on November 1, 2013
This is not a typical memoir-- it's not organized chronologically, from childhood to the present day. Instead of following a linear time line, Col. Hadfield uses his experiences to illustrate larger points and themes, which makes the book much more compelling and readable than the usual celebrity memoir. (Of course, the guy isn't your usual celebrity, either -- he's famous for actually having DONE something.) For instance, there's a whole chapter on the power of negative thinking and how that has helped him "neutralize" his own fear. He's not telling you how to live your life, only how he's lived his, but the book forces you to ask certain questions of yourself, while the narrative powers along at a fast clip because his life has just been so damned interesting and unusual. There's a lot more to him than was evident on Twitter, starting with a dry sense of humor. I inhaled this book and came away from it not just entertained but thinking in a slightly different way about life, the universe and everything. Highly recommended.
Col. Chris Hadfield is a rock-star quality astronaut followed by millions of people--I am one of them. My first exposure came from a session his son Evan set up on Reddit late last year called "ask me anything". A user, in regards to Hadfield being in space for five months, asked, "Won't you be lonely?" Hadfield replied, "In the centre of every big city in the world, surrounded by noise and teeming millions of people, are lonely people. Loneliness is not so much where you are, but instead is your state of mind." And it is that same insightful outlook that can be found throughout this book, AN ASTRONAUT'S GUIDE TO LIFE ON EARTH. (see p. 218 for a re-sharing).
Most of what people love about Hadfield appears here: him playing the guitar while looking out the cupola's window; looking down upon the beauty of earth during a spacewalk; problem solving everyday situations that we take for granted here on earth. Hadfield relays the story of his life and tells of the obstacles he's overcome, along the way laying down practical pieces of advice. He tells us to prepare for every possible scenario, work diligently toward our goal, and enjoy even the smallest pieces of life along the way.
Readers not already familiar with Hadfield, but are fans of space travel and life in space will still love this book. He remains true-to-form in this book, with the similar voice from YouTube videos and other online appearances. He talks about everything from clipping his nails to fixing a toilet while in space. Along with the mundane facts, come riveting adventures like traveling in the new Russian Soyuz (or better yet, the fear of coming back down) and walking out in space to fix a mission-threatening ammonia leak. Hadfield charmingly wraps it all together in his lush and descriptive writing (such as you may have already seen in the first few pages of this book's preview).
So much of Hadfield's love, wisdom, and charm is poured into these pages--it's truly remarkable. If you are a fan of Col. Hadfield or of space in general, definitely give this book a try. Another suggestion: If you haven't already seen Col. Chris Hadfield's "Space Oddity" video on YouTube, go check it out. Special Thanks to Little, Brown and Company for fulfilling my request and sending me a review copy.
on October 29, 2013
I have so many good things to say about this book I don't think they'll all fit into one review (for my full review, including my four-year-old's reaction to it, please visit my blog, Cozy Little Book Journal). Here's some of what I thought about the book:
Chris Hadfield knew he wanted to be an astronaut when he was nine years old. In fact, he remembers the exact moment he knew. It was late in the evening on July 20, 1969. That's when his entire family, spending the summer in Stag Island, Ontario, "traipsed across the clearing" to their neighbour's cottage so they could crowd themselves in front of the television and watch the moon landing. "Somehow," he writes, "we felt as if we were up there with Neil Armstrong, changing the world."
Hadfield writes about this early experience--and many, many of the other experiences that have led him to become the world's most recognized astronaut since Armstrong himself--in his new book, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth.
I would have read this book a lot faster if I hadn't kept stopping every few pages to run out to tell my family what I'd just read. Magda didn't mind. She asked me to read aloud to her from the book every chance I got. At 4, I'd venture to say she knows more about space than most Canadians ten times her age, and we have Colonel Chris Hadfield to thank for that.
His videos from space captured her imagination and mine. Thanks to him, Magda has spent the better part of the year learning everything she can about space exploration and astronauts, and has even composed several songs dedicated to female astronauts she admires ("Julie Payette Rocket" and "You are the Moon, I am the Sun [for Suni Williams]"). I feel like he's introduced us to space exploration in a way no one had before, and that he's introduced us to astronauts as real people. Of course, the internet has helped immensely with that, as has Hadfield's social media genius of a son, Evan. But thanks to them, our whole family knows names like Tom Marshburn, Roman Romanenko, Karen Nyberg, Kevin Ford and Luca Parmitano. Thanks to him, both my daughter and I have new heroes from all over the world.
And that's a gift that Chris Hadfield has given to so many of us; he's renewed our sense of wonder. He's inspired us to look at space again in a way most of us hadn't in a long time. He's inspired us to be passionately curious and unabashedly compassionate. He's shown us--through his eyes--what exactly it looks like to all be connected in this world (and off it). He's reminded us what it looks like to be passionate, competent and sincere, without irony or cynicism.
An Astronaut's Guide to Life really is a guide to life. Actually, it makes a pretty good guide to parenting too. Colonel Hadfield offers an insider's look into the life of an astronaut and the steps it takes to become one. It's deeply satisfying for those curious about the past, present and future of the space program, but it's also full of truly excellent advice for those with ambition in any field.
He writes: "I never thought, 'If I don't make it as an astronaut, I'm a failure.' The script would have changed a lot if, instead, I'd moved up in the military or become a university professor or a commercial test pilot, but the result wouldn't have been a horror movie."
I love that. I love the attitude that you don't have to "wait for your life to begin," as so many of us do (I know I have). You can start becoming the person you want to be right away, with the choices you make and the steps you take. And, most importantly, do the things that will make you happy along the way, whether or not you reach your end goal. And in fact the "end goal" may change many times but at least you'll be doing things you love.
Most of the book is filled with fascinating stories about the life of an astronaut, including many that I had never heard before. He relates stories of things that have gone wrong in space, most of which are corrected and managed by the quick thinking of astronauts, cosmonauts and mission control. He talks about the sadness he and his wife felt upon hearing that his good friend Rick Husband had been killed aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. He explains the detailed "death plans" that all astronauts make before they go into space, deciding in detail exactly what would happen if they were killed in space (right down to who exactly would tell their family and who would accompany their spouse to the funeral). It's an inside look into an experience only around 500 people in history have ever had: preparing for and achieving space travel.
I could say so much more about this book but I'm afraid it would just turn into me giving another page-by-page account of everything in it, much like I did with Magda and Mike all week. What I can say is that I was even more inspired by the book than I already was by Colonel Hadfield himself, which is pretty darn inspired.
on November 9, 2013
This is a diamond of a book. And saying that it will change your life is no bit of hyperbole. Chris Hadfield is positively inspired - and inspirational - as he weaves together his life story and the lessons we can learn from his adventures. Hadfield tells his life story not in the traditional, chronological manner but rather by pulling together relevant experiences and thoughts from throughout points in his life to paint a "big picture" in every chapter. In doing so, his book is incredibly effective as a motivational guide for life and how to better live it. His opening line: "The windows of a spaceship casually frame miracles." gives you a sense of what the book holds and that it is, indeed, something very special.
This book, however, is not merely a glossy, feel-good piece of fluff. Hadfield directly addresses life's dark sides too - the chapter on the power of negative thinking is one of the most insightful examinations of the topic I have ever read, while other passages about the space shuttle tragedy and the preparation of "death plans" that every astronaut makes prior to going into space are among those that show Hadfield is the real deal when it comes to a thorough examination of life. His voice has a certain authenticity, making you feel as though he is sitting in the chair next to you, reviewing in full detail the experiences he has had - the positive, the negative, and even the mundane - and weaving a portrait for you of your spot in the cosmos.
I read this in one sitting, over the course of several hours, interrupted by only my frequent pauses from reading to write notes and questions for review later. Because, in the end, Hadfield never tells us how to live or what we should change. His voice shares his stories, turning them into the bigger pictures, and then it gently prompts us to reflect and ask ourselves questions we have never thought to ask ourselves before. One of the best books I have ever read.
on February 13, 2014
Don't get me wrong, reading about the ins and outs of astronaut recruitment and life is interesting. That said, I was hoping for more relatable tidbits about the hard parts of life and work and how he, in arguably one of the hardest and most stressful jobs on and off the planet, was able to overcome them. However, almost the entirety of the story was about him working very, very hard and making the right choices and being patient. That's all well and good, but I didn't want to hear the boy scout edition of the story. I wanted to hear the real, gritty truth about marriage, family, co-workers, stress, preparation, career advancement from someone who achieved what Hadfield did. I didn't find that here, so it was hard for me to emotionally attach. A lot of it felt like a mini-lecture from an older sibling or a professor.
However, there are some anecdotes from this book that I thought were extremely useful for explaining human behavior, particularly in the workplace. Those were definitely worth it.
on October 30, 2014
I had a hard time reading this book for two reasons:
1) He skips all the good stuff: Just when he might get specific and tell us something interesting, he trails off in generalities. For instance, he writes "A certain personality type that was perfectly acceptable, even stereotypical, in the past--the real hard ass, say--is not wanted on the voyage when it is going to be a long one." (40) End of section. I would love to know what type of person IS wanted on the voyage--what they're looking for, what personality tests are given. But no. That's all we get. He does it again five pages later: "You'll need to master a lot of skills that seem arcane, or that you might never even get to use, or both." However, no specific skills are listed. This book is filled with generalities.
2) His words of wisdom are mundane: I thought this book might have some amazing insights from a man who has had some amazing experiences. Instead, I get flat platitudes that could come from any self-help book at Auntie's Bookstore. "Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying; it's productive. Likewise, coming up with a plan of action isn't a waste of time if it gives you peace of mind." (72) Another gem: "If you need to make a strong criticism, it's a bad idea to lash out wildly; be surgical, pinpoint the problem rather that attack the person. Never ridicule a colleague, even with an offhand remark, not matter how tempting it is or how hilarious the laugh line. The more senior you are, the greater the impact your flippant comment will have. Don't snap at the people who work with you. When you see red, count to 10." (111) That's not bad advice. Not at all. But I could get that same advice from Bob in personnel. There are few if any deep insights here.
on January 4, 2014
Chris Hadfield quickly became famous during his stay on the Space Station. This was due to him quickly adopting the use of social media. I've always been interested in space but had only been casually keeping up with the space station. Once I saw the headlines I then began watching him on social media. I checked nearly daily to see the videos and photos he posted. I even told someone that I wish he'd write a book. I found him to be very inspirational and I liked his outlook on life.
It wasn't much after his return that I found out that he was indeed going to write a book. I quickly ordered the book and anxiously waited for it's arrival. The book is titled "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything." It's definitely a title that gets your attention.
Once I started reading the book it was hard to put down. It was even better than I imagined. Chris talks about his childhood and when he made the choice to become an astronaut and how he made choices through his childhood to hopefully lead to him becoming an astronaut as an adult. The book has done well on charts in both the U.S. and Canada in both the Inspiration and Business categories. The book is very motivational. It helps give you an idea of how you should look at life, deal with the bad things in life, and how to make the most of your life. This quote gives you an idea of his outlook on life and why many feel he's such an inspiration person.
"Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you'd be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don't let life randomly kick you into the adult you don't want to become."
I believe this book can be useful for nearly anyone. If you are interested in space that's a definite plus. I found the sections to be very interesting where he talks about life on the ISS and traveling on the Soyuz. Yet the entire book is inspirational and is a wonderful choice as a self-help book. I think many people will find it helpful whether it's to improve your outlook on life, improve your career, etc.
on November 3, 2013
This book is about Chris Hadfield's life and career up to this point and his goal of becoming and experiences in being an astronaut. It is full of interesting stories and unknown to me fascinating facts about the space industry and space flight. I found many simple but brilliant ideas and philosophy's that apply to many things we do and should be of interest to most people.
What a very nice and clever man. This is an inspiring book and I'd recommend it to anyone.
on December 21, 2013
A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) test pilot myself, I've had the privilege of being Chris' friend for close to 20 years. Everything written in this book is an accurate and precise representation of Chis himself. He cares about his goals and he developed a recipe for achieving them. But more importantly, I know that Chris cares more about the journey of getting there. Chris wants to make sure that he does things right along the way, enjoys the voyage, and that he brings professionalism and joy to those who he encounters and who may join him on the path. While not mentioned in the book, this is the same man who just days following the tragic loss of Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003, wrote in the National Post of how devastating the loss was for the families of the crew members, for him and his own family, and for several nations. Yet - Chris reminded us that human exploration was tremendously important to us all and that he would not give up on it. He never did! And through his mission on Station, Chris brought us the joy of his journey and reminded us that the impossible is possible, that the sky is not the limit and he rejuvenated a world's interest in space. These are lessons for us all. It's a wonderful book, no matter what your own goals are!
"An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" by Chris Hadfield is an interesting story written by astronaut who went through all kinds of adventures in his career, many of them that you certainly wouldn't expect from one astronaut which changed his perspective of problem solving.
Main character astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield during his life has spent numerous years in training and, if all counted together, almost half of year in space.
During that time he experienced things that can be expected in some action movie like braking into the space station with pocket knife or losing sight for some time being outside of spacecraft, but also he speaks about everyday issues like clipping the nails or fixing a toilet that seems ordinary down here, but represent big challenges up there in space.
In his guide he is telling the story of his life, the story of a lot of sacrifice to become and remain an astronaut that is the desire of many boys and girls.
And due to that he is in position to be able to teach readers how to change their perspective, how to make impossible things possible.
As he's saying, there is only one secret how to do that, philosophy that he had been taught at NASA and that is to prepare for the worst scenario and to enjoy every moment of it.
He is speaking about years of his training, about the time in space, stories full of adrenaline and rush, but also stories about the wonderful things that vast majority of inhabitants of this planet unfortunately never won't be able to experience.
It's hard to imagine what it feels like playing the guitar and looking out the window or looking down on Earth during spacewalk, and yet it seems so easy to imagine ourselves being in his position, envying him on such opportunities.
When he is speaking about problem solving in space, problems that on Earth we everyday take for granted, he's teaching reader how to cross the obstacles in her/his life and go towards the goal, in same time don't forgetting to enjoy life.
"An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" is a beautiful book full of author's wisdom and charm that although doesn't talk about distant planets and bright stars, brought the story of great astronaut adventures, so interesting that due to him some children who will read it would certainly decide to follow his footsteps.
For the rest of us, adult readers, the book offers some good life lessons,
some small wisdoms that can be helpful in our ordinary life because Chris Hadfield with his insights can teach you how to think like an astronaut, and will change your perspective looking on Earth (problems).