Best Space Books and Sci-Fi: Best Summer Reads
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.
Credit: 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 holiday 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 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 Jeffrey Bennett, Nick Schneider and Erica Ellingson, Illustrated by Michael Carroll

"Max Goes to Jupiter" (Big Kid Science, 2018) by Jeffrey Bennett, Nick Schneider and Erica Ellingson and illustrated by Michael Carroll.
"Max Goes to Jupiter" (Big Kid Science, 2018) by Jeffrey Bennett, Nick Schneider and Erica Ellingson and illustrated by Michael Carroll.
Credit: Big Kid Science

In the updated edition of "Max Goes to Jupiter" (Big Kid Science, 2018), written by Jeffrey Bennett, Nick Schneider and Erica Ellingson and illustrated by Michael Carroll, the grandpuppy of the original Max from "Max Goes to the Moon" (Big Kid Science, originally published 2003, updated in 2013) and "Max Goes to Mars" (Big Kid Science, originally published 2006, updated in 2015) steps into his namesake's space boots, both literally and figuratively.

Tori, the little girl from the moon and Mars books, is all grown up and leading the first manned mission to the king of the planets as its chief scientist. And little Max, who grew up listening to stories of his grandpa's galactic adventures, is going along for the ride. While he's a bigger scamp than his forebear was, his playful instincts ultimately stand the crew in good stead. Max, just like in the original 2008 edition of the book, is a good boy.

The "big kid boxes," sidebars that present behind-the-scenes concepts that the story introduces, have been revised to accommodate findings from NASA's Juno mission in 2016. But the book overall is set to give kids of any age an appreciation of science and exploration. ~Jasmin Malik Chua

Read more about "Max Goes to Jupiter" and get a sneak peek of its pages here.

 

 

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    By Natalie Starkey

    "Catching Stardust" (Bloomsbury Sigma, 2018) by Natalie Starkey
    "Catching Stardust" (Bloomsbury Sigma, 2018) by Natalie Starkey
    Credit: Bloomsbury Sigma

    In her debut book "Catching Stardust," space scientist Natalie Starkey breaks down misconceptions about comets and asteroids while delving into some of the reasons why it is so vital that we study them. Using the Rosetta and Stardust missions to frame both how and why we study these cosmic objects, Starkey reflects on the history of our human understanding of comets and asteroids.

    Starkey starts with earlier civilizations, that often interpreted comets to be fiery omens in the sky, and leads to present day, where there is an ever-evolving line between what constitutes a comet versus an asteroid. She doesn't shy away from controversial topics, either — she tackles the topics of asteroid mining and asteroid collision with factuality, openness, and ease. And, while some of the terms and scientific concepts in the book might seem intimidating at first, Starkey does an expert job laying out explanations in a way that is uniquely accessible. ~Chelsea Gohd

    You can read an interview with Starkey here, and read an excerpt about these cosmic objects here.

    By Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

    "Chasing New Horizons" (Picador, 2018) by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon.
    "Chasing New Horizons" (Picador, 2018) by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon.
    Credit: Picador

    This book chronicling the New Horizons mission to Pluto, written by Alan Stern, the mission's principal investigator, and astrobiologist and author David Grinspoon, is a deep — but speedy — dive into the development and execution of the lightweight probe that flew by Pluto in July 2015. The mission wasn't easy to get approved and seemed to face obstacles at every turn before finally making it to launch day, and its troubles weren't over then. But somehow it managed to deliver breathtaking views of the distant dwarf planet that revolutionized how we thought about the solar system and the planets that inhabit it. Stern and Grinspoon's narrative delivers an in-depth view of how to design a space mission, shepherd it through the hurdles of approval and design, and send it toward the unknown when you have just one shot to get it right. ~Sarah Lewin

    Read an interview with Stern about the new book and New Horizons here; read an excerpt from the book here.

    By Emma Newman

    "Before Mars" (Ace, 2018) by Emma Newman
    "Before Mars" (Ace, 2018) by Emma Newman
    Credit: Ace

    Emma Newman's latest book set in her "Planetfall" universe, "Before Mars," sees a geologist arriving at a small Mars base after a lengthy journey only to realize that things aren't as they seem. The base's AI is untrustworthy, the psychologist seems sinister, and the main characters finds a note to herself she has no memory of writing. In a world of perfectly immersive virtual reality, can she trust what she sees? Or did the long trip take a toll on her sanity? "Before Mars" takes place on an eerie, largely empty Mars after a giant corporation buys the rights to the planet.

    It's a thrilling read but — like Newman's other "Planetfall" books — also a deep dive into the protagonist's psychology as she grapples with what she discovers on the Red Planet. "Before Mars" and the other books in the same universe ("Planetfall" and "After Atlas") can be read in any order, but Space.com highly recommends giving them all a look. ~Sarah Lewin

    Read a Q&A with Newman here and an excerpt from "Before Mars" 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.

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