Kiddopshere: Blast Off: Books for Reading Pre/Post Watching of First Man

Posted by Aaron on

I love fall movie season. Sure, I love the blockbusters and superhero movies in the summer, but those get old after a while (although I *cannot* wait for Captain Marvel!). Fall brings out the “Oscar bait” movies–the movies that production studios have high hopes for come awards season. Sure, some of them can be overwrought “chewing the scenery” types (when my husband and I saw A Star is Born, we saw one of the most histrionic previews I have ever seen–already beloved on the movie festival circuit, apparently, but good grief….I was rolling my eyes), but there are some pretty awesome-sounding movies coming our way soon. We will see First Man this weekend, and although I’m going in with a more critical eye than I had several months ago, I’m super stoked about it. We have some amazing books about the Apollo 11 moon landing, and with the 50th anniversary coming up next year, we’ll see a ton of attention paid to the moon landing, the history and future of the space program, as well as a slew of books for adults and young readers. It’s going to be a fun time for space nerds.

First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen

James R. Hansen’s biography is the basis for the movie (although we need to remember that, like with Hidden Figures, some dramatic scenes in the film were created for “big movie moments” and didn’t actually happen). I haven’t read First Man, but it was well-received when it was published in 2005.

Now that I have a commute long enough to really get into audiobooks, I am excited about discovering new books in non-print format. Rocket Men has been on my list for several months; not only does it go into the logistics of the moon landing, but it also delves into the politics surrounding the program.

I can’t discuss astronaut-related books without including Tom Wolfe’s classic, The Right Stuff. Rather than merely chronicling the mechanization of space flight, Wolfe explored the inner thoughts of Project Mercury (John Glenn’s era). Although the movie is also a classic, note that it has several historical inaccuracies and liberties (with which Wolfe was quite unhappy).

Apollo is another of our new Apollo 11 books, but with a unique twist, as it presents the incredible events in a graphic novel format.

The scrutiny and pressure felt by the wives of the Mercury and Apollo astronauts was unreal; the intensity of the need to be perfect All-American smiling and supportive wives was constant and unnerving. Lily Koppel’s The Astronaut Wives Club is an  engrossing and empathetic account; a must-read for anyone who enjoys reading books about women’s history and space history.

Young readers (or older readers who want outstanding nonfiction accessible to a large audience) will want to read Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon, one of the most fascinating and delightful books I’ve read about the Apollo 11 mission. Not only does it features mission control and the NASA specialists, but it includes the seamstresses who sewed the spacesuits, the suit testers, the engineers, the camera designers and many more.

Jennifer Schultz, Collection Services Development Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

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