I met Chris Hadfield at a book signing event the day his autobiographical book came out. As a resident of Toronto, I’ve met my fair share of celebrities,but they haven’t all been fantastic experiences. This has taught me to lower my expectations when going to meet any famous person let alone a pilot, an engineer, and an astronaut who served as commander of the ISS.
Chris Hadfield proved me wrong. He started out with, “Hi! My name is Chris. What is yours?”
"My name is Chris"?! I know your name! I stood in line to meet you!
Prior to reading this book, my knowledge of the space program and space in general was limited to having read a couple of other books on space travel, taking an interest in space and space theory as an extension of Physics in high school and engineering school, being inspired by Julie Payette, following Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter, and the random musings about space by @addison. So compared to real space nerds, not very much at all.
The power of the written word is manifested in many a different way, but what amazes me the most is how it can say and mean different things to different people. Aside from the fact that Chris Hadfield and I both went to Canadian engineering schools, we share very little in common, and yet this book spoke to me. It’s aptly divided into stages of a space expedition, and he does a brilliant job of relating seemingly simple things on Earth, to lessons learned while in space.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth could have been a fascinating book even if Cmdr Hadfield had written about space and his experience commanding the ISS and nothing else. But he one-upped himself by taking it a step further and making a miraculous journey like his relatable to non-space-travellers on Earth. In his account, he writes about the many humbling things an astronaut does, how they serve as consenting lab rats so scientists can find out more about effects of space on the human body, how they’re not actually adrenaline junkies, and how success isn’t defined by crowning glories, but is instead shaped by the meticulous behind-the-scenes work that goes in to produce results.
Three reasons why this book should be next on your list:
- It answers your question of how to go to the bathroom in zero G
- Extremely easy read that is written with humor, humility, and candor
- Tons of life advice that is highly relevant and highly applicable no matter who you are or what you do
I don’t know if Chis Hadfield has written other books or if this is his first, but amongst a bajillion other talents, the man has a gift for writing. I highly recommend you read it all the way from the introduction to the very end of the acknowledgments - his words will simultaneously educate and amaze you. The sign of a good writer is when s/he can make you feel what they feel, and by the end of this one, I felt like I was the one retiring from a 21 year career as an astronaut, but how I was so happy to be returning home to a loving family, and couldn’t believe I’d had the determination to finish writing this account of my journey.
Nervous at first that he’d be a total snob, after reading his book, I feel like Chris Hadfield and I could have many an interesting conversation over a cup of non-deputy Tim Hortons coffee.
Time to read: ~1 week