Astronomical Society

of Long Island


Suggested Readings

Suggested Readings

This is a random list of some wonderful books about astronomy, and the night sky, and the history of astronomy and astronomical discovery, that you may or may not heard of.  They are books that some of us have found really special, and worth recommending to others.

“The Soul of the Night” by Chet Raymo

A remarkable book written by a remarkable man. Not often have I come across a book that speaks of an utter enchantment with the stars, and so accurately tells of the grace inherent in them. I, too, am an astronomer, and am often at a loss for words for a description of the beauty that I try to relate to friends and, indeed, to myself. Chet Raymo's work is pure poetry, containing the symmetry of a love-affair with science and the acknowledgement of the unknown. From "Snakes and Ladders" to "The Blandishments of Color", he guides you through the convoluted terrain of the night sky. Delirious with his sublime prose, I can only finish by saying this- Read This Book. It ought to be required reading for every survey class in astronomy, and will be well-loved by anyone enthralled by the stars. (From a review at

“The Day We Found the Universe” by Marcia Bartusiak

 It must be challenging for an author who is writing on scientific and technical matters to strike an ideal balance that will both captivate the scientific types as well as fascinate the general readers. As difficult as this may be, this author has succeeded admirably. Focusing mainly on that scientifically heady period from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries, she relates the story of how astronomers (and some physicists) discovered the immensity of the universe. In addition to clearly explaining the important scientific challenges and breakthroughs, the author does a fabulous job on the all-important human element. Here we meet the cast of characters with all of their virtues and shortcomings. Of course, their mutual interrelations also make for interesting reading - most of these being very positive while some much less so. The writing style is clear, friendly, widely accessible and quite gripping. Although science buffs (especially astronomy buffs) will likely consider this book a real treat, any interested general reader can also thoroughly enjoy it thanks to the author's very limited use of jargon and her clear explanations for any unfamiliar terms. (From a review at by “G. Polrler, Orleans, ON, Canada”)

9 Good Astronomy Reads

From the One Minute Astronomer:

December 12, 2011

Got some time to read over the holidays? Here are some suggestions for armchair astronomers and clouded-out stargazers who need a good astronomy fix. I’ve read and enjoyed every one of these books this year, and I think you’ll enjoy them too…

First, two how-to guides…

Nightwatch”, by Terence Dickinson.

The perennial how-to guide for new stargazers, this book is packed with knowledge and recommendations for things to see, along with an overview of astronomical knowledge for the casual stargazer. I still learn new things every time I read it.

Turn Left at Orion”, Guy Consolmagno.

A close runner-up to Nightwatch, this guide includes a hundred bright deep-sky objects to find in the night sky throughout the year, and what to expect when you see them.

For those who enjoy a good story…

The Day We Found the Universe”, Marcia Bartusiak.

An well-researched and engrossing tale of astronomers in the late 19th and early 20th century who discovered the nature of galaxies and the distance scale of the universe.

The Sun Kings”, Stuart Clark.

Another great story of how scientists in the 19th and 20th centuries discovered how solar activity affects the Earth (this was once a preposterous idea). Full of colourful characters: obstinate, brilliant, and tragic.

A More Perfect Heaven”, Dava Sobel.

The latest historical non-fiction from Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and The Planets.

Journey To Palomar “ (Video).

The best video about astronomical history I’ve seen in years. It recounts the story of George Ellery Hale, a remarkable man who fought physical and mental health problems to build the three biggest telescopes in the world during the peak era of industrialization in the United States, a time when it seemed anything was possible. Based on the book “The Perfect Machine” by Ronald Florence.

For armchair astronomers and cosmologists…

The Fabric of the Cosmos”, Brian Greene.

A great introduction to the current understanding of the structure and origin of the universe. There are some quite mind-bending ideas here, all well explained by a professional cosmologist. There’s a video version also, produced for the PBS show Nova.

For skeptics and pop-culture fans…

Bad Astronomy”, Phil Plait.

An amazingly entertaining book that debunks astronomical fallacies, urban myths, and other nonsense that reinforce misunderstandings of astronomy and physics.

For those who want to a full survey of astronomical knowledge…

Coming of Age in the Milky Way”, Timothy Ferris.

An absurdly ambitious and equally successful book that recounts how mankind discovered its place in the universe. Ferris enlivens the science with crystal-clear analogies and engaging stories of scientists, from Ptolemy and Copernicus to Hubble and Gell-Mann, who made the key discoveries that led to our current understanding of the cosmos. This is one of the best works of popular science of the past century.