Getting Smart About Space: A Reading List

Updated 7/24/19

This is a follow-up to my Monday post on advice to an English major interested in working in the space business. Learning the language is often more than half the battle when it comes to making the transition from liberal arts to science and engineering. If you aren’t as space focused as I am, you might at least review this list as a way to identify your own chosen industry’s “big books.” The more you know, the more you’ll be trusted by engineers and scientists to get their content right when you’re writing or editing for them. There are undoubtedly books I haven’t read yet–including some on these lists–or that I haven’t heard of yet, but there’s always something new to learn. Food for thought. 

To help the new reader, I’ve organized these books by subject matter, then alphabetically by author. I’ve highlighted in bold the ones I consider most important or just interesting. Full disclosure: I am an Amazon Associate, so in the vague event you buy any books from the links below, I will get some minor credit/pay for the referral. Enjoy!

Space History


Programs/Launch Vehicles/Spacecraft




Space in the Future

These works differ from science fiction in that they are engineering or philosophical treatises (as opposed to stories) about technologies that could be built.


Spacecraft & Technologies

Science Fiction

Okay, these aren’t nonfiction, but they had a great impact on many people working in (or running) NASA and commercial space organizations, so it’s worth taking the time to know what myths, stories, or paradigms people in the field draw upon in their work.

Thanks to Ryan Faith, Hal Fulton, Bill Kahle, Neil Shuttlewood, Melissa Snider, and Michael Verhulst for their contributions. A very special thank-you to Cliff McMurray, who gave me my initial reading list at my first International Space Development Conference in 1997 and has added to it since then.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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