Suggested Astronomy Reading List

The books listed below are available from Cameron Library, Edmonton Public Library or are widely available at bookstores.

I've grouped the books into the categories of Science Fiction, Popular Science (no math/physics knowledge needed) and Advanced (some math or physics knowledge needed).

If you read any of these books let me know if you found them interesting or useful. (Were they too hard, not enough information... ?)

Science Fiction

Here's an incomplete list of some science fiction novels that I enjoyed. They all have some interesting science in them.
  • Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson (1993). A novel about the colonization of Mars. Green Mars and Blue Mars are sequels. Available in Edmonton Public Library.
  • Helliconia Spring by Brian Aldiss. A novel set on a planet orbiting a star which is in a very eccentric, long period binary orbit with another star. Edmonton Public Library has a couple of copies. One of the copies has a technical appendix about the orbits for those who really want to learn a little bit more. Helliconia Summer and Winter are the sequels.
  • Dragon's Egg by Robert Forward. A novel set on a neutron star. Available at Edmonton Public Library.

Astronomy Books without Mathematics

  • Just Six Numbers by Martin Rees, (New York : Basic Books, 2000). Available from Edmonton Public Library.
  • On the cosmic horizon : ten great mysteries for third millennium astronomy by Jeffrey Bennett, (San Francisco, CA : Addison Wesley Longman, 2001). Available from Cameron Library.
  • Black Holes and Time Warps by Kip Thorne, (New York : W.W. Norton, 1994). This is my favourite "popular" level book on black holes. I found this much more readable than Hawking's book. Available from Edmonton Public Library.
  • Relativity visualized by Lewis Carroll Epstein, (San Francisco : Insight Press, 1985). The author explains relativity using pictures and practically no math. Available from Cameron Library.
  • Bad Astronomy by Philip Plait, (New York: John Wiley, 2002). The author discusses common misconceptions about astronomy that people sometimes have. He discusses the moon landing "hoax" in detail. The author also has a website at At this website he has reviews of the science in some recent movies.

Books Requiring some Mathematics and Physics

  • The physical universe : an introduction to astronomy by Frank Shu, (Mill Valley, Calif. : University Science Books, 1982). Available from Cameron Library. This book goes into more detail about the physics behind astrophysics at a level suitable for anybody who has taken the first-year physics course. Although the book is from 1982, most of what he talks about is still relevant.
  • Cosmology by Michael Rowan-Robinson, (3rd Edition, New York : Oxford University Press, 1996). Available from the Physical Sciences Library. This book does go into a little bit of mathematical detail, so if you want more information on cosmology this would be a good place to start.

Books that require some knowledge of calculus

  • Introducing Einstein's relativity by Ray d'Inverno, (Oxford : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1991). Available at the Physical Sciences Library. I think that this is the most accessible introduction to general relativity available for a student who has taken calculus. It would be best appreciated after taking vector calculus (2nd year calculus)