Astronomy books: 21 great reads (for adults, beginners & kids)

2018-11-14T10:26:43+00:00October 20th, 2018|

Below are 21 recommended astronomy books for anyone with a keen in interest in either learning how to spot objects in the sky, or in learning about space and the universe in general.

These books are categorized as best beginners astronomy and stargazing books, best astronomy books for kids, and the best books in 2018 on astrophysics and space exploration.

1. Best books to learn astronomy

The seven books below focus on three main areas to help the budding stargazer:

  1. What equipment is needed
  2. What you can expect to see with amateur equipment
  3. How to find objects in space that you now wish to view

All of these books are suited for both beginner and experienced astronomers, but they may differ in being pocket-sized guides to take out when viewing the sky, or more weighty and comprehensive tomes, as well as those that provide practical advice for 2019, and those that give more timeless guidance.

Last update on 2018-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1. Turn Left at Orion

Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope - and How to Find Them

Authors: Guy Consolmagno & Dan M. Davis

Year of release: 2018

Turn Left at Orion is one of the most popular astronomy books of all time. Now in its fifth edition, it has been bought by over 150,000 people since its initial release in 1989.

The book gives a fairly detailed overview of how to use a telescope, it covers viewing the major objects of the solar system, and then has detailed information on what can be seen during the different seasons and months of the year. It also features comprehensive tables of hundreds of objects in the sky and how you can locate them. Various online supporting materials to accompany the book are available for free here.

A keen astronomer who already has a telescope will get the most out of this book. It focuses on helping you target and find specific objects in the sky and is an invaluable practical resource to go with you when stargazing.

 

2. The 2019 Guide to the Night Sky: A Month-by-Month Guide to Exploring the Skies Above North America

2019 Guide to the Night Sky: A Month-by-Month Guide to Exploring the Skies Above North America

Authors: Storm Dunlop & Wil Tirion

Year of release: 2018

Updated annually, this is the 2019 North American version of this book. It gives a month-by-month guide to what can be seen across the year and includes the charts and tables to present the necessary data clearly. The book is small and light and designed to be taken out on stargazing sessions.

If you are not in the USA or Canada, then other regional versions of this book are available. For instance, the UK and Ireland version can be found here.

As with Turn Left at Orion above, this would suit both more experienced astronomers and beginners that are keen to be getting the most from their equipment in 2019.

 

3. The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide

The Backyard Astronomer's Guide

Author: Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer

Year of release: 2008

Although it’s now ten years old, The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide is a still regarded as one of the best astronomy books available. It is hefty and comprehensive (for instance, it contains over 500 color photographs) and takes you through the basics of what equipment you need and how to use it, to how to target and see specific objects in space.

It includes a 20-page atlas of the Milky Way, and there is a chapter on photographing objects in space with your telescope.

 

4. Astronomy For Dummies

Astronomy For Dummies

Author: Stephen P. Maran

Year of release: 2017

Part of the famous and reliable “for dummies” series, this book provides a great overview of the basics of astronomy and the universe.

It only briefly covers how to go about stargazing yourself (the above books are more specialist in this area) and instead has 300+ pages covering the solar system and galaxies, whether there is life out there, and some astrophysics questions around the big bang and dark matter.

 

5. Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide

Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide, Eighth Edition (Wiley Self Teaching Guides)

Author: Dinah L. Moché

Year of release: 2014

This book provides a balance between being a practical guide to learning how to look at the sky at night, and an educational overview of all you need to know about the cosmos.

What marks it out as slightly different to some of the books above is the interactive format that includes learning goals, reviews and quizzes to aid knowledge retention.

 

6. Astronomy with a Home Telescope: The Top 50 Celestial Bodies to Discover in the Night Sky

Astronomy with a Home Telescope: The Top 50 Celestial Bodies to Discover in the Night Sky

Author: Seth Penricke

Year of release: 2015

This book is a practical guide that selects 50 objects in space that are prime viewing opportunities for anyone with a good telescope.

It is short and concise and suits someone keen to pick up a book and get stuck straight in with their telescope.

 

7. Stargazing: Beginners Guide to Astronomy

Stargazing: Beginners Guide to Astronomy

Authors: Radmila Topalovic and Tom Kerss

Year of release: 2017

This book is published by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the United Kingdom (the home of Greenwich Mean Time) but is written for budding astronomers all over the world, and includes seasonal star charts for use in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.

It is a beginner’s guide to the basics which touches on a lot of topics without getting too technical. It includes the basics of astronomy and the cosmos, as well as how to get into stargazing – what you can expect to see, what equipment you need, and also touches on astrophotography.

If you are after a good overview of all you need to know about astronomy for beginners, then this book might be for you. It doesn’t provide detailed step-by-step guides that, for instance, you would take with you when you want to go out and observe the sky with a telescope, but rather is more a guide that you would read at home at your leisure to get a better understanding of the basics.

The authors are Radmila Topalovic, Astronomy Programs Officer and Tom Kerss, Lead Astronomy Education Officer at the Royal Observatory.

 

2. Best astronomy books for kids

These seven books are a mixture of fun picture books for younger kids, some more educational children’s books for learning about space in general, and some more practical guides to stargazing for children. Some might suit different ages.

Last update on 2018-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1. 50 Things To See With A Telescope for Kids

50 Things To See With A Telescope - Kids: A Constellation Focused Approach

Author: John A Read

Year of release: 2017

This is a perfect book to go alongside a telescope for a child. It’s a practical guide to what you will be able to see through a telescope and how to locate and view specific objects. Included are photographs of what the planets etc. will look like when seen through a small telescope, and so provide a dose of realism and help you understand if you are looking at the right thing.

 

2. There’s No Place Like Space

There's No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)

Author: Tish Rabe and Aristides Ruiz

Year of release: 2009

This Dr. Seuss-style illustrated book from the Cat in the Hat Learning Library is extremely popular and a great gift for children to help them learn about the planets and solar system.

Originally released in 1999, but revised in 2009 to bring it up-to-date (i.e. to remove Pluto as a planet). It’s best for reading to younger children (lots of colorful pictures and low on text). The author has written over 160 kids books.

 

3. National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)

Author: Catherine D. Hughes and David A. Aguilar (Illustrator)

Year of release: 2012

This is an extremely popular astronomy book for kids. It provides an educational overview of the Solar System and what things like constellations and meteorites are.

It’s for an age range where children will be able to read and explore the book themselves (4 to 8 years) – not a bedtime story type book like There’s No Place Like Space above.

 

4. The Everything Kids’ Astronomy Book

The Everything Kids' Astronomy Book: Blast into outer space with stellar facts, intergalactic trivia, and out-of-this-world puzzles

Authors: Kathi Wagner & Sheryl Racine

Year of release: 2008

Similar to the Little Kids First Big Book of Space covered above, this book is for a child with an interested in learning about space and the universe. It is probably suitable for a slightly older age range (7 to 12 years) and contains lots of puzzles and interactive aspects.

 

5. Mousetranaut

Mousetronaut: Based on a (Partially) True Story (Paula Wiseman Books)

Authors: Mark Kelly and C. F. Payne

Year of release: 2012

Mousetronaut is a story picture book for kids that is written by a real astronaut, Mark Kelly, and based on his experiences of going to space with real mice aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 2001.

It’s suitable for reading with younger children (ages 4 to 8).

 

6. A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky

Child's Introduction to the Night Sky: The Story of the Stars, Planets, and Constellations--and How You Can Find Them in the Sky (Child's Introduction Series)

Authors: Michael Driscoll and Meredith Hamilton

Year of release: 2004

This book is full of fascinating information for children, including explanations and illustrations of constellations, the international space station, the planets, and even some history of astronomy.

It includes a star map and some practical guidance to stargazing and viewing objects in space, either with or without a telescope. Suitable for children ages 8 to 13 years.

 

7. Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Night Sky

Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Night Sky: Find Adventure! Go Outside! Have Fun! Be a Backyard Stargazer! (National Geographic Kids Ultimate Explorer Field Guide)

Author: Howard Schneider

Year of release: 2016

Another National Geographic book for kids, but this one is a more practical guide to astronomy and viewing the night sky, as opposed to the Little Kids First Big Book of Space, which is for a younger age range and provides more general background information about space.

This book is perfect if you have a home telescope that you want to use with your child to help sucessfully find objects in space from your garden or on trips. It’s suitable for an age range of 8 to 12 years.

 

3. Best books about astrophysics and space exploration

This last section recommends seven books for adults to learn about modern astrophysics and space exploration. There are a mixture of recently released books in 2018 and a few classics from further back.

Last update on 2018-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Author: Neil de Grasse Tyson

Year of release: 2017

Neil de Grasse Tyson is one of the leading figures for being able to take extremely complex concepts and explain them for a regular person to understand.

This recently released book updates a lot of the content from some of his earlier books and tries to explain the universe and how it works in as concise manner as possible.

 

2. Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon

Author: Robert Kurson

Year of release: 2018

Rocket Men is the little-known story of the NASA Apollo 8 mission to take humans to the moon in 1968, which the first attempt to send men from Earth to another destination (before the later successful moon landing in 1969 with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin).

It reads like a novel (narrative non-fiction) and tells a story that it not well known as it was overshadowed by later events. Released in 2018, it makes a great gift for a space-enthuasist with a love for reading.

 

3. Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

Authors: Alan Stern & David Grinspoon

Year of release: 2018

Another great new book for space-lovers in 2018, Chasing New Horizons is the story of the NASA mission which sent back those amazing pictures of Pluto (and its “heart”) that we are now so familiar with.

The story goes back decades and looks at the people, the engineering feats, and everything that went wrong. The author, Dr Alan Stern, was one of the main protaginists in the mission and so is able to tell the real inside story.

 

4. The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos

The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos

Author: Christian Davenport

Year of release: 2018

Modern space exploration is increasingly moving beyond NASA and the other national space agencies and into the private sphere – with companies like Space X. This 2018 book delves into this development and examines those leading the charge, namely Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

It’s a fascinating story that is developing fast and helps you understand the impact these people are having and what we can expect to see in the coming years and decades with planned manned missions to Mars and the emergence of space tourism.

The author is a Washingon Post writer covering the space industry.

 

5. Cosmos

 

Cosmos

Author: Carl Sagan

Year of release: 1980 (this edition 2013)

Cosmos is a classic that stands the test of time (and has been recently updated anyway). This book was the basis for the original Cosmos TV series that was remade in the past few years for Netflix with Neil de Grasse Tyson.

Much like the TV show, it covers space, time and the universe, as well as bringing it together with the history of astronomy and the development of human knowledge and society. It’s fantastically written though and explains complex issues in a way a regular person can understand.

Carl Sagan was the author of many great books and a leading mind in 20th century astronomical thought.

 

6. Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts about the Universe

Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts about the Universe

Author: Carolyn Collins Petersen

Year of release: 2013

This book is like a fun textbook to learn about the solar system and beyond. It profiles all the planets as well as covering things like dark matter, the big bang, and the history of astronomy.

It’s not a children’s book, but it would suit anyone looking to learn in this area from teenage upwards.

 

7. A Brief History of Time (Illustrated edition)

The Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition

Author: Stephen Hawking

Year of release: 1996

Hawking’s Brief History of Time is another must-read-before-you-die classic.

Originally released in 1988, this edition was updated with 240 added illustrations in 1996. Less about space than Cosmos, but more about the nature of the universe and the rules that govern our existence. It’s a complete overview and explanation of all we know and can theorize about these topics.

 

Astronomy Books – what are your favorites?

In the above books, we have looked to recommend the best available for learning how to look at the stars, for learning about space and the universe, and for children to learn about both of these things.

If you have any favorite recommendations not covered above then please let others know in the comments below. As time moves on and new astronomy books come out, we will look to update the list on an ongoing basis.

If you are interested in learning about astrophotography, then see also the best astrophotography books.

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