Favorite Books


  • Coming of Age in the Milky Way (Ferris) Best Cosmology book ever.
  • Anything by Richard Feynman especially Surely Your Joking Mr. Feynman
  • EM Rogers on the Diffusion of Innovations, and with Shoemaker on  Communication of Innovations
  • Chariots for Apollo: The Making of the Lunar Module (Pellegrino & Stoff)  (not the NASA book of the same name)
  • The Invention That Changed the World, (Buderi), history of the MIT Radiation Lab and RADAR etc.
  • I loved the juvenile SF book “Have Space Suit—Will Travel” (Heinlein) as a kid, and how it dealt with the question of alien benevolence.
  • The Martian (Weir), great “hard” SF, growing potatoes on Mars to survive, no silly fantasy. (good movie too)
  • Not So Wild a Dream (Sevareid), his autobiography up to 1946, excellent prose, wow, what adventures he had.
  • And of course, with my Wisconsin hat on, I have to mention A Sand County Almanac (Leopold) and Stories of the Old Duck Hunters & Other Drivel (MacQuarrie)
  • Next book: High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out (Ripley) excellent reviews, nice discussion of it on Slate Political Gabfest.

I have made a little hobby of reading all the biographies I can find of three individuals who were one time heroes of mine, who each made a Faustian bargain and rose to prominence early, and then were ostracized. How their dreams, beliefs and values changed later in life can be quite interesting. Should we forgive their opportunism, compromised morals, and blindness to the consequences of their actions in light of their achievements?

  • Charles Lindbergh – Autobiography of Values (Lindbergh), Lindbergh (Berg), The American Axis (Wallace), Under a Wing (Reeve  Lindbergh), The Spirit of St. Louis (Lindbergh), etc.
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer – American Prometheus  (Bird), Lawrence and Oppenheimer (Davis),  Oppenheimer Portrait of an Enigma (Bernstein), Oppenheimer Shatterer of Worlds (Goodchild), The Day After Trinity film (Else), The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer (PBS), Dr. Atomic opera (Adams & Sellers), etc.
  • Wernher von Braun – The Rocket Team (Ordway & Sharpe), Wernher von Braun Crusader for Space (Stuhlinger & Ordway), Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War (Neufeld), The Mars Project (von Braun), etc.