Book Reviews

Review #8: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

What’s the coolest job you can think of? For me, it would be an astronaut. If I had the science-brain and the stomach for it, I would love to be one, but alas my future is here on Earth. Because of this, I like to live vicariously through memoirs by astronauts, novels with astronaut characters, or movies about space! One of my favourites is Commander Chris Hadfield’s book – which is the subject of today’s review. Definitely one of my favourite memoirs, if not books in general, of all time, so keep reading for my endless praising of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth!

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield, published by Random House Canada in 2013, 295 pages

Dust jacket synopsis:

When he was 9 years old, Chris Hadfield watched the Apollo moon landing and knew what he wanted to be when he grew up: an astronaut. But that was impossible. Canadians couldn’t even apply for the job. So how did he achieve his goal and go on to become the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station in 2013? Natural ability didn’t hurt. But even more important was his singular commitment to what he calls “thinking like an astronaut.” In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Chris explains just what that kind of thinking involves, and how the rest of us can use it to achieve success and happiness right here on Earth.

Astronaut training turns conventional wisdom about success on its head. Astronauts always sweat the small stuff – in order to manage stress. They visualize defeat, not victory – and this builds confidence. They embrace the power of negative thinking – and yet the outcomes, both professionally and personally, are resoundingly positive. Chris illustrates these counterintuitive concepts with dramatic and entertaining anecdotes about being blinded during a spacewalk, getting rid of a live snake while flying a plane, and commanding a space ship while its lifeblood leaks into space. His exhilarating experiences and challenges during 144 days on the ISS provide an unforgettable answer to the question he is asked most often: What’s it really like in outer space?

Written with humour, humility and profound optimism about the future of space exploration, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth isn’t just the inspiring story of one man’s journey to the ISS. It’s an opportunity to step into his space-boots and learn to think like an astronaut – and figure out how the make your own dreams, whatever they are, come true.

Thoughts:

What do you get when you cross hilarity, science, and inspiration? This book. I think I’ve found, dare I say it, a new favourite read in Chris Hadfield’s incredible book. If you’ve ever wondered about the job description of an astronaut, this is for you. It’s hilarious and heart-wrenching and incredibly inspiring, and I just couldn’t put it down!

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is split into three parts that perfectly capture the different stages of the author’s life and career with NASA and the CSA. It starts with his childhood and education and training, then the years and months leading up to his third and final launch to space, and finally the time after spending 6 months on the ISS and the whole coming-back-down-to-Earth part of the adventure. You’d think it would end on a melancholy or nostalgic note, but it actually wraps up nicely and inspirationally in saying that it’s just the beginning of a new chapter and that there’s always something more to do.

This book makes me so proud to be Canadian – especially because Hadfield attended my high school for a few years – and just fuels my love of all things space. The book  is full of stories that make up Hadfield’s life and career up to his last trip to space in 2013, as well as little Canadian references that make me very happy. His writing is wonderful and makes you feel like you’re right there training to be a fighter pilot or commanding the ISS with him. The big takeaway is the endless supply of advice and words of wisdom, from working a problem to practicing humility, that not only are applicable to everyone’s dream job as astronaut but to our individual everyday lives on Earth. This book had me laughing at the author’s adventures one minute then crying at some beautiful moment the next. If there’s one person I’d love to sit down and have a conversation with, it’s definitely Chris Hadfield, and until that happens, his book is a perfect alternative. If you’re even remotely interesting in modern space exploration or are Canadian, this is a must-read!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This book is perfect to read for Canada 150 this year, but obviously it’s the perfect book to read any year!

Happy reading!

x Lauren

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