Title: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything
Author: Chris Hadfield
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Space
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Astronaut Chris Hadfield became a social media sensation, with his tweets from space and videos of life on the International Space Station (such as him singing “Space Oddity” by David Bowie). Now, in this memoir, Hadfield recounts the things he’s learned through his experiences as an astronaut.
An astronaut memoir written through the lens of life advice, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth manages to balance interesting information, entertainment, and important life lessons without ever descending into self-help territory. As a result, this book will appeal to space fans and those new to astronaut memoirs equally.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth isn’t exactly your traditional astronaut memoir. Usually these memoirs give blow-by-blow accounts of what it is to be an astronaut. Chris Hadfield’s memoir is different; rather than retelling his life in a straightforward manner, he discusses what he’s learned from each stage of his life (from applying to the astronaut program to being the commander of the ISS) and how he’s applied that over the years. Using life lessons as a framework for the novel is clever; while it may disappoint the NASA enthusiasts who devour these memoirs (such as myself), it makes this book infinitely more accessible and appealing to general audiences.
Hadfield does tell his story chronologically in An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, and he’s honest about his doubts and struggles. It provides a revealing glimpse into what it takes to become an astronaut these days (after all, there’s a dearth of modern-day astronaut memoirs. Most we have are from the Apollo era, rather than the shuttle era. Hadfield was an astronaut into the post-shuttle days at NASA, which makes this book unique), as well as the toll it takes on the family left behind. Hadfield doesn’t present himself as a model husband or dad; in fact, he frankly tells the reader how his family got used to operating without him because he was rarely at home. This honesty is refreshing, especially when so many astronaut/NASA memoirs feel sterile, a recounting of events with no emotions behind them, and it’s what Hadfield’s fans have come to expect from him.
Perhaps the most interesting part of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is Hadfield’s ascent into social media stardom. He recounts these events with a little bit of disbelief; it’s clear he doesn’t fully understand why he went viral, but he appreciates people’s interest in him. It’s also interesting having context; the same day one of Hadfield’s biggest videos went live (posted by his son, back on Earth), there was an emergency on the ISS. He didn’t even realize what was happening; his duty as a commander came first. It’s easy to forget the dangers and risks inherent in space travel, but Hadfield juxtaposes these nicely with the more fun, lighthearted aspects.
Hadfield’s words in An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth are wise ones; he has important things to say that readers should take to heart. He has great advice that’s come from hard battles he’s had to fight. All in all, it’s both an entertaining read, and a smart one; whether you’re a space nerd or not, this is a book you should absolutely consider.