An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield (2013)

Genre: Nonfiction
Appeal: 12-Adult
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on EarthMy colleagues at work were really surprised when I referred to this book as an excellent management resource. Hadfield is the Canadian astronaut who revitalized public interest in the space program by using social media, tweeting images and thoughts from space, and creating a video of himself playing David Bowie’s Space Oddity while in the International Space Station, which he commanded for five months in 2013. It’s a memoir of his journey as an astronaut, from wide-eyed nine-year-old watching the Apollo moon landing to his return to Earth in the Soyuz capsule, unable to walk after months in weightlessness. He emphasizes that his goal was not to get to space (because of the nearly insurmountable odds, especially as a Canadian) but rather to enjoy his work while always focusing on doing anything he could to improve those odds. His Canadianness is always evident – self-deprecating, honouring other cultures, making home-grown references to Stan Rogers and our winters, and always polite. He pays huge respect to his wife Helene’s love and support, and I’ll bet it’s even more than perhaps he realizes. The kids (now adults) call him The Colonel, and he admits to some errors in parenting that left my heart aching for his children. But we all make mistakes, don’t we? Not many of us admit them to the world. The book is eminently quotable – it would be fun to choose a different quote every week for sharing with the students where I work. From “expeditionary behavior” (hey! where’s the Canadian spelling?) to “aiming to be a zero” – neither causing trouble nor seeking accolades, there is a lot here to guide your life: Be prepared, pick up litter, don’t show off, enjoy the journey, and control your competitive streak. In some ways, this was a bit too introspective: I loved reading all the cool space facts (Hadfield grew an inch while on the ISS) and would have liked more information on the many science experiments conducted on the ISS. But the writing is natural and engaging. It has very wide appeal, including quite young children judging by the lineup at the author signing I attended. (Parents could read this aloud and make it quite accessible to a budding scientist, as young as seven or eight I’d say.) A few colour pictures provide some interesting perspectives, but I’m surprised at the lack of other graphical elements, resources or recommended websites for young fans. It does have an excellent index, surprising given the speed with which this memoir was released after his return from space. My hero has slightly scorched edges after reading this, but I’m still a fan, and have resolved to take some of these lessons for my own life on Earth.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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