The Royal Astronomical Society
of Canada

Charlottetown Centre



Universe of Astrobooks


Selected Books on Astronomy, Cosmology and Space Technology


Available at Robertson Library, (University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Canada) with additional sections of related interest
by Walter Lane
for the RASC Charlottetown Centre

Last updated Sept 18 2000




Images provided by astronomy are a hot topic on the internet, sometimes as incandescent as a hypernova. Web pages with astronomy images are The Most Visited/Viewed of All Respectable internet sites -- rated number one for wholesome family fare. Astronomy has a large following, to a degree. What can be done with this widespread but often somewhat superficial or tentative interest is a tantalizing issue. But only so much can be gleaned from the Net before one gets tired of staring at a screen, downloading or printing. More info can be had through other mediums, such as books, journals & magazines, and videos. Astronomy fans do not possess the Good Book, but they do have at their disposal many good books (and such), many of which are shown below. Some are more interesting, others are more useful, some are to be casually flipped through, others are thought-provoking, some seem to be lost in deep space, others are unfathomable, a few may be awe-inspiring and still others may be the instrument of wonder. All these are among what I loosely describe as the astrobooks.

Astrobooks and the like can be bought at bookstores and the like. A few dozen or so can be found at the Confederation Centre Library. Many people own several. A few may have as many as Confed Centre. But in all likelihood the greatest concentration of astrobooks of various kinds, sorts and descriptions at or anywhere near Charlottetown (or on PEI generally) are available at Robertson Library at UPEI. Such a concentration of books, such that it is, is a resource that is there for YOU THE READER. All that is required is time and a small bit of effort. The following is a field guide of sorts to all the types of 'animals' of the astrobooks 'zoo' -- what different kinds there are and where exactly to find them.

Books that were chosen were placed according to topic eg. guidebooks eg. history. Current books that were not overly technical were most likely to be selected. However, 1) newer (not very many) technical books were selected, and they receive a [technical] designation after their respective titles and 2) some older histories, biographies, guidebooks, astroclassics and narratives were judiciously selected despite their relative age because of their (hopefully) more timeless qualities.

Most Astronomy and Cosmology books are cataloged as QB (very rarely QC), whereas books on Space Technology are catalogued from TL 781 to TL 900. The greater proportion of the book titles found below can be found in the stacks upstairs (any book that does not have a call number that has Ref in front of it). These books can be signed out. However, if a book has a call number eg QB OSZ ... it means it is not shelved with the regular books in the stacks. Rather, these books can be found in the oversize bookshelves which are on the wall next to the so-called 'sun room'. QB OSZ books can also be signed out.

Reference Books -- these are found DOWNSTAIRS and are to be used inside the library only -- they CANNOT be signed out. A reference book always has a call number that begins with Ref.: eg Ref QB 64 or 53 or whatever. A few of the Ref books listed above have unusual call numbers eg. Ref QB OSZ 65... OSZ stands for oversize, and it means that the book in question is shelved with the large atlases in the front of the shelves of Ref books.

Often the last part of a call number will contain a year eg. 1999, indicative of how contemporary it is. Sometimes, however, older book(s) will be the best one(s).

In the rare cases where part of a call number has been underlined, eg Ref QC , it means there has been no mistake -- the particular call number does differ from those of other books listed nearby.




I. History of Astronomy and/or Cosmology
Including historical documents (for 'the history of the universe', 'the history of time' or 'the history of matter', see VI. 'On Astrophysics and/or Cosmology' below)

  • Allen, R. Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning [on the genealogy of star names] QB 802 A4
  • Brecher, K. et al eds. Astronomy of the Ancients [a series of essays by various authors, including "The Basic Astronomy of Stonehenge" by Gingerich (see below)] QB 16 A77
  • Copernicus, N. On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres [in English] [technical, this influential book in the history of astronomy is also known as De Revolutionibus, its Latin name.] QB 41 C7613 1976
  • Finocchiaro, M. ed. The Galileo Affair: a documentary history [translated into English, these are primary documents in the life of Galileo, including his run-in with the Italian Inquisition] QB 36 G2 G319 1989
  • Galilei, G. Sidereus Nuncius: or The Sidereal Messenger [in English] [technical (some of it). This book sometimes called The Starry Messenger. Another influential book in the history of astronomy.] QB 41 G173 1989
  • Gingerich, O. The Great Copernicus Chase and other adventures in astronomical history [Gingerich is considered the greatest living historian of Astronomy, and sometimes travels to give lectures, eg. at the U. of Toronto.] QB 15 G56 1992
  • Gingerich, O. ed. The Nature of Scientific Discovery: A Symposium Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Birth of Nicolaus Copernicus [transcribed lectures (eg. by Gingerich, J. Bronowski, W. Heisenberg, J. Wheeler and others) and discussions]. QB 36 C8 N37
  • Gleiser, M. The Dancing Universe: From Creation Myths to the Big Bang [not strictly a history book, this one's hard to classify] QB 981 G57 1997
  • Hadingham, E. Early Man and the Cosmos QB 16 H3 1984
  • Herrmann, D. The History of Astronomy from Herschel to Hertzsprung QB 28 H4713 1984
  • Hoskin, M. ed. The Cambridge Illustrated History of Astronomy [Gingerich is one of several contributors to this book] QB 15 C36 1997
  • Jarrell, R. The Cold Light of Dawn: a history of Canadian astronomy QB 33 C3 J37 1988
  • Kozhamthadam, J. The Discovery of Kepler's Laws: the interaction of Science, Philosophy, and Religion [only quasi-historical, this is not an easy read...and as the title suggests, cuts across different disciplines] QB 355.3 K69 1994
  • Kragh, H. Cosmology and Controversy: the historical development of two theories of the universe [The two theories in question are the Big Bang and the Steady State. This book is only very minimally technical. However, as history books go is not an easy read. read. QB 981 K73 1996
  • Newton, R. The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy [This is a stinging technical critique against the ancient astronomer Ptolemy. However, a mathematics background is required for much of it. QB 36 P83 N47
  • North, J. The Norton History of Astronomy and Cosmology QB 15 N67 1995
  • North, J. Stonehenge : A new interpretation of prehistoric man and the cosmos. DA 142 N67 1997
  • Ptolemy, C. The Almagest [ In English ] (technical). This ancient but flawed classic of astronomy's other title is " On the revolutions of the heavenly spheres." REF AC 1 G72 v.16
  • Unguru, S. Physics Comology in Astronomy, 1300-1700 : Tension accommodation [ a series of scholar, somewhat dry going. Q_174 B67 v.126

    II. On Astronomers: biography and the like
  • Biagioli, M. Galileo, Courtier: the practice of science in the culture of absolutism QB 36 G2 B54 1993
  • Christianson, G. Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae [It was Hubble who found the universe was expanding. The Hubble Space Telescope was named for him.] QB 36 H83 C48 1995
  • Davidson, K. Carl Sagan: A Life [400+ pages (not "billions and billions"] QB 36 S15 D38 1999
  • Drake, S. Galileo: pioneer scientist [Author Drake, perhaps the world's foremost authority on Galileo, has written numerous books and articles on him.] QB 36 G2 D698 1990
  • Drake, S. Galileo at Work: his scientific biography QB 36 G2 D69
  • Drake, S. Galileo Studies: personality, tradition, and revolution QB 36 G2 D7 1970
  • Haramundanis, K. ed. Celia Payne-Gaposchkin [an edited autobiography] QB 36 G37 A33 1984
  • Lattis, J. Between Copernicus and Galileo: Christoph Clavius and the Collapse of Ptolemaic Cosmology [Clavius was, among other things, the brains behind calendar reform -- what we call the Gregorian calendar] QB 981 L32 1994
  • Lovell, B. Astronomer by Chance [an autobiography] QB 36 L848 A3 1990
  • Machamer, P. The Cambridge Guide to Galileo QB 36 G2 C27 1998
  • Sagan, C. Billions and Billions : Thoughts on life and death at the brink of the millennium. [ Covers some topics of astronomy and some others most decidedly not.] Q_ 173 S24 1997
  • Saward, D. Bernard Lovell: a biography QB 36 L84 S39
  • Wali, K. Chandra: a biography of S. Chandrasekhar [The Chandra X-Ray Observatory is named for him.] QB 36 C46 W35 1991

    III. General Astronomy Surveys: academic and nonacademic
  • Abell, G. et al Exploration of the Universe [a large glossy comprehensive textbook -- complete with lots of color pictures and diagrams] QB 45 A16 1993
  • Audouze, J. et al eds. The Cambridge Atlas of Astronomy [a large atlas/one volume encyclopedia--includes a smart assemblage of mostly color pictures along with dozens of diagrams--well worth a look if not a read] Ref OSZ QB 65 G6813 1994
  • Chiasson, E. Astronomy Today [most up-to-date textbook in the library] QB 43.2 C44 1999
  • Longair, M. Our Evolving Universe [a general nontechnical astronomy book, well illustrated--for the lay reader and/or nonspecialist] QB 806 L66 1996
  • Nicholson, I. Unfolding Our Universe QB 43.2 N53 1999
  • Stott, C. ed. Images of the Universe [Different specialists wrote the various chapters.] QB 43.2 I43 1991

    IV. On Celestial Objects of the Solar System
    the Sun, the Moon, Earth and the rest of the planets, asteroids, comets and the like

  • Beatty, J. et al The New Solar System [this once-gem of a book needs an update] QB 501 N47 1990
  • Comins, N. What If the Moon Didn't Exist? [Explores ten "what ifs" of astronomy. Note that not all of this somewhat general book belongs in this section (IV.), but much of it does.] QB 502 C77 1993
  • Kelley, K. ed. The Home Planet [an oversize book full of glossy color photos of Earth from space -- a photogenic book] OSZ QB 631 H66 1988
  • Levy, D. Comets: Creators and Destroyers [by the Canadian co-discoverer of comet Shoemaker-Levi 9, which crashed into Jupiter in 1994] QB 721 L38 1998
  • Morrison, D. Exploring Planetary Worlds [...of the Solar System] QB 601 M757 1993
    none given Fire of Life: the Smithsonian book of the Sun [well-illustrated book on humanity's past and ongoing relationship with the Sun. Contains 27 articles in sections, written by dozens of different authors, including the article "Great Revelations" by O. Gingerich] QB 521 S38 1976
  • Rukl, A. Atlas of the Moon [published by Astronomy magazine] Ref QB 595 R8 1992
  • Schultz, P. Moon Morphology [Describes hundreds of black and white photos of a wide variety of surface features of the moon] QB 591 S38 1976
  • Sheffield, C. Earth Watch: A Survey of the World from Space [in color] Ref QB 637 S48 1981
  • Smith, R. ed. The Solar System Vol. 1-3 (Magill's Choice series) [40-50 essays per volume on most aspects of the astronomy of the solar system] Ref QB 501 S625 1998 v.1 or v.2 or v.3
  • Spencer, J. et al eds. The Great Comet Crash [on comet Shoemaker-Levi 9 hitting Jupiter in 1994, well illustrated] QB 723 S561 G74 1995
  • Taylor, S. Solar System Evolution: a new perspective [This is written for Scientific-American- level readership in pedantic textbook style] QB 501 T25 1992

    V. On Stars and Galaxies
  • Kaler, J. Stars QB 801 K25 1992
  • Sandage, A. et al The Carnegie Atlas of Galaxies [2 Vols.] [Pictures and information on a bewildering array of just some of the hundreds of billions of galaxies found in the universe] Ref OSZ QB 857 S256 1994 v.1 or v.2
  • Tayler, R. Galaxies: structure and evolution [technical] QB 857 T39 1993
  • Tayler, R. The Stars: their structure and evolution [technical] QB 808 T37 1994

    VI. On Astrophysics and/or Cosmology.
    Includes such topics as Black Holes, Dark Matter, the 'COBE' mission, 'Chaos in astronomy', and a history of the following: the universe; time; matter

  • Aczel, A. Gods Equation : Einstein, relativity, and the expanding universe. QB 981 A35 1999
  • Adams, F. et al The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity QB 981 A36 1999
  • Arnett, D. Supernovae and Nucleosynthesis: an investigation of the history of matter, from the Big Bang to the ... [technical...it may say it covers the 'history of matter', but this is not really for anyone but specialists] QB 981 A66 1996
  • Atkins, P. Creation Revisited QB 981 A96 1992
  • Bartusiak, M. Through a Universe Darkly [on dark matter and the fate of the universe] QB 791.3 B36 1993
  • Diacu, F. et al Celestial Encounters [on chaos in astronomy] QB 362 M3 D53 1996
  • Ferris, T. The Whole Shebang: a state-of-the-universe(s) report QB 981 F38 1997
  • Grant, J. The Book of Time [less abstract and more 'user-friendly' than the Hawking book (see below)] QB 209 B66
  • Goldsmith, D. Einstein's Greatest Blunder: The Cosmological Constant and Other Fudge Factors in the Physics of the Universe QB 981 G594 1995
  • Gribbin, J. Origins: Our Place in Hubble's Universe QB 44.2 G758 1997
  • Gribbin, J. Unveiling the Edge of Time: black holes, white holes, wormholes QB 843 B55 G75 1992
  • Guth, A. The Inflationary Universe [on cosmology] QB 991 I54 G88 1997
  • Hawking, S. A Brief History of Time: from the big bang to black holes [Hawking's most popular book, though it is not an easy read.] QB 981 H377 1988
  • Kivelson, M. et al eds. Introduction to Space Physics [Technical. An astrophysics textbook, likely the newest one in all of P.E.I.] QB 521 I65 1995
  • Mather, J. et al The Very First Light [on the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) Mission that found cosmological 'fossils' of the early universe] QB 991 C64 M38 1996
  • Parker, B. Chaos in the Cosmos: The Stunning Complexity of the Universe QB 43.2 P33 1996
  • Parker, B. Vindication of the Big Bang QB 981 P294 1993
  • Peebles, P. Principles of Physical Cosmology [technical. The standard textbook on the subject] QB 981 P424 1993
  • Peterson, I. Newton's Clock: Chaos in the Solar System QB 351 P48 1993
  • Pickover, C. Black Holes: a traveler's guide [this could likely be taken in two ways: for an interested who enjoys humor; or as a cosmological joke book] QB 843 B55 P53 1996
  • Rees, M. Perspectives in Astrophysical Cosmology [technical] QB 981 R37 1995
  • Silk, J. A Short History of the Universe QB 981 S554 1994
  • Smoot, G. Wrinkles in Time [Written by COBE Mission leader. For more on COBE, see the Mather book above] QB 981 S695 1993
  • Thorne, K. Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy QC 6 T526 1993
  • Tipler, F. The Physics of Immortality: modern cosmology, God and the resurrection of the dead [The subject here is the philosophy of cosmology.] QB 981 T57 1994

    VII. Guidebooks on Observing, Accessories, and the like (also see the B. Gibson book in section X. below)
  • Bakich, M The Cambridge Guide to the Constellations Ref QB 802 B35 1995
  • Bennett, J. The Divided Circle: a history of instruments for astronomy, navigation and surveying [this is only 1/3 on astronomy, but it also features some big color pictures of old telescopes] QC 100.5 B46
  • Birney, D. Observational Astronomy [for the advanced undergrad or graduate student in this field -- thankfully there are other more straightforward books available both below and elsewhere for those with less expertise] QB 145 B52 1990
  • Bishop, R. ed. Observer's Handbook 199_ [or 200_] Ref QB 64 R6
  • Bone, N. Meteors [a Sky & Telescope observer guide--a 'How to' book] QB 741 B664 1993
  • Burnham, R. Burnham's Celestial Handbook (3 vols.) [A guidebook which has attained classic status. Vol. 1 Andromeda to Cetus. Vol. 2 Chamaeleon to Orion. Vol. 3 Pavo to Vulpecula. A considerable amount of star lore are contained here, even if a bit of their information, eg. some of the star magnitudes, were later found to be inaccurate.] QB 64 B85 1978 v.1 or v.2 or v.3
  • Davidson, N. Sky Phenomena: a guide to naked-eye observation of the stars [includes a selection of astropoetry] QB 63 D38 1993
  • Dickinson, T. et al The Backyard Astronomer's Guide QB 64 D53 1991
  • Harrington, P. Star Ware: The Amateur Astronomer's Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Buying, and Using Telescopes and Accessories QB 88 H37 1998
  • Kaler, J. The Ever-Changing Sky: A Guide to the Celestial Sphere QB 145 K33 1996
  • Levy, D. The Sky: A User's Guide QB 63 L42 1991
  • Littmann, M. et al Totality: Eclipses of the Sun [a guidebook to this topic] QB 541 L69 1991
  • Manly, P. Unusual Telescopes [on the art and technique of telescope design] QB 88 M26 1991
  • Martinez, P. The Observer's Guide to Astronomy Vol. 1 and 2 [These are practical books for advanced amateurs.] QB 63 A7813 1994 v.1 or v.2
  • Menzel, D. et al Stars and Planets [one of the Peterson Field Guide Series] Ref QB 64 M4 1994
  • Moore, P. Exploring the Night Sky with Binoculars QB 63 M63 1996
  • Newton, J. et al The Guide to Amateur Astronomy Ref QB 64 N49 1994
  • Pennington, H. The Year-Round Messier Marathon Field Guide QB 64 P46 1997
  • Phillips, K. Guide to the Sun [for Scientific-American-level readership] QB 521 P45 1992
  • Ridpath, I. et al The Monthly Sky Guide OSZ QB 63 R525 1987
  • Taylor, P. Observing the Sun [Billed as a practical handbook, this is for the advanced amateur] QB 521.4 T39 1991
  • Tirion, W. Cambridge Star Atlas 2000.0 QB 65 W5 1991
  • Tirion, W. The Cambridge Star Atlas Ref QB 65 T56 1996
  • Tirion, W. Sky Atlas 2000.0 [this is in color] Ref OSZ QB 65 T54 1981

    VIII. Writings of Visionaries(?): books of scientific imagination
  • Dressler, A. Voyage to the Great Attractor: Exploring Intergalactic Space QB 991 G73 D74 1996
  • Kluger, J. Journey Beyond Selene: Remarkable Expeditions Past Out Moon and to the Ends of the Solar System TL 795.3 K58 1999
  • Sagan, C. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space QB 500.262 S24 1994
  • Zubrin, R. The Case for Mars [A view on getting to and terraforming Mars.] QB 641 Z83 1996

    X. On the Hubble Space Telescope
  • Barbree, J. et al A Journey Through Time: exploring the universe with the Hubble space telescope QB 500.268 B37 1995
  • Petersen, C. et al Hubble Vision: astronomy with the Hubble space telescope QB 500.268 P48 1995

    X. Dictionaries, Sourcebooks, Fact Books: mostly reference material
  • Gibson, B. The Astronomer's Sourcebook: The Complete Guide to Astronomical Equipment, Publications, Planetariums, Organizations, Events, and more [it has its uses, but note this book is 8 years old as of 2000] Ref QB 64 G43 1992
  • Gribbin, J. Companion to the Cosmos [An encyclopedic dictionary...some citations are briefly defined, whereas others are treated at length by essays.] Ref QB 14 G73 1996
  • Gutsch, W. 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About the Universe [Loads of facts, and likely not to be read at one sitting! Unlike the rest of the books of this section (X.), this one can be signed out.] QB 53 G98 1998
  • Illingworth, V. ed. The Facts on File Dictionary of Astronomy [3,500 astronomy terms defined] Ref QB 14 F3 1994
  • Ince, M. Dictionary of Astronomy [Defines 1700 astronomy terms] Ref QB 14 I53 1997


    XI. On Space Technology.
    Includes books on Astronauts, Rockets and other Space Ships, and Space Missions, not to mention the history of same [note that almost all of these call numbers begin with TL and none with QB]

  • Allen, J. Entering Space: an astronaut's odyssey [autobiographical, on U.S. astronaut Allen] TL 793 A454 1985
  • Bondar, R. Touching the Earth [by Canada's first woman astronaut] TL 789.85 B66 A3 1994
  • Collins, M. Carrying the Fire: an astronaut's journeys [autobiographical--Collins was eg. an Apollo 11 astronaut] TL 789.85 C64 A33 1974
  • Collins, M. Liftoff: the story of America's adventure in space TL 789.8 U59 1988
  • Compton, W. Where No Man Has Gone Before: a history of Apollo lunar missions TL 789.8 U6 A528 1989
  • Cooper, H. Thirteen: The Apollo Flight that Failed TL 789.8 U6 A53 1995
  • Damon, T. Introduction to Space: the science of spaceflight TL 791 D36 1989
  • Dotto, L. The Astronauts: Canada's Voyageurs in Space TL 789.2 C2 D667 1993
  • Gibson, R. Space TL 790 G53 1992
  • Harford, J. Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon TL 789.85 K62 A37 1997
  • Heppenheimer, T. Countdown: A History of Space Flight TL 789.8 U5 H49 1997
  • McDougall,W. ...The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age TL 789.8 U5 M34 1985
  • Miller, R. The Dream Machines: A Pictorial History of the Spaceship in Art, Science and Literature [700+ pages] Ref TL 795 M54 1993
  • National Museum of... Canada in Space: destination earth [More brochure than book, with lots of pictures. The full name of its author is the National Museum of Science and Technology (Canada).] TL 789.8 C3 N37 1993
  • Piszkiewicz, D. Wernher von Braun: the man who sold the moon [on Hitler's and later NASA's rocket scientist] TL 781.85 V6 P57 1998
  • Shepard, A. et al Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon TL 789.8 U6 A58117 1994
  • Slayton, D. Deke! [on U.S. astronaut / NASA manager Deke Slayton] TL 789.85 S55 A3 1994
  • Tomkins, P. Organizational Communication Imperatives: lessons of the space program [Somewhat dry going, this study came about as a result of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986.] TL 862 G4 T66 1992
  • Walter, W. Space Age TL 790 W35 1992
  • Winter, F. Rockets into Space TL 781 W55 1990
  • Wolfe, T. The Right Stuff [a lively, sometimes irreverent narrative on the first years of the U.S. space program] TL 789.8 U5 W64 1979

    Astronomy book titles are now finished. More titles are in Robertson than are included here, but the above list should suffice for most uses. More new titles will be added if a second edition is written. If someone thinks other book(s) that is/are already in the library should be added, please feel free to consult the author, and such an inclusion will be considered. After all, it is somewhat easy to overlook a title or three in a bibliographic survey such as this.

    Astronomy Journals for the non-specialist. Journals are found upstairs with the rest of the periodicals. Older issues are found bound in the journals' stacks, which are placed alphabetically. Current issues are also placed alphabetically in shelves upstairs near the periodical office: Sky & Telescope; Sky News.

    Other Journals with reasonably regular articles on astronomy, cosmology, space technology and the like (this is not a complete list): Scientific American; New Scientist; as well as the more technical journals as Science; Nature

    Astronomy Videos
    These are found in the Media Centre, which is found downstairs.

  • Cosmos [a series by Carl Sagan, in 7 vols., 120 min per tape, and generally 2 episodes per vol.]
  • Vol. 1 The backbone of night. Travels in space and time
  • Vol. 2 Blues for a red planet. Travelers' tales
  • Vol. 3 The harmony of worlds. Heaven and hell
  • Vol. 4 The lives of stars. The edge of forever
  • Vol. 5 The persistence of memory. Encyclopedias galactica
  • Vol. 6 The shores of the cosmic ocean. One voice in the cosmic fugue
  • Vol. 7 Who speaks for earth?. A dialogue
  • Video players to view these shows are available in the Media Centre. However, these videos can be signed out only by authorized personnel.

    On Physics Books


    Astronomy is a branch of physics. As such, the two are interrelated, and to not know about the physics side of things makes one's knowledge of astronomy less. It is probably better not to pigeonhole one's scientific knowledge in one specialized area, but to come out from time to time to see what other fields and pastures have to offer in terms of facts, interpretations and insight. Subatomic particles and quantum mechanics, more about black holes and cosmology, relativity, photons, neutrinos, magnetospheres, gravity, the gathering and analysis of spectra -- it's all physics. And physics covers even more areas than were mentioned in the previous sentence. Our concern here, though, is about available books. Many of the titles listed below are nontechnical -- most were chosen for their newness (when such is a factor) and their readability. A handful of technical or just plain difficult books were included where some interest just may be warranted eg. written by such physicist/author luminaries as S. Hawking or R. Feynman. Like the astronomy books listed above, a high majority of the following titles below have been thumbed through but not read by the bibliographer. Hopefully my relative skill in turfing out some quality books will be of use to others in following the 'trail' through the 'Robertson books jungle' that has been blazed. Perhaps another can take up the challenge to come up with a list about other books of astronomy-related sciences as geology, chemistry, meteorology, and the like. And I'll absolutely leave topics as exobiology, space psychology, et al to others better versed who can see farther than I.

    I. The History of Physics and related topics
  • Brown, L. et al eds. The Birth of Particle Physics [Covers the history of the early decades of particle physics, with many different authors contributing.] QC 793 B57 1983
  • Galison, P. Image & Logic: a material culture of microphysics [History, sure, but this is somewhat tough to 'sled' through. It is book about the machines of physics. It details the impact of modern technology on what it means to "do" physics and to be a physicist. The author reveals, for example, that the increasing size and complexity of apparatus has distanced physicists from the science of physics.] QC 173.4 M5 G35 1997
  • Heilbron, J. Electricity in the 17th and 18th Centuries: a study of early modern physics QC 507 H48
  • Keller, A. The Infancy of Atomic Physics: Hercules in his cradle [the history of atomic physics 1894-1914] QC 773 K4 1983
  • Kevles, J. The Physicists: A History of a Scientific Community in Modern America QC 9 U K48 1996
  • Kragh, H. Quantum Generations: a history of physics in the Twentieth Century QC 7 K7 1999
  • Pickering, A. Constructing Quarks: a sociological history of particle physics QC 793.16 P53 1984

    II. On Physicists...in one way or another [also see J. Kevles' The Physicists (above), and T. Powers' Heisenberg's War (below)]
  • Ajzenberg-Selove, F. A Matter of Choices: memoirs of a female physicist QC 16 A34 A3 1994
  • Born, M. My Life: recollections of a Nobel laureate QC 16 B643 A3213
  • Brennan, R. Heisenberg Probably Slept Here: the Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Physicists of the 20th Century QC 15 B74 1997
  • Christianson, G. In the Presence of the Creator: Isaac Newton and his times QC 16 N7 C49 1984
  • Elsasser, W. Memoirs of a Physicist in the Atomic Age QC 16 E58 A35
  • Freeman, J. A Passion for Physics: the story of a woman physicist [an autobiography] QC 16 F713 A3 1991
  • Friedman, A. Einstein as Myth and Muse QC 16 E5 F76 1985
  • Gell-Mann, M. The Quark and the Jaguar [Partly autobiographical, this book is not always on physics -- it crosses interdisciplinary lines in some sections. The author is the subject of G. Johnson's Strange Beauty (see below).] QC 774 G45 A3
    1994
  • Gleick, J. Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman [Feynman was a noted theoretical physicist/educator, Nobel Prize winner ('65), bongo player.] QC 16 F49 G55 1993
  • Goldsmith, M. et al Einstein, the first hundred years QC 16 E5 E52 1980
  • Gooding, J. et al eds. Faraday Rediscovered: essays on the life and work of Michael Faraday QC 16 F2 F37 1985b
  • Guillen, M. Five Equations that Changed the World: the power and poetry of mathematics [The subtitle is misleading -- this is about physics and Not mathematics. Furthermore, there is way more science biography here than about equations. This is also about physics literacy for the general reader.] QC 24.5 G85 1995
  • Hall, A. Isaac Newton, adventurer in thought QC 16 N7 H35 1996
  • Hartcup, G. et al Cockcroft and the Atom QC 774 C6 H37
  • Heisenberg, E. Inner Exile: recollections of a life with Werner Heisenberg [written by his wife] QC 16 H35 H4413 1984
  • Infeld, L. Quest: an autobiography QC 16 I6 A3 1980
  • Infeld, L. Why I Left Canada: reflections on science and politics QC 16 I6 A4
  • Johnson, G. Strange Beauty: on the life and science of Murray Gell-Mann [Coiner of the term "quark", noted theoretical physicist, winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize for Physics and...] QC 774 G45 J65 1999
  • Morse, P. In at the Beginnings: a physicist's life [an autobiography] QC 16 M66 A34
  • Pais, A. Subtle is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein QC 16 E5 P35
  • Peirls, R. Bird of Passage: recollections of a physicist QC 16 P375 A32
    1985
  • Pyenson, L. The Young Einstein: the advent of relativity QC 16 E5 P94
  • Quinn, S. Marie Curie: a life QD 22 C8 Q56 1995
  • Sime, R. Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics [Chemical Element 109 was named Meitnerium (Mt) in her honor.] QC 774 M4 S56 1996
  • Swenson, L. Genesis of Relativity: Einstein in context QC 16 E5 S95 1979
    various books on Robert Oppenheimer [there is at least a half a dozen on he who was the head of the Manhattan (Atomic Bomb) Project in World War II] QC 16 O62 ......
  • Westfall, R. Never at Rest: a biography of Isaac Newton QC 16 N7 W35
  • Wheeler, J. et al Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam [An autobiography, written with help] QC 16 W48 A3 1998
  • White, M. et al Stephen Hawking: a life in science QC 16 H33
  • Wilson, D. Rutherford: simple genius [He won a 1908 Nobel Prize for radioactive decay. Chemical Element 104 Rutherfordium (Rf) was named in his honor.] QC 16 R8 W55

    III. Mostly On the Dark Side of Nuclear Physics [also see books on R. Oppenheimer, above]
  • Clark, R. The Greatest Power on Earth: the international race for nuclear supremacy QC 791.96 C55
  • Groueff, S. Manhattan Project QC 773.3 U5 G7
  • Hilgartner, S. et al Nukespeak: nuclear language, visions, and mindset [on nuclear development and the euphemistic language, "Nukespeak", that is used along side it] QC 773.3 U5 H54 1982
  • Huizenga, J. Cold Fusion: the scientific fiasco of the century [The 'of the century' bit is debatable, but this the fusion-in-a-jar story is a good yarn.] QC 791.775 C64 H85 1993
  • Irving, D. The German Atomic Bomb QC 773 A1 I69
  • Powers, T. Heisenberg's War: The Secret History of the German Bomb QC 16 H35 P69 1993
  • Pringle, P. et al The Nuclear Barons [about nuclear decision-making and its fall-out, for good or ill, from WW II to the 1980s] QC 792.7 P74
  • Rhodes, R. The Making of the Atomic Bomb QC 773 R46 1986

    IV. Classic Educational books for physics grad students and for those who can keep up
  • Feynman, R. The Feynman Lectures on Physics (2 Vols.) [These are classics of graduate-level physics, although at last count they had been translated into Braille, as well as Mongolian and over 30 other different languages.] QC 23 F47 v.1 or v.2
  • Feynman, R. QED: the strange theory of light and matter [QED is Quantum Electrodynamics -- Feynman shared a Nobel prize in physics in 1965 for this. QED is hard going.] QC 793.5 P422 F48
    1985
  • Feynman, R. The Character of Physical Law [A difficult read] QC 28 F4 1970

    V. Surveys of Physics for Undergrads
    These are chosen by example, and they necessarily contain technical material along with the nontechnical

  • Glashow, S. From Alchemy to Quarks: the study of physics as a liberal art [a text from a different perspective -- this is for university science students who are not in math or, as the author says "the physical sciences"] QC 21.2 G58 1994
  • Krane, K. Modern Physics [As general texts go, this one is fairly glossy, with color pictures, with sidebars providing perspective and background info. Page 304, for instance, contains a picture of a scale model and a short write-up about the Laser Interferometer Gravity Wave Observatory or LIGO.] QC 21.2 K7 1996

    VI. On Different Fields of Physics
  • Barbour, J. The End of Time: The next revolution in physics QC 173.59 S65 B374 2000
  • Close, F. et al The Particle Explosion [On particle physics. Nontechnical text, with a profusion of both technical and nontechnical photographs.] QC 793.2 C56 1987
  • Davies, P. et al eds. Superstrings: a theory of everything? QC 794.6 S85 S869 1988
  • Deutsh, D. The Fabric of Reality : The science of parallel universes -- and it's implications. QC 6.4 R42 D48 1997
  • Epstein, L. Relativity Visualized [Perhaps the most user friendly book to help the lay reader to understand the complex subject of relativity. There are other books on this topic available -- but to those uninitiated in the field they look riddled with bafflegab and technical hieroglyphics!] QC 6 E74 1985
  • Greene, B. The Elegant Universe : Superstrings hidden dimensions and the quest for the ultimate theory. QC 794.6 S85 G75 2000
  • Hawking, S. Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays [Technical. For those who want to read about what Hawking wrote about such things.] QC 16 H33 A3 1993
  • Hawking, S. et al The Nature of Space and Time [The 'et al' is fellow physicist Roger Penrose. This book records the verbal sparring between Hawking and Penrose on what the title is about. Naturally, this is tough going.] QC 173.59 S65 H4
    1996
  • Kaku, M. Hyperspace: a scientific odyssey through parallel universes, time warps, and the tenth dimension [tries to explain hyperspace in English instead of using jargon and equations] QC 793.3 F5 K35 1994
  • Lindley, D. Where Does the Weirdness Go?: why quantum mechanics is strange, but not as strange as you think [This tries to explain quantum mechanics in English. There are plenty of other books available that try to explain it in far more technical ways... this book is for the motivated intelligent lay reader, the nonspecialist.] QC 174.12 L54 1996
  • Ridley, B. Time, Space and Things [This attempts to survey, in English and not mathematics, what physics has to say about the structure of the universe. It is a book about concepts, and is for the general reader.] QC 24.5 R5 1995

    VII. Miscellaneous Physics Books
  • Barrow, J. The World Within the World [This is billed as being 'semipopular' book. It covers many topics in physics and cosmology, while shading into science philosophy or science history when it suits the author.] QC 24.5 B37 1988
  • Bova, B. The Beauty of Light [A scientist/science fiction writer tells how light affects people and how we use light in art, science, industry and everyday life. Nothing technical here.] QC 358.5 B68 1988
  • Davies, P. et al The Matter Myth: dramatic discoveries that challenge our understanding of physical reality [discusses several subfields of physics in a popular style, touching on a philosophy of physics every so often] QC 6.4 R42 D38 1992
  • Cotterill, R. The Cambridge Guide to the Material World [Non-mathematical, this covers nature's materials at the microscopic and atomic levels. Includes materials science (a branch of physics), and cuts across disciplinary lines to include some biology and chemistry. No shortage of photographs or diagrams.] QC 173.3 C66 1985
  • Frankel, F. et al On the Surface of Things: images of the extraordinary in science [intriguing pictures and write-ups give the reader a glimpse into the fascinating world of surfaces, zoomed in on in many degrees of magnification] QC 173.4 S93 F73 1997
  • Genz, H. Nothingness: the science of empty space QC 6 G35913 1999
  • Hazen, R. Why Aren't Black Holes Black?. : The unanswered questions at the frontiers of science. [This general science book includes topics as dark matter the theory of everything, life in the universe , and the end of the universe] Q_ 173 H42 1997
  • Lynch, D. et al Color and Light in Nature [lots of photos and explanations of many colorful natural phenomena as shadows, clean air, water, ice, and unaided eye astronomy] QC 355.2 L96 1995
  • Suplee, C. Physics in the 20th Century [A new survey of the many subfields of the subject, for a general readership, complete with lots of pictures.] QC 24.5 S86 1999
  • Taubes, G. Nobel Dreams: power, deceit, and the ultimate experiment [a narrative on a controversial incident in the field of high energy physics] QC 793.4 T38 1986

    VIII. Reference Books of Physics
  • Isaacs, A. ed. A Dictionary of Physics [Found a physics term and don't know what it means? Look here. This is billed as be "accessible" to the intelligent general reader.] Ref QC 5 D493 1996
  • Parker, S. ed. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Physics [In one volume, this provides specific ID and background information on a host of topics related to Physics] Ref QC 5 M425 1993

    Journals. There are no physics equivalents of Sky & Telescope or Sky News available, written for the interested nonspecialist. However, Scientific American and New Scientist have fairly regular articles on physics (or on the lives and science of physicists) that are quite readable, or at least much of the time.

    On Mathematics Books.


    Spacetime as a concept resulted from Albert Einstein and his relativity. However, Albert E. needed a mathematical framework to hang his theoretical curved spacetime on. Fortunately for Albert a certain G. Riemann had already come up with his nonEuclidian (not on a flat plane) geometry, the geometry of curved space, all nicely integrated and polished. So Albert used what was available, Riemann's geometry, for his own purposes. What would astrophysics be like today without Einstein ... and Riemann? Not doing anywhere near as well. Want to know more about math without a whole lot of bother about doing exercises, and find out about curved space, infinity and more? Consult the following titles. Most of these books are for the nontechnical non-math-specialist reader, and virtually none of them even resemble a textbook.

    I. On related "21st century sciences", the 'cousins' in complexity, Chaos and Fractals
    These topics are in a sense interdisciplinary, yet they seem to fit best somewhere on the border between math and physics

  • Gleick, J. Chaos [written by the author of Genius: the life and science of Richard Feynman (see above), this is written for the so-called 'intelligent lay reader', the non-specialist] Q 172.5 C45 G54 1987
  • Stewart, I. Does God Play Dice? [on chaos, very mildly more math-based than Gleick's book Chaos (see above)] Q 172.5 C45 S74 1990
  • Pietgen, H-O et al The Beauty of Fractals [This book has sections for beginner, intermediate and expert, and is probably the only math-based coffee table book on Earth. Great pictures too!] QA 447 P45 1986

    II. Math Literacy for General Readers
    One has no problem or equation to do here. These books are written (98%-or-more) in English and are deliberately nontechnical. However, they are not all for the same level of readership.

  • Dewdney, A. 200% of Nothing: an eye-opening tour through the twists and turns of math abuse and innumeracy QA 93 D49 1993
  • Dunham, W. Journey Through Genius: the great theorems of mathematics [Includes, for instance, 2 chapters on Cantor and Infinity.] QA 21 D78 1990
  • Dunham, W. The Mathematical Universe: an alphabetical journey through the great proofs, problems, and personalities QA 21 D785 1994
  • Guillen, M. Bridges to Infinity: the human side of mathematics [He also wrote Five Equations that Changed the World (see above)]. QA 93 G8 1983
  • Peterson, I. Islands of Truth: a mathematical mystery cruise QA 93 P474 1990
  • Peterson, I. The Mathematical Tourist: snapshots of modern mathematics QA 93 P475 1988
  • Osserman, R. Poetry of the Universe: a mathematical exploration of the cosmos QA 93 O87 1995
  • Stewart, I. Nature's Numbers: the unreal reality of mathematical imagination QA 93 S737 1995
  • Stewart, I. The Problems of Mathematics QA 93 S74 1987

    III. History of Mathematics
    These may call for a 'nontech' reader to skip small bits here and there

  • Boyer, C. A History of Mathematics QA 21 B767 1989
  • Grattan-Guinness, I. The Norton History of the Mathematical Sciences QA 21 G695 1998

    IV. On The People of Mathematics: biographies and interviews
  • Albers, D. et al eds. Mathematical People: profiles and interviews QA 28 M37 1985
  • Albers, D. et al eds. More Mathematical People: contemporary conversations QA 28 M67 1990
  • Baum, J. The Calculating Passion of Ada Byron [She was the poet Byron's daughter.] QA 29 L72 B38 1986
  • Box, J. R. A. Fisher: the life of a scientist QA 29 F57 B68
  • Brewer, J. et al eds. Emmy Noether: a tribute to her life and work QA 29 N6 E47
  • Buhler, W. Gauss: a biographical study [He dominated this science for the first half of the 19th century, writing what is considered the world's greatest math Ph.D. dissertation (and his greatest work) in the process.] QA 29 G3 B83
  • Hall, T. Carl Friedrich Gauss: a biography QA 29 G3 H353
  • Halmos, P. I Want to be a Mathematician: an automathography [an autobiography] QA 29 H19 A35 1985
  • Hankins, T. Sir William Rowan Hamilton QA 29 H2 H36
  • Heimse, S. John von Neumann and Norbert Weiner: from mathematics to the technologies of life and death QA 28 H44
  • Hodges, A. Alan Turing: the enigma QA 29 T8 H63 1983
  • Hyman, A. Charles Babbage: pioneer of the computer QA 29 B2 H93 1982
  • Kac, M. Enigmas of Chance: an autobiography QA 29 K23 A34 1985
  • Koblitz, A. A Convergence of Lives: Sofia Kovalevskaia: scientist, writer, revolutionary QA 29 K67 K6 1983
  • MacHale, D. George Boole: his life and work QA 29 B685 M33 1983
  • Nasar, S. A Beautiful Mind: a biography of John Forbes Nash Jr. [Since there is no Nobel Prize for Mathematics, Nash instead was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics, in1994.] QA 29 N25 N37 1998
  • O'Donnell, S. William Rowan Hamilton: portrait of a prodigy QA 29 H2 O36
  • Reid, C. Courant in Gottingen and New York: the story of an improbable mathematician QA 29 C68 R44
  • Reid, C. Neyman -- from life [on Jerzy Neyman] QA 29 N43 R44 1982
  • Smith, S. The Great Mental Calculators: the psychology, methods, and lives of calculating prodigies, past and present QA 28 S65 1983
  • Young, R. ed. Notable Mathematicians: from ancient times to the present Ref QA 28 N66 1998

    V. On Math "Puzzles"
    For those who like to have fun with math [warning: some technical ability, albeit often at a fairly low level, is required here]

  • Gardner, M. Fractal Music, Hypercards and more [for eg. Ch. 17 "Imaginary Numbers"-- on complex numbers as 'i', aka the square root of -1] QA 95 G6 1991
  • Gardner, M. other books on mathematical puzzles QA 95 G....
    various still other books on these puzzles QA 95 ...

    VI. Miscellaneous
  • Dehaene, S. The Number Sense: how the mind creates mathematics [This covers such topics as: how people come up with the concept of numbers; mathematical ability; and how the mind calculates. Accessible -- no technical hieroglyphics, no jargon-riddled language here.] QA 141 D44 1997
  • Hofstadter, D. Metamagical Themas [Reprints of a series of articles from Scientific American, on a large variety of topics, including chaos. The theme here is patterns -- mostly on implied math in other sciences and (surprisingly) nonscience).] Q 335 H63 1985

    VII. Math Reference Books

  • James, G. et al eds. Mathematics Dictionary [this, by far the larger of the two math dictionaries listed here, caters to many different levels of readership, from beginner to grad student, from basic to very technical.] Ref QA 5 J33 1992b
  • Karush, W. Webster's New World Dictionary of Mathematics [over 1400 words defined in (it is claimed) 'easy-to-understand' language.] Ref QA 5 K27 1989


    Mathematics journals are technical almost wherever one looks. However, Scientific American does have readable articles on mathematicians and other math-related topics periodically. This journal also features a colorful math puzzles column, Mathematical Recreations, written monthly by I. Stewart, author of three books in the 'On Mathematics Books' in this compendium, and one of the leading authors in 'making science understandable' to nonscience people.



  • HOME