Monday, March 23, 2015

Audiobook Review: An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination and Being Prepared for Anything (2013)
Written and narrated by Chris Hadfield
Run Time: 8 hours 45 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio/Little, Brown

Growing up in the hills north of Los Angeles during the days of the Space Shuttle, my school would occasionally announce through campus-wide speakers something to the effect of, "Do not be alarmed, the Space Shuttle will soon be passing overhead. It will be loud." Moments later, a sonic roar would blast overhead as the shuttle flew en route to a safe landing at Edwards Air Force Base, about 45 minutes northeast of our suburb.

While he may not have flown the shuttle on those landings, Col. Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency peels back the curtain in this memoir of his time pursuing a dream to be an astronaut as well as some of his adventures onboard the International Space Station. He handled each challenge with humor and grace, whether it be an episode on going blind in space (which he later gave a TED talk on) or the day-to-day routine of living in zero gravity.

Much of the book is about problem solving and Hadfield presents his strategies in clear, practical ways. His ability to make multiple contingency plans and get around roadblocks reminded me of Hannibal Smith, the leader on the TV series "The A-Team" who would famously say, "I love it when a plan comes together."

While on board the space station, Hadfield made several YouTube videos that later went viral, including a cover of David Bowie's song "Space Oddity." Among those videos were Q & A sessions he did with Canadian schoolchildren explaining how some basic tasks on Earth are a bit different in the zero-gravity of space, like wringing a wash cloth. Hadfield briefly touches on this in the book, but I loved hearing his enthusiasm for explaining space, especially in a post-Space Shuttle era.

One of the biggest strengths of the memoir is Hadfield's narration of the audiobook. There's an authenticity to it that wouldn't be achieved by a third-party narrator. He makes the complicated world of space flight accessible to readers without talking down to them or overloading it with jargon. There are lots of humorous moments in the book and its pace is excellent, making it an audiobook suitable for any listening style (I listened to it on my work commute).

Rating: 4/5 stars. A great audiobook perfect for those curious about astronaut life with a dash of humor to go along with it.

The book is available in most countries in hardcover, ebook or audio. A paperback edition will finally be published Stateside on April 14 via Back Bay Books.

No comments:

Post a Comment