American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

At a whopping near-600 pages, American Prometheus may seem daunting, but don’t let the page count dissuade you from jumping in. This is an engaging read, spanning decades of time and touching on a set of important and fascinating people. Robert Oppenheimer is the father of the atomic bomb, and American Prometheus tells the story both of the bomb’s creation and of Oppenheimer’s life in a post-bomb world. I liked this book because while I knew a lot of the science behind the bomb, I knew nothing of the history or politics. American Prometheus is a great read on pre-war communism, post-war McCarthyism, and the role of scientists in policy-making.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

Ever wanted to get things done but felt they were too boring to do? Ever wish you had a more glamorous job, like maybe being an astronaut? Chris Hadfield, the social media savvy Canadian astronaut, details how even astronauts have to sweat the small stuff in his autobiography An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. If astronauts have to endure intensive training in procedures they’ll likely never use, spend hours just suiting up for a space walk, and fill out endless checklists to avoid potentially deadly little mistakes, then maybe editing my research paper isn’t so bad. Hadfield writes in a personal and entertaining way. After reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, you’ll be ready to tackle any challenge, no matter how mundane.

Image Credit:  SpaceX via flickr

About The Author

Alexander Thompson
Correspondent, Physics and Material Sciences

Alex is a postdoctoral researcher working at NASA Ames Research Center. He received his PhD at Northwestern University. His specialty is computational materials science, which sits on the intersection of atomic physics and computer science. Alex has studied materials including nuclear fuels and shape memory alloys and has written on topics such as exoplanets and the science of smell for The Verge. His interests include space, physics, and data science.