Our Head of Acquisitions told me about An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth when it was first released, and it went immediately onto my “To-Listen” list.
Right? Right. That can almost make me cry.
At times while listening to this book, I realized this was a risky choice: listening to Hadfield’s ridiculously jam-packed list of qualifications, successes, and admirable personality traits could have made me feel like an unremarkable schlub, if only they weren’t read with such humility. Regardless, I absolutely loved An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth. The book is a memoir of the journey he took to go from a nine-year old aspiring astronaut (with an astounding sense of responsibility and discipline, I might add) to a commander of the International Space Station, and offers a lot of insight into space travel, agencies, and the whole space program, with all the right minutiae picked out to let us in on some of the little details, but keep it interesting and novel. There are also plenty of the requisite descriptions of inky black infinity to bring on the epic fuzzy feelings that are really the whole point of reading a book about space travel in the first place.
Chris Hadfield is diligent, competent, smart, humble, and utterly, utterly quotable. *Ahem* “Good leadership means leading the way, not hectoring other people to do things your way.” “Sweat the small stuff. Without letting anyone see you sweat.” “You can’t change the bricks, and together, you still have to build a wall.” I finished the book feeling like I knew a lot more about how to succeed if I ever somehow ended up in space, but also that I knew a lot more about how to succeed in life in general. I also felt like I really wanted to give Hadfield a hug.
As a narrator, Hadfield is wonderful. I’m a firm proponent of authors reading their own work (as long as they have the chops to pull it off) because they know the spirit of it better than anyone else. Generally, Hadfield comes off as a really nice guy, so listening to his narration felt like we were carpooling together and he was telling me stories about space mixed with some fatherly advice about how to achieve my own goals. The one negative thing I have to say is in regards to the audio quality itself: there’s a strange sort of muffled echo that makes it sound like it was recorded in a bathroom. (Initially I thought the weird quality might have been because it was recorded IN SPACE, through the in-helmet microphone or something, which would be totally forgivable and actually kind of awesome. I looked it up; it wasn’t.) That’s unusual coming from top-tier publishers like Random House (Canadian rights) and Hachette (American rights), but it won’t stop you from fully enjoying the audiobook.
If you want to learn more about what it’s like to be in space (and what it takes to get there), pick this up. You will not be disappointed.