Best Space Books and Sci-Fi for 2019

Space Books Recommended Reading
Space.com's editors present a reading list for space and sci-fi lovers, as well as children who are interested in astronomy and spaceflight.
(Image: © Space.com/Jeremy 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 gift or your next engrossing read. So the editors and writers at Space.com 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!

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.

What We're Reading:

'Lasers, Death Rays, and the Long, Strange Quest for the Ultimate Weapon' (Prometheus Books, 2019)

By Jeff Hecht

"Lasers, Death Rays, and the Long, Strange Quest for the Ultimate Weapon," by Jeff Hecht.
(Image: © Courtesy of Prometheus Books)

In the newly released book “Lasers, Death Rays, and the Long, Strange Quest for the Ultimate Weapon,” (Prometheus Books, 2019), veteran science writer Jeff Hecht details the strange and incredible history of real-life laser weapons. Lasers have captured the public’s excitement for decades, appearing as phasers, ray guns, and more in countless works of science fiction.

In this new book, Hecht explores the influence of these ficticious lasers as well as the reality of laser weapons today and how they have developed over time. From failed experiments to lasers built to be as large as airplanes, the development of laser weapons has been one strange journey that Hecht explains in captivating detail. ~Chelsea Gohd

Read an interview with Hecht about the book here.

'Out There' (Grand Central Publishing, 2018)

By Mike Wall

"Out There" by Mike Wall
(Image: © Grand Central Publishing)

With "Out There: A Scientific Guide to Alien Life, Antimatter, and Human Space Travel (For the Cosmically Curious)," Space.com senior writer Mike Wall gets at the most pressing questions of our place in the universe, who else is out there, what they might be like and why we haven't heard from them yet. Wall draws on up-to-date science to answer speculative questions accurately and with good humor, accompanied by Karl Tate's entertaining line drawings.

"Out There" dramatizes the search for life and how we might react to its discovery, and it also explores what a long-term human presence off Earth could look like and whether we will ever make it there. The book offers quick dips into the most interesting aspects of space science, but it never feels shallow. ~Sarah Lewin

Read a Q&A with Wall about the book here, and check out an excerpt here.

'The Calculating Stars' and 'The Fated Sky' (Tor, 2018)

By Mary Robinette Kowal

"The Calculating Stars" by Mary Robinette Kowal.
(Image: © Tor Books)

What if space exploration wasn't a choice but a necessity, driven by the knowledge that Earth would soon become uninhabitable and powered by international coalitions built after a catastrophic meteorite impact? That's the alternative history novelist Mary Robinette Kowal explores in her Lady Astronaut series. The books follow mathematician and World War II pilot Elma York, who dreams of becoming an astronaut herself. Kowal intricately melds real history with her fictional plot to create a series that is simultaneously hopeful and pragmatic. The Lady Astronaut offers a powerful vision of how spaceflight could be a positive force in society. ~Meghan Bartels

Kowal talks with Space.com about the books here; read an excerpt from chapter 1 of "The Fated Sky" here.

'How to Live in Space' (Smithsonian Books, 2018)

By Colin Stuart

"How to Live in Space: Everything You Need to Know for the Not-So-Distant Future" by Colin Stuart (Smithsonian Books, 2018)
(Image: © Smithsonian Books)

Are you interested in going to space? With companies like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin getting ready to start launching tourists on suborbital flights — and SpaceX planning to send people to the moon and Mars — your dreams may soon be within reach. But before you board a rocket or space plane and wave goodbye to planet Earth, there are some things you need to know about being in space. Whether you're planning a short space vacation or embarking on a one-way trip to the Red Planet, "How to Live in Space" by Colin Stuart has all the important details. This comprehensive handbook covers everything from eating, sleeping and using the toilet in "zero-g" to instructions for how to build a moon base, mine asteroids and terraform Mars. Wherever your space adventures may take you, this guide can help you make the most of your out-of-this-world experience. ~Hanneke Weitering

Read a Q&A with the author here.

'Infinite Wonder' (Knopf, 2018)

By Scott Kelly

"Infinite Wonder" by Scott Kelly
(Image: © Knopf)

Scott Kelly spent a record-breaking 340 days on the International Space Station, taking tens of thousands of images of the planet spinning below — making him the perfect guide to show off the wonders of Earth. This new large-format photobook combines images he took of the Space Station and Earth with super-zoomed-in views of unusual parts of the planet's surface, as well as photos of his launch, landing and other parts of the historic mission. The book combines large, colorful images with Kelly's descriptions of the mission and interesting Earth features, and it makes a great companion to his recent memoir "Endurance" or a good stand-alone showpiece. ~Sarah Lewin

Kelly guides Space.com through some of his favorite photos and talks about the book here; look through a short gallery of photo picks here.

Again, check out our full lists here:

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