Best Space Books and Sci-Fi: A Reading List's editors present a reading list for space and sci-fi lovers, as well as children who are interested in astronomy and spaceflight.
Credit: Lips

There are plenty of great books out there about space — so many, in fact, that it can feel a little overwhelming to figure out where to start, whether searching for a perfect holiday gift or your next engrossing read. So the editors and writers at have put together a list of their favorite books about the universe. These are the books that we love — the ones that informed us, entertained us and inspired us. We hope they'll do the same for you for this Black Friday and beyond!

We've divided the books into five categories, which each have their own dedicated pages. On this page, we feature books we're reading now and books we've recently read, which we will update regularly. Click to see the best of:

We hope there's something on our lists for every reader of every age. We're also eager to hear about your favorite space books, so please leave your suggestions in the comments, and let us know why you love them. You can see our ongoing Space Books coverage here.

By Michael Benson

"Space Odyssey" (Simon and Schuster, 2018) by Michael Benson
"Space Odyssey" (Simon and Schuster, 2018) by Michael Benson
Credit: Simon and Schuster

In honor of its 50th anniversary, "2001: A Space Odyssey" chronicler Michael Benson digs deep into the making of the iconic film, profiling the writer Arthur C. Clarke, the director Stanley Kubrick and the nuances of their partnership to create the "proverbial 'really good' science fiction movie." Along the way, readers tour the groundbreaking technological developments that made the film possible and the creativity of the large team that lent its ideas and expertise to the project.

By focusing on letters and written text — including Kubrick's handwritten, pre-publication edits on feature pieces and interviews about the making of the film — Benson is able to give a particularly personality-driven view of the filmmaking process. The techniques and decisions that lead to the movie are there, but they're always in the context of the people and circumstances that created them. And there's plenty of behind-the-scenes drama to go along with meditations on the film's legacy. ~Sarah Lewin

You can read an interview with the author here, and read a high-flying excerpt from "Space Odyssey" here.

By Joe Pappalardo

"Spaceport Earth" by Joe Pappalardo
"Spaceport Earth" by Joe Pappalardo
Credit: The Overlook Press

In "Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight" (The Overlook Press, 2018), contributing Popular Mechanics editor Joe Pappalardo covers the emergence of commercial spaceflight. Name-brand companies including Virgin Galactic SpaceX, Blue Origin and more appear in its pages. But the thrust of the book is the development of Florida's Space Coast; the area has transformed from a space shuttle port to a commercial spaceflight hub in less than a decade, Pappalardo argues.

Sometimes Pappalardo's history reads more like a diary of his adventures to the various spaceports across the United States and select world locations. He does, however, provide a snapshot of how commercial spaceflight affects everybody — the launches don't just impact the companies involved, but also decisions ranging from legal matters to zoning. This book provides good context for those interested in commercial spaceflight, including the forthcoming crewed launches that are expected to take place in the next few years. ~Elizabeth Howell

Read our discussion of the book with Pappalardo here.

By Stephen Hawking

"A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking
"A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking
Credit: Bantam

Stephen Hawking explains the universe. In this best-seller, the renowned physicist breaks down black holes, space and time, the theory of general relativity and much more, and makes it accessible to those of us who aren't rocket scientists. The book is a great primer for anyone who wants to learn more about the origins of the universe and where it's all heading. ~Live Science Staff (Best Science Books)

Hawking's death at age 76 was announced March 14; read more about his life and legacy here.

"A Briefer History of Time," published first in 2005 in collaboration with Leonard Mlodinow, offers a more accessible update on the science of the first book.

By Oliver Jeffers

"Here We Are" (Philomel Books, 2017) by Oliver Jeffers.
"Here We Are" (Philomel Books, 2017) by Oliver Jeffers.
Credit: Philomel Books

"Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth," the latest picture book by bestselling author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers, is many different things. It's a love letter to his newborn son. It's a toddler-friendly guide to the big, blue marble we call home. Or, as Jeffers' editor joked, it's a book for "new babies, new parents and misplaced humans." But most of all, it's a manual for how to be a standup human being, one who is tolerant, respectful and unfailingly kind.

Jeffers's jewel-toned renderings, liberally sprinkled with details that invite closer inspection, evoke the planet's immensity with warmth and gentility. Yet for all its enormity — at least, from our vantage point — Earth barely registers in the vast expanse of space. We are impossibly fragile. And, for better or worse, we're all in it together.

"We may all look different, act different and sound different … but don’t be fooled, we are all people," Jeffers writes. "There is enough for everyone." ~Jasmin Malik Chua

Read a discussion with the author on the book's inspiration here.

By Elizabeth Tasker

"The Planet Factory" (Bloomsbury Sigma, 2017) by Elizabeth Tasker
"The Planet Factory" (Bloomsbury Sigma, 2017) by Elizabeth Tasker
Credit: Bloomsbury Sigma

In her new book "The Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second Earth," astrophysicist Elizabeth Tasker explores what scientists currently know about the mysterious distant planets beyond the solar system. The refreshing tone of her narrative takes readers on a journey through old techniques for spotting exoplanets (some of which were quite dangerous), the oblong orbits of some alien planets, and why the "habitable zone" of a planet does little to support life if too much water drowns out it's rock cycles. The style is good for beginners, and the chapters are full of humorous explanations to grasp this important field of modern astronomy. ~Doris Salazar

Read about a talk by the author here: Pac-Man' and 'Mario Kart': How to Understand Planet Formation

Again, check out our full lists here:

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