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Books For The Aspiring Astronomer

One blessing of friendship is learning new things from the people in your life. Everyone has their own interests, passions, and strength and learning from my community of people has helped expand my knowledge and introduced me to things I likely otherwise wouldn’t have known. 

When something piques my interest my first instinct is to research books on that topic. One valuable blessing reading gives us in the chance to learn. About people, places, things…anything that interests us. There is so much power in reading and the exploration of knowledge. While the universe we live in fascinates me, I had no idea where to start. So I asked my friend Danielle to share her top four books for the aspiring astronomer with us today. If you enjoy learning about the world and universe add these books to your reading list!

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf

This book follows the journey of Alexander von Humboldt, a celebrated Prussian naturalist, explorer, and geographer, on his seminal excursion to Latin America. As with Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle 32 years later, all of Humboldt’s works were founded on a single momentous journey, which becomes the centerpiece of Wulf’s book. It was on this journey that Humboldt was able to synthesize knowledge from various fields to form the belief that nature is one interconnected system. It was this belief and Humboldt’s scientific analysis of the relationship between organisms and their environment that lead to the creation of modern ecology. In fact, he’s often referred to as the father of ecology. Humboldt’s monumental accounts went on to influence writers, scientists and environmentalists like Darwin, Thoreau, Whitman, Muir and many more.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

If you’ve ever taken an environmental course, chances are you’ve read or heard of this book, it has quite literally changed the world. In Silent Spring, Carson chronicles the government’s use of DDT and the detrimental effects it has on the environment. She also calls out the chemical industry for spreading misinformation as well as government officials who accepted the information unquestioningly. Silent Spring spurred a massive policy change regarding pesticides, a ban on DDT and even inspired the environmental movement that lead to the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency!

If you’re one for existential thought, this is a good book for you. Born from an essay of the same title, The Accidental Universe explores the emotional and philosophical questions raised by recent discoveries in science. A celebrated theoretical physicist, Lightman examines some of the major scientific thinking of our time, while also celebrating the human drive to make sense of it all. Like the conflict between our human desire for permanence and the impermanence of nature or the possibility that our universe is simply an accident.

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan

Written by the famous astronomer and popular science writer Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot was inspired by an image taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft on its journey to the fringes of the solar system. Sagan explores outdated geocentric thoughts of the solar system with philosophical views of man’s place in the universe along with in-depth descriptions of modern scientific findings and knowledge of the solar system. Sagan also extends his writing to the future of space travel with thoughtful discussions of space colonization and terraforming.

I’ll leave it with one of Sagan’s most poignant and well know quotes (from Pale Blue Dot):

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Thank you so much, Danielle! Adding all of these to my reading list STAT. Make sure to check out her Instagram page and Etsy shop!

P.S. – If you’re looking for more book recommendations . . .

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