With the blockbuster GRAVITY still in theatres, and a year filled with fascinating videos and tweets from the International Space Station, the world can’t seem to get enough of space and astronauts. So, it seems fitting that we’re heading into a new year with plenty more sci-fi action. And I couldn’t be happier.
I wasn’t lucky enough to make it out to one of the many book signings he did in Ottawa in December, but I managed to pick up Chris Hadfield‘s book AN ASTRONAUT’S GUIDE TO LIFE ON EARTH here at the library when it came in. I followed @Cmdr_Hadfield on Twitter the entire time he was leading Expedition 35 on the ISS earlier this year, and couldn’t get enough of his witty, interesting and educational tweets. So you can imagine, I was really looking forward to reading this book.
I have to admit, I’m not exactly sure if this was meant to be an autobiography or a self-help/inspirational book. At the outset, Hadfield describes his life as a young boy and the choices he consciously makes to one day become an astronaut–even though it seems impossible (there is no Canadian space program, and NASA only considered American’s for their program at the time). I loved hearing about his wise choices as a young person, always asking himself “what would an astronaut do?”, even when the debate was something as simple as staying up late or not.
Similarly, the details of life in space, no matter what mission he was on, were always fascinating. From quarantine regimens to water filtration to suit discomfort, everything is covered. His accounts are well written and full of his trademark humour. If you’re looking for a great read about life in space, this book will not disappoint.
My only negative thought about AN ASTRONAUT’S GUIDE is that it feels at times like he’s trying to prove that he’s a great astronaut, and a great person on top of it all. He’s an extremely confident person, and so he should be. It’s amazing what he’s accomplished in his life, but he seems to want to make sure the reader knows this. For example, he tells a short story about spending time during one mission untangling cords in order for a video feed to broadcast back to Earth. Great. He got it working, and it’s a super example of how the astronauts must work together, sometimes doing menial tasks, to accomplish their goals on each Expedition. But then he mentions offhand that he never told anyone he did this, just went about the job until it was done, because not everything needs to be recognized as an accomplishment. Except that he wrote about it in the book. So, if he didn’t want recognition for doing it, wouldn’t he have left it out of the book altogether?
Unfortunately, after a while, I got a little tired of reading about all the great and simple ways he manages to excel in his life and his job through constant introspection and the humble support he gives his fellow astronauts and team. It not only made me feel like he was constantly bragging about how great his life is, but also made me feel pretty inferior in my day to day life.
His motivational ideas could be quite inspirational for the right person, and anyone gleaning just one great idea from this book will probably see a big difference in their life because of it. I only wish he’d stuck to the mechanics and observations of space travel and life as an astronaut, and left his personal ideals somewhat in the background. I would have sailed through the book if that had been the case.
Keeping with the space theme, I couldn’t pass this book on the shelf without picking it up: Lily Koppel’s THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB. Koppel details the lives of the other important people involved in space travel…..the women left behind. I can’t wait to crack this open and start reading!