellent job in describing how we humans approach it.
4 – An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth, by Chris Hadfield
This is an exciting book where Canadian space astronaut Chris Hadfield shares with us great detail from his training to become an astronaut. A job that has since sent him to space for more than 4000 hours. This book has humor and is very engaging and exciting.
Chris Hadfield describes some of the adrenaline-inducing situations he has dealt with, like the time he got blinded on a space walk while performing work on the exterior of the ISS. He also describes how he approaches stressful situations and what he does to remain calm when panic seems to be the only option.
This book gives a lot of insight to the mind of a person that, after having been in countless difficult situations, seems to be more balanced than the lot of us. And perhaps most importantly, Chris Hadfield shows how the vastness of space and the exploration of what lies beyond the surface of the Earth can be used by a single human to approach life with more tolerance and patience.
5 – What if?, by Randall Munroe
This book is funny!
In this book, the creator of the online comics xkcd.com answers all the weird questions his readers asked him over time. What happens if you shoot a baseball at 90% speed of light? Can you swim in the water reservoir of a nuclear reactor? And how long would humanity survive in a robot apocalypse?
All of this is naturally written with humor and I can only assume this book is meant as entertainment. However, questions like these are so wonderfully creative and I love how this book really exposes how there genuinely are no “stupid questions”. There are only difficult answers!
The book is of course, in usual xkcd-style, illustrated with wobbly stick-men and the seemingly effortlessness is a big part of what makes this book so approachable. Definitely a must-read if you need a good laugh on a rainy day!