I am currently sitting in bed, tucked comfortably beneath my dark teal linen duvet, a cat crunching on dinner and another one watching the rain. The moon is hidden behind clouds, though I listened to a song tonight that reminded me of her. I’m wearing a shirt with all nine planets that includes scientific facts for each, like their diameter, mass, distance from the sun, or symbols that I don’t know yet. The soundtrack for The Martian is playing, I’m drinking a peppermint herbal tea out of a NASA mug, and the case on my Mac is a blue bit of the galaxy.
To my left, there are ten crystals for each of the celestial bodies in our solar system–citrine for the sun, blue lace agate for Mercury, amazonite for Venus, white Himalayan halite salt for the Earth, moonstone for the moon, raw red jasper for Mars, azurite for Jupiter, lodestone for Saturn, Tibetan diamond quartz for Uranus, amethyst for Neptune, and a raw apache tear for Pluto. There’s also a cardboard box for my cats that Jen painted on all four sides–Saturn, stars, shooting stars and a UFO, and the moon.
To my right, there is a photo of Jen and I with Mark Kelly with the quote around it together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky. It has space and sea stickers around it, and it’s from the night she took me to hear an astronaut talk. There’s a painting from Target of an astronaut with a speech bubble that says simply hi, and it glows in the dark. Next to it is a script of the moon landing with a few prominent words in red: Tranquility Base here. THE EAGLE HAS LANDED.
Next month, I have an appointment to finish up my space tattoo, which currently consists of a line drawing of Neil Armstrong, all nine planets, and the sun. I’ll be filling it in with a crescent moon, stardust, and the Second Star to the Right. Every day, I wear a ring that has a crescent moon on it because that’s what I was born under, and another that has a picture of the earth. I have no less than 10 pieces of NASA clothing, whether it’s shirts, socks, sweatshirts, or galaxy pants.
I think it’s safe to say that I love space. If you’ve ever been to one of my yoga classes, you definitely know that this is true. I talk about it often enough, whether it’s actual facts about the planets or astronaut stories. I am 100% obsessed with space, and I’m not sure it’s ever going to end. Today, however, I was trying to think up what to use for the prompt bright & happy for the Instagram story challenge I’m doing that Chelsea is hosting. I was cycling through a few of my different favorites, all ones that actually wouldn’t be expected, when I listened to a song that reminded me of the moon even though it was about windsurfing, and I kind of went, oh DUH.
Space makes me happy. It makes me feel full of light, thus bright. I feel most connected to magic when I’m looking up at the stars.
And so, I thought it would be fun to talk about space and words. Because that picture I posted on Instagram needs just a tiny bit of explaining. But first, let’s back it up a tiny bit because when I was little, I was absolutely terrified of the sky and all things in it. If there were birds in the tree in the backyard, I definitely could not go out into the yard. The butterfly place was my actual worst enemy (it still is). Planes? Nope, no thank you. As I grew up, I started having nightmares about space. The worst one, that I had over and over again, was of being in a ship and flying under a planet. I would look up to the planet just before it crashed onto the ship and killed me. (We’re all always falling, I know, but nightmares are irrational.) When Gravity came out, I couldn’t even watch the trailer. If there were space pictures in a textbook, I couldn’t touch the pages. (I still really hate touching pages with bugs on them.) During college, whenever we walked from our dorm to the snack bar at night, we had to do it outside, and if I looked up and saw the stars, I would start thinking about how big and endless and dark space was, and I would literally run the distance. I couldn’t do it. Space was terrifying.
And then, one day, I opened Google Earth, zoomed out as far as you could go, and made myself look at Earth just hanging there in the midst of all that dark nothingness.
As I look at this now, it’s breathtaking. Back then, it was the worst possible position I could have put myself in. But I was so sick of being afraid of the world I lived on, so I decided to tackle it head on. Google Earth used to have Moon and Mars simulations, and while screeching like a crazed loon, I zoomed in on different parts of both until something caught my eye on Mars, and suddenly I went quiet. There was a whole history here that I didn’t even know about. My roommate looked up suddenly, stunned by my silence, and watched me slowly fall in love.
It happened gradually after that. I started researching the moon and the lore around it. I started looking at pictures of Jupiter and not freaking out. I stopped in the middle of the dark night and looked at the stars. And then, in the fateful year of 2015, a movie was released into the universe, and almost overnight, everything changed.
The Martian. This was undeniably the turning point for me. And I know that I’m talking about this like I was overcoming some terrible health thing or moving on from some loss, but I don’t know how else to describe having this crippling fear to suddenly being wholly and irrevocably in love with something. The Martian came out, and I did the following three things: watched the movie, immediately read the book over the course of a couple days, and watched the movie again. Those three happened in one week, but since then, I’ve read the book a second time and watched the movie more time than I can possibly count. And after The Martian? Suddenly, I could and wanted to watch everything. Movies and TV shows alike, I devoured them. It took a few months (I first watched The Martian in December of 2015), but finally, I arrived at my first astronaut biography in June of 2016.
And since then, I haven’t stopped. This is the photo I posted on Instagram earlier, and the “explaining” that I want to do is about each book and why you should read them if you’re looking to get into space or if you’re just wondering why I’m so wild about it.
On the left we have fiction books, and on the right we have nonfiction. All of these either take place in space, are by astronauts, or have a large space presence in them. I will link all books to their Goodreads, as well as to any that I’ve reviewed on this blog.
First up, fiction! These are all young adult with the exception of one middle grade and one adult.
Satellite by Nick Lake is super cute. I reviewed it in October 2017, and though I didn’t love the formatting, it’s a really interesting story. If you liked the movie The Space Between Us, you’ll definitely like this. It’s about these kids that grow up on the International Space Station and their adventures going to Earth for the first time ever.
Starflight & Starfall by Melissa Landers are some of my favorite space adventure books so far. They follow a bunch of misfits in space that somehow get thrown together. They, of course, hate each other in the beginning and don’t trust each other at all, but through battling space pirates (!!!) and surviving foreign worlds together, they slowly become best friends. It’s a wild ride, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng takes place on Earth, but is about a young boy who, like me, just wants to live among the stars. I reviewed it in December 2017, and I relate to this 11-year-old boy more than I do most of the adult characters I encounter. He has a dog named Carl Sagan (I mean, come on), and literally his whole goal for the summer is to launch a rocket. I love this boy. We get each other. Plus, the book is adorable.
The Martian by Andy Weir is both funnier, more serious, and way more involved than the movie. I don’t enjoy the book or the movie more because both of them feel like very individual pieces of work, but it must be noted that the book is hilarious in ways the movie is not, that it treat some scenes way differently when it comes to Mark’s emotional state, and there’s so much goddamn science, you might fall asleep. It’s really good, if not all that well written at times, and I must like it because I’ve read it twice.
Empress of a Thousand Skies & Blood of a Thousand Stars by Rhoda Belleza come in a close second for favorite space adventure books. I reviewed Empress in August 2017 and Blood in March 2018, and I was just so enamored with these characters, the plot, and the world. Plus, the map! Any book that has a map is immediately awesome, but a space map? HECK YEAH! This is surprisingly political, and I really enjoyed that. It’s not something we see in a lot of space YA, so that was refreshing. I also just loved the characters and was so eager to see what happened with them. I haven’t told you at all what it’s about–the royal family is in tatters after an assassination attempt, all of them dead but the youngest princess. This follows the universe in chaos as blame is placed on the wrong people, as wars start to wage, and as a deadly plot unravels.
Spinning Starlight by R. C. Lewis is one of two on the fiction side that I haven’t read yet. I honestly picked it up because it had a pretty cover, got about two sentences into the summary before realizing it was in space, and put it in my cart. If it’s in or about space, it’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll read
The 100 & The 100: Day 21 & The 100: Homecoming by Kass Morgan had an unfortunate thing happen to it, and that was that I started to like the show more than the book, and then the show moved on from where the books currently were, and I kind of just gave up. They’re still on my shelves because I’d like to finish them someday (including the fourth one) because I did enjoy the first two. I like the characters, the plot is really interesting, and it’s something I’d like to see through to the end. Like the CW show by the same name, these books follow 100 kids that are sent down to Earth after years spent orbiting it in order to see if the Earth is habitable again.
And then we have the nonfiction! These are either astronaut biographies, books about moon magic, or mostly factual books about the planets.
Planets for Pagans by Renna Shesso is one I don’t actually remember that well. I remember not loving it a whole lot, and I think that’s because I was expecting it to have more about the kind of magic and rituals you could use around the planets, and it was more like these are the ancient sites were pagans used to go to see Venus at this particular time of the year through only these two pillars. It was good, but not one I’d recommend.
Forever Young: A Life of Adventure in Air and Space by John Young is one of three that I haven’t read yet in the nonfiction section, though it’s not for not trying. I did pick this up a while ago, but wasn’t in the right kind of mood to be reading a biography, much less by an astronaut, who tend to be rather dry and technical, so I put it back on my TBR after a few pages. Young is one of my favorite astronauts, though, and I’m very excited to dig into it eventually.
Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Mike Massimino is another that I haven’t read yet, and one that I definitely need to soon since I got it for Christmas last year.
Grandmother Moon by Zsuzsanna Budapest is the last one I haven’t read yet, and one that I was gifted and I’m not sure why I haven’t read it yet since it sounds right up my alley.
Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey by Michael Collins is, admittedly, definitely not the book to pick up if you’re looking to read an astronaut biography. I reviewed it in January 2018, and I think the opening line of the review does it justice: I love this dry, hilarious little book. It really is so dry. Like, unless you’ve got a real love of space and you’ve read some other astronaut bios, don’t do this to yourself. But if you do and you have, give this a go, and I promise, you’ll probably love some of it. I loved most of it, and I thought it was not only super informational, but very eye-opening and often times, yes, hilarious. Mike is one of the astronauts that no one ever talks about, but that is one of the most well-known. Because though Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, Mike got them there and took them home safely.
Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut by Mike Mullane is another book that tells you, in detail, how to go poop in space, and I am sick to death of reading these chapters. Mike Mullane did not go to the moon, but he was a space shuttle astronaut, and while some of his stories leave a lot to desire, he’s got an interesting story, overall, to tell, and I definitely enjoyed this. Again, though, probably not the first pick for a bio.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield is, without a doubt, one of my top ten favorite books of all time. This is the book you want to read if you’re curious about space and astronauts but don’t want to get lost in all the technical jargon. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I quote it fairly frequently in my yoga classes. Hadfield’s story is inspiring, funny, daunting, unbelievable, witty, beautiful, and daring. It reminds you to step back and look at the little things while still being amazed by the big things. It reminds you what it means to be human in this little big world of ours. And it will change the way you look at things.
Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth by Andrew Smith was a favorite of mine purely for its subject. I reviewed it in September 2017, and it tells the stories of the nine remaining astronauts who had walked on the moon, where they were before, how they were then, and where they are now. It was, at times, very straightforward, almost like a story in a newspaper, and yet also like I was sitting with good company listening to an old friend wander their way through a meandering story. It was insightful and informational, but in the most unexpected ways, and I loved it to little pieces.
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach is like all of those Neil deGrasse Tyson books. Roach talks about the technical parts of space travel, and is the only person so far that I haven’t groaned in despair at a bathroom chapter. (Seriously, please stop.) This was very informative and very interesting, particularly because it wasn’t just the technical aspects of space travel, but the politics and history of how we got to this point.
The Planets by Dava Sobel is just the most beautiful little book ever. Each chapter tells a different, completely true, story about the planets. Some of them are short stories. Some of them read like articles. Some of them contain numbers and graphs and facts. Some of them feel like myths. All of them are wonderful, and I adored how poetic and real this book was at the same time.
Moon Watcher’s Companion by Donna Henes is a great beginning into moon lore. It’s got everything from factual histories about how we thought the moon actually affected us back in the day (it doesn’t, and science says so, so stop blaming your problems on the moon) and where the term lunacy comes from to different rituals that can be used, nursery rhymes and famous poems that featured the moon, and all sorts of fun magic.
Moon Lore: Lunar Tales of Wisdom and Magic by Elizabeth Pepper will take you one hour, tops, to read and is the sweetest little collection of moon magic ever, and that’s really the best way to describe it.
And that’s space! I realize that there are probably hundreds (I hope) more space books out there, so you should totally comment with your favorites!
(As an aside, yes, I have read The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury; no, I did not like it that much; and yes, I did honestly forget to include it in this.
Also yes, I’ve read the Valerian comics; yes, I love them very, very much; and yes, I also forgot to include them in this.)
Also! What are your favorite space-related movies and TV shows? I’ve seen a lot, but I’m always down to watch more! Leave your book/movie/TV show recommendations in the comments, and I hope you enjoyed this little journey through our galaxy and beyond.
And because no space blog would be complete without my favorite musician and favorite album of all time:
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