The 7 Best Books About Space Available Today

Written by Katie Melynn
Published: September 27, 2022
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You don’t have to go through years of astronaut training to get a wonderful glimpse into the vastness of space. Books allow you to travel anywhere and anytime just by reading and looking at illustrations. There are books that teach using facts and diagrams, as well as those that tell the stories of space explorers.

There are options for young babies and kids, who often love space. This is a great time to introduce literacy and books. Space is the perfect topic because it appeals to their natural curiosity. As they grow, kids will get more interested in science and facts about space. You can use books to teach them what it takes to become an astronaut. They may be inspired to reach for the stars themselves.

Adults can also enjoy encyclopedias and guides, as well as more complex books about space. Astrophysicists such as Stephen Hawking and Neil Degrasse Tyson have books about space that present the hard science in a way that everyone can understand. Astronaut autobiographies are also very interesting and give a first-hand account of space. Finally, science fiction can ignite your imagination as you think about what is possible for the future of space exploration.

Here are our top recommendations for books about space.

  1. The Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition
  2. The Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition
    • 248 pages.
    • An illustrated, updated, and expanded edition of Stephen Hawking's seminal work.
    • Features 240 full-color illustrations.
    Check Amazon
  3. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
  4. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
    • 224 pages.
    • Written succinctly, with chapters designed to be consumed at any time throughout the day.
    Check Amazon
  5. ABCs of Space: Explore Astronomy, Space, and our Solar System with this Essential STEM Board Book for Kids
  6. ABCs of Space: Explore Astronomy, Space, and our Solar System with this Essential STEM Board Book for Kids
    • 26 pages.
    • Customers recommend this book for children ages 1 through 3.
    • Part of the Baby University series comprising 39 books.
    Check Amazon
  7. The Darkest Dark
  8. The Darkest Dark
    • 48 pages.
    • Customers recommend this book for children ages 4 through 7.
    • Written by astronaut Chris Hadfield.
    Check Amazon
  9. The Mysteries of the Universe: Discover the best-kept secrets of space (DK Children's Anthologies)
  10. The Mysteries of the Universe: Discover the best-kept secrets of space (DK Children's Anthologies)
    • 224 pages.
    • Customers recommend this book for readers ages 5 through 10.
    • Aims to teach young readers about the vastness of space.
    Check Amazon
  11. We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves
  12. We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves
    • 352 pages.
    • Tells the story of the pioneer astronauts responsible for America's first manned space voyages, from the astronauts themselves.
    Check Amazon
  13. The Martian
  14. The Martian
    • 387 pages.
    • Customers recommend this novel for readers ages 13 and older.
    • The novel serving as the basis for the 2015 Academy Award-nominated film of the same name.
    Check Amazon

Best Overall: The Illustrated Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Best Overall
The Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition
  • 248 pages.
  • An illustrated, updated, and expanded edition of Stephen Hawking's seminal work.
  • Features 240 full-color illustrations.
Check Amazon

We rate this illustrated edition of A Brief History of Time as the best overall book about space. It’s hard to call any single book about space the “definitive guide”, but A Brief History of Time by late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is as close as it gets. The illustrated version has helpful graphics and illustrations that help to understand complex topics such as black holes and wormholes.

The original was published in 1998 and was groundbreaking at the time of its publication. It sold over 9 million copies and was translated into 40 different languages. The illustrated version was updated by Dr. Hawking himself to include scientific breakthroughs that have occurred since its initial publication. Many of these discoveries confirmed Dr. Hawking’s theories.

If you’re worried that this book is full of academic scientific lingo and diagrams, you’ll be happy to discover that Dr. Hawking writes in a simple, and often humorous, way. He set out to write a book that could be read and understood even by those without a background in physics. This is not a textbook. Instead, it is a layperson’s guide to the mysteries of the universe, written by one of the scientific community’s most gifted minds.

Runner-Up: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Runner-Up
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
  • 224 pages.
  • Written succinctly, with chapters designed to be consumed at any time throughout the day.
Check Amazon

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the modern celebrity scientists that is bringing increased interest to discoveries in space. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry gets to the nitty gritty of what you need to know about space. It spent over a year on the New York Times Best Seller list and sold over 1 million copies.

Another witty scientist, Dr. Tyson gets to the heart of astrophysics so that people in a hurry can get what they want and need to know while skipping over a lot of the more complex background and calculations. We’ll leave that to the physicists, thank you. Just tell us how black holes work and if there really could be aliens out there.

One of the things that we love about this book is that you can dip in and out as needed. You don’t need to sit down and read the book cover to cover in order to get new nuggets of knowledge. Instead, flip to the area that interests you. It is also a helpful reference to have to help interpret news and events that are happening in the scientific community. If you like Dr. Tyson’s signature combination of wit and science, check out his StarTalk podcast that has guests banter back and forth about comedy, pop culture, and, of course, space.

Best for Babies and Toddlers: ABCs of Space by Chris Ferrie and Julia Kregenow

Best for Babies and Toddlers
ABCs of Space: Explore Astronomy, Space, and our Solar System with this Essential STEM Board Book for Kids
  • 26 pages.
  • Customers recommend this book for children ages 1 through 3.
  • Part of the Baby University series comprising 39 books.
Check Amazon

This isn’t any old ABC board book. While learning their letters, your child can also learn about asteroids, binary stars, and comets. It was a favorite in my house as my children were getting interested in books and one that they continually picked up. While they likely didn’t learn to read any of the words, the simple illustrations were engaging. The beginning letter of each word is highlighted, which helps build letter recognition even if the word “quarks” is still beyond them.

As a parent, this was one of my favorite ABC books. It was more engaging than reading the same old versions of “A is for apple” that seem to be the go-to for kids’ board books. Each page also has a brief description of the vocabulary word. The first highlighted sentence provides a succinct and easy-to-understand definition. It goes on to provide some additional facts or examples. I learned a lot about space by reading this book to my kids.

I actually hung onto this book and my elementary-aged child is now a bit more interested. The definitions are right up his alley, although he balks a bit at reading what he considers a “baby book.” If you have children of multiple ages, this would be an ideal choice to appeal to readers and younger kids at the same time.

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/ABCs-Space-University-Chris-Ferrie/dp/1492671126/ref=sr_1_9?crid=KA6I3LQ1QPZT&keywords=space+book+for+babies&qid=1664282863&qu=eyJxc2MiOiIzLjY5IiwicXNhIjoiMy4xNyIsInFzcCI6IjIuOTMifQ%3D%3D&s=books&sprefix=space+book+for+babie%2Cstripbooks%2C61&sr=1-9

Best Picture Book: The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield

Best Picture Book
The Darkest Dark
  • 48 pages.
  • Customers recommend this book for children ages 4 through 7.
  • Written by astronaut Chris Hadfield.
Check Amazon

We got this book at our oldest child’s baby shower and it is one of our family favorites. We will probably pass it down to our grandchildren one day to teach them about space, astronauts, and bravery. It tells the story of young Chris Hadfield and how he conquered his fear of the dark. And it’s a good thing that he did because he went on to become a real-life astronaut. When we turned the last page and saw Chris in his astronaut suit on the back jacket, my kids just about lost it.

The illustrations are also amazing. Illustrators Terry and Eric Fan use a saturated style that highlights the epic feeling of the darkness of space, as well as young Chris’ imagination as he travels to space. It is best for ages 4-7, which is when my kids really became interested in the story. We introduced it to them around age 2 but the story of overcoming a fear of the dark didn’t really connect with them until they were a bit older.

Best Encyclopedia: DK The Mysteries of the Universe by Will Gater

Best Encyclopedia
The Mysteries of the Universe: Discover the best-kept secrets of space (DK Children's Anthologies)
  • 224 pages.
  • Customers recommend this book for readers ages 5 through 10.
  • Aims to teach young readers about the vastness of space.
Check Amazon

It’s hard to decide if The Mysteries of the Universe from DK is a science book or an art book. Maybe it’s best classified as both. There are plenty of images of space that are full of color and wonder, igniting the imagination as it should be when learning about the universe. It is a mix of detailed illustrations and photos of actual space phenomena. The book is organized by topic, making it easy to look for anything from Neutron Stars to Volcanos on Venus.

This encyclopedia is geared toward upper elementary-aged kids, ages 7-9. But it is still a great reference for older children and even adults. It doesn’t get into the hard science as much but is one of the best collections of visual representations of space that is out there. The photos included are particularly helpful. Not only do they show what space actually looks like, but you can also learn more about the technology of today that lets scientists and researchers (and us through this book) see into the farthest reaches of the universe.

Best by an Astronaut: We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves by M. Scott Carpenter, Gordon L. Cooper, John H. Glenn, Virgil I. Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Alan B. Shepard, and Donald K. Slayton

Best by an Astronaut
We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves
  • 352 pages.
  • Tells the story of the pioneer astronauts responsible for America's first manned space voyages, from the astronauts themselves.
Check Amazon

Hear directly from the pioneers of space about their amazing experience, the first astronauts known as the Mercury Seven. They trained for space travel from 1959 to 1963 and were the first Americans to exit the earth’s atmosphere and first to orbit the earth. All seven of the astronauts went into space, often at great risk to themselves because this technology was on the cutting edge. They began as fighter pilots chosen for their ability and bravery and became astronauts celebrated around the world.

This book is unique because it includes insight from all seven Mercury astronauts. You’ll hear from them about the nerves that they experienced going up for the first time. They will share just what it felt like when things didn’t go as planned, such as the complex reentry maneuvers by John Glenn or the hatch blowing early when Gus Grissom was still at sea waiting to be picked up. There are a lot of great astronaut biographies and autobiographies but this one stands out.

Best Science Fiction: The Martian by Andy Weir

Best Science Fiction
The Martian
  • 387 pages.
  • Customers recommend this novel for readers ages 13 and older.
  • The novel serving as the basis for the 2015 Academy Award-nominated film of the same name.
Check Amazon

If you would rather read a story that takes place in space rather than a book full of facts about space, try The Martian by Andy Weir. It is fiction and takes some artistic license with the story, which centers on astronaut Mark Watney’s journey to survive on his own on Mars when his mission accidentally leaves him stranded on the red planet. It does include plenty of science-based problems and solutions, however.

“The technical details keep the story relentlessly precise and the suspense ramped up,” said Entertainment Weekly. It is true science fiction at its best, bringing just enough science to a fictional situation to make the reader stop and think about what this would be like if it actually happened. Watney is also a hilarious narrator that makes this book that focuses on a solitary character fun to read. When you are done, you can also enjoy the movie based on the book that stars Matt Damon as the resourceful astronaut, Watney.

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Martian-Andy-Weir/dp/0553418025/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3C5AWI6J3332Y&keywords=the+martian&qid=1664024529&qu=eyJxc2MiOiIyLjYwIiwicXNhIjoiMy4xNiIsInFzcCI6IjEuODIifQ%3D%3D&sprefix=the+martian%2Caps%2C70&sr=8-2

How to Choose the Best Book About Space

When deciding on the best book about space, consider who will be reading it, what they are interested in, and the type of book that you want. Here, we look at these things in more detail.

Reading Level

Books written for kids have a lower reading level than those for adults, which allows younger readers to engage with the text without getting overwhelmed by overly-technical jargon and terms. Encyclopedias include scientific vocabulary but use simpler explanations to help readers understand new concepts and ideas. Books written by academics in the astrophysics and theoretical physics communities can be the hardest to read and understand, although there are plenty of professors, such as Dr. Hawking and Dr. Tyson, that do a great job of translating scientific jargon to everyday language.

Interest

Are you more interested in learning about what is happening in space or want to engage your imagination in space exploration? Consider if you want a book based on facts and discoveries or prefer something that reads like a story, such as fiction or biography. Some books also appeal to different learning styles. Think about if you learn best by reading words, looking at illustrations and photos, hearing a story or accompanying podcast, or watching a movie adaptation of a book.

Type of Book

Consider what type of book is best for your age group and interest. Board books appeal to babies and toddlers, as well as parents, because they are simple and durable. Picture books are great for kids who like plenty of illustrations and early readers. Encyclopedias are fun for all ages because they contain plenty of facts, as well as illustrations and photos. Biographies about astronauts as well as science fiction can inspire and engage our imaginations.

The 4 Different Types of Books About Space

  • Children’s Book – Books about space for kids have plenty of illustrations to go with their amazing facts. Babies and toddlers will enjoy board books, which are extra durable and have thick, cardboard pages. Picture books are fun for the entire family.
  • Encyclopedia – To learn the most about space and the universe, consider an encyclopedia. These also include pictures and can be written for children or adults. Even encyclopedias geared toward kids are very educational and informative.
  • Biography and Autobiography – One of the best ways to learn more about space is from someone who has been there. A biography or autobiography of an astronaut will amaze you.
  • Fiction – If you’d rather read about space in a story format, consider a science fiction book. Some are heavily based on real scientific principles. Others lean more toward the fiction aspect. Either way, you’ll be treated to a story that inspires your imagination.

Up Next…

About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, PEOPLE, and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie is a Teaching Artist with The APEX Arts Magnet Program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland and was awarded an Author Fellowship to Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She also enjoys spending time with her three kids and cat.

The 7 Best Books About Space Available Today FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What are space books called?

Fiction books about space almost always fall under science fiction. These use depictions of science and technology to further the story and often take place in space. Nonfiction books about space can be biographies, encyclopedias, non-fiction texts, or children’s books.

What is the best book to read about space for beginners?

Fortunately, all of the books on our list are great for beginners who are just learning about space. Whether you are looking for an introduction for kids or something that gets into the scientific principles for adults who don’t have a strong science background, our recommendations provide enough context that beginners will also enjoy them.

Is astrophysics hard to study?

Astrophysics involves plenty of math and science, so if you enjoy these areas, you would probably enjoy astrophysics. Try reading a book by Dr. Hawking or Dr. Tyson to see how you like their fields of study. They write with enough explanation and everyday language that you don’t need a PhD to understand it. If you want to learn more, studying astrophysics may be the right path for you.

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