This one’s a bit of a departure for me and I would have never picked it up had it not been recommended to me by a coworker. Yes, I’ve gotten more interested in nonfiction since reading more of it as a moderator of my previous job’s non-fiction book club, but An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth was not something that I would have thought to be of interest to me. Science. Yikes!
I was surprised with An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, it wasn’t rife with difficult scientific jargon. It offers a simple story, albeit an unlikely one. Chris Hadfield was a kid when he decided he wanted to become an astronaut. An unlikely goal considering Hadfield is Canadian and there was no Canadian space agency when he decided on his career aspirations. But the foundation of Hadfield’s career track is the fact that he wanted to be prepared “just in case” he ever got the chance to be an astronaut. Since I recently changed jobs and will likely be changing again in the near future when my employment contract ends, Hadfield’s career journey really resonated. While Hadfield’s path was never explicitly framed as advice for the reader, I took it as advice nonetheless. The idea of savoring the moment and doing the best that you can in the current position you hold (in work and in life) is something that I think it too frequently forgotten. Everyone is hoping to get somewhere in the future (that perfect job, that perfect life), but what you’re doing today is likely to have an impact on tomorrow so you better do it well: start thinking like an astronaut.
There were many instances throughout An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth where it could have moved into self-help territory. However, Hadfield kept his book firmly focused on himself. Yes, much of what he shared was inspiring and applicable for many people, but he never framed his book as an offering of “how to do life”. Rather, Hadfield offered a down-to-earth retelling of how he was able to become an astronaut. His tone was matter-of-fact and he almost makes it sound easy: hard work that’s paid off. For a pretty exceptional human being, Hadfield always made it seem possible that anyone could have gotten to where he did if they just did the work. Perhaps that’s not true, but it’s inspiring nonetheless.
I also listened to The Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth in audiobook. If you get the chance to listen to this one, I highly recommend it. The book is narrated by Hadfield and his enthusiasm for his pursuit of space was exuded. You could feel Hadfield’s awe when he explained his views from the International Space Station, his sorrow when friends died, and his humour when he related amusing anecdotes. The narration added an extra element to this book, which made me enjoy it just a little bit more.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth was a fun, inspiring read/listen. I appreciated the Canadian connection (being the Canadian that I am) and I loved the interesting tidbits that I learned about the space program and life in space. If you’re looking for a read outside your normal genres, I suggest giving this one a try.
While Hadfield’s journey into space is not fictional and likely less harrowing, I think Andy Weir’s The Martian is an excellent follow-up. Not only does the main character, Mark, show the same upbeat and humorous personality as Hadfield, readers are also thrown into the thought processes of the astronaut. Having now read Hadfield’s account of life in space, I’ve comes to appreciate Weir’s accuracy in depicting a space adventure. Check out my review of The Martian.