Book Review: An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

Like a lot of people I had heard of Chris Hadfield but I had never paid much attention to him until I heard an interview with him on the Nerdist Podcast. He seemed to have a very easy and likable personality and I enjoyed listening to him speaking about his experiences so I looked up his book on iTunes and found that it was available in audio. I hit purchase, and I’m very glad that I did.

 

Normally anything Biographical is a no-go for me. As a rule I struggle with them but that was when I was reading and not listening and with An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth I was pulled in within the first five minutes. Hadfield himself narrates the audiobook and that likable personality I mentioned earlier came through in his reading. I’m glad Hadfield did narrate the book as there are moments when the emotion of his memories comes through in how he reads the book.

 

I’ve not read many autobiographies but Hadfield’s sounds very sincere and honest. Not only does he mention his highs but he also is not afraid to talk about the times when he was at fault or did something that he later regretted. We get to see just how hard it is to become an astronaut. I’m not someone who has sat looking up into the night sky wishing I could go into space, I always thought it would be neat to do but I never seriously wished to travel into space but after consuming this book I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I stand no chance of ever leaving this planet. The skills these men and women have that get them into the Astronauts office at NASA are quite impressive. Not only do they have to be intelligent, healthy and competent they also need to have the right personality and mind sets.

Of the thousands of people who apply to be astronauts only a handful are successful and Hadfield earnt his place there through a lot of hard work which he is very humble about. He seems like the type of person that you’d get talking to in a bar where there’s a band playing and take an instant liking to him.

 

The pacing is really good, it’s not just a re-telling of his life in chronological order. It jumps from point to point depending on what Hadfield is trying to say with a particular paragraph and it’s all tied up very nicely.

 

It’s almost part autobiography and part self-help guide. Hadfield talks about how thinking about the worst outcome can help with achieving success. I think the phrase he uses is ‘Sweat the small stuff.’ or something along those lines. Basically he is saying if you think of the worst case scenario and how to solve it then if it happens you are prepared for it. This is something that sounds like NASA train their astronauts to do and it sounds like a damn good concept. To me its the ultimate 6 p’s. Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I love that saying and with space exploration it seems like a good way of thinking. Hadfield gives a lot of examples of how this has helped him achieve all that he has.

 

This was the last book I read (listened to) and finished in 2013 and it was a good one to end out the year on. I’ve listened to it twice in the two weeks since I downloaded it and I’ll probably listen to it again before the month is out. It has really inspired me and given me an insight into what life as an astronaut is like and I doubt that I am the only person who has been surprised by just what astronauts do when they’re not floating in zero gravity.

If you have an interest in space then I highly recommend this book. It has changed many of my perceptions and inspired more then a few ideas for my own fiction.

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