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Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery (Random House Large Print) Paperback – Large Print, October 17, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of October 2017: Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and one of the most popular responses is one that makes parents swoon: an astronaut. This hopeful enthusiasm wanes when their son or daughter starts bringing notes home from the teacher, complaining that they have the attention span of gnat, and need to stop parkouring on school property. Mums and dads, take heart. This description isn’t far off from a young Scott Kelly, not the bookish type either, and yet it was a book he happened upon that dramatically changed the trajectory of his life: Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Kelly was so inspired by this examination of the courageous test pilots who made high speed flight and space exploration possible that he was able to channel all of his frenetic energy into achieving the goal of becoming one. Endurance traces this journey, and chronicles the year Kelly spent on the International Space Station, as well as the effects it had on his body (information NASA needs as they plan a mission to Mars). Kelly answers many of the questions we have about life in space, from the profound to the mundane (turns out astronauts give bad haircuts and unclog toilets like the rest of us earthbound peeps). He also imparts the lessons and wisdom gleaned from his extraordinary adventures. Chief among them, and especially apropos given the increasingly divisive world we live in: “Putting this space station into orbit…is the hardest thing that humans have ever done, and it stands as proof that when we set our minds to something hard, when we work together, we can do anything, including solving our problems here on Earth.” Endurance is a fascinating, moving, uplifting read. --Erin Kodicek, Amazon Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Captivating, charming . . . . [Kelly] pulls back the curtain separating the myth of the astronaut from its human realities. . . . It is easy to imagine future generations of explorers and daredevils harnessing the lessons and truths within the pages of ‘Endurance’ as the blueprints for their own trips into the unknown.” —Jaroslav Kalfar, The New York Times Book Review
“[Endurance] is a memoir of the right stuff that will hypnotize any space geek.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Kelly brings life in space alive—the wonder and awe of it, and also the jagged edges, the rough parts of living in confined quarters in an alien element, far from everything familiar and beloved. . . . Endurance, with its honest, gritty descriptions of an unimaginable life, a year off Earth, is as close as most readers will come to making that voyage themselves.” —The Financial Times
“Kelly’s account is insightful, at times humorous, heart-tugging at others. And it’s inspiring enough to change the life of some lost kid, just like The Right Stuff did for him.” —USA Today
“For space junkies, it’s absolutely required reading. . . . We feel as though we’re right there with him. A great book.” —Booklist
“Scott Kelly’s saga is a deeply absorbing and vivid look at a year in space and the many trials and rigors of living weightless inside a football field-sized machine traveling at 17,000 miles per hour. But Endurance satisfies far more than the reader’s technological curiosities; it is replete with humor, thrills, surreal details, and recurring moments of ordinary humanity that turn Kelly’s tale into a loving tribute to the pioneering individuals who risk all to shepherd man’s exploration of the vast beyond.” —Khaled Hosseini, author of And the Mountains Echoed
“Read this book and you will believe in our American future, thrill at our human potential, and laugh at the absurdities of life. Endurance is about excellence and perspective, a memorable read.” —Senator Bill Bradley
“This isn’t your usual astronaut’s memoir.” —The Philadelphia Tribune
“Scott Kelly’s book is as close as I and most everyone else on Earth will ever get to experiencing the fascinating, complex, almost preposterously dangerous business of going into space. When I closed the covers, I felt like I had been out there. Endurance is an utterly gripping book that can stand comfortably in the company of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.” —Charles C. Mann, author of 1491
“Scott Kelly’s memoir of his year in space and all that preceded it is the real thing—honest, dramatic, illuminating, and simply riveting. With clear, compelling writing, he reveals the nature of space exploration, the current state of the space program, and the raw experience of leaving Earth as has no other book.” —T.J. Stiles, author of Custer’s Trials
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Kelly juxtaposed his life onboard the ISS for the year-long mission with how he became an astronaut and the events leading up to the year-long mission. This was told in alternating chapters: the time on the International Space Station was written in present tense while his autobiographical part was past tense. I liked that the chapters alternated, because it prevented me from getting too bored or bogged down with one storyline. Both parts I found fascinating. To become an astronaut is immensely difficult and I have always been curious how that happens, both the selection process and the training, since astronauts are the crème de la crème. Add to that when you discover that Scott Kelly was a horrible student and aimless during his school years; how did this man end up obtaining one of the most difficult jobs ever? And that he and his twin brother were selected at the same time? The chapters about the ISS were equally interesting. Learning about the difficulties of space station life, from the everyday actions of eating and dressing and sleeping to the challenging duties required of the astronauts, was enlightening and made me appreciate my easy life a whole lot more. I was amazed by what he goes through for launches and landings. His whole story is very inspiring.
I gave a five star rating, but the book is not perfect. Overall I found it well written. However (and some of this may change since I did read an ARC after all) there was some repetition in stories or descriptions, though that didn't bother me too much. Also, the book was sprinkled with curse words and some talk of crude things (like diapers and toilets on the ISS). Not too much, but a bit more than I expected. Again, this didn't bother me but it might bother others, or be a bit much for young readers. And I viewed the crude stuff as okay because I realized that it's a part of the everyday challenges in space.
So that was the good part of the book, and why I recommend it. What I didn't like was the impression I was left with about Scott Kelly himself, and some personal choices he made in the book. I was pre-disposed to like him, but walked away not liking him (dislike might be strong). What bothered me were his comments about his first wife, and not wanting to marry her; as well as subsequent negative comments about her. True or not, it really wasn't necessary to share this -- it had no connection to the rest of the story, and wasn't necessary for explaining their eventual divorce. I could only think of his daughters -- who aren't that old (the oldest was a teenager during the narrative) -- reading this. It may be true, but not something you want to read in print about your parents along with a million other people. (And his attempts as times to make positive comments about her seem really forced -- you can't un-ring a bell.) So he chose to share all of that, but then the Lisa Nowak matter is weirdly handled -- or not handled. She was a classmate, coworker, and someone he knew for a long time. He makes a couple comments about her being obsessive, and getting her moved to another flight team. But the books skips over a big period of time and conveniently does not address her "trip to Florida." It also does not cover his public comments in the aftermath regarding alcohol use among astronauts. Even if for some reason he (or the editor, or legal) didn't want to go into the entire saga, it's weird to pretend like it didn't happen given everything else that was covered. At least an acknowledgement of some kind would have made sense. At any rate, while the editorial decision about the omission might have been someone else's, the editorial decision about including such negative comments about his first wife were his.
His astronaut twin-brother Mark was the one whose wife (Gabby Giffords, AZ Representative) got shot by the maniac in AZ. He covers that too. The fact that Mark and Scott are both astronauts (and twins) is stranger than fiction, and I loved reading about how Scott became an astronaut, a storyline that alternates between his progress from childhood, his lapse of focus, his inspiration to get on track—all beautifully interwoven with his more recent recollection of past missions. One can learn a lot from this book, as well as simply sating one's curiosity about the glitz and glamour of being an astronaut, along with the loneliness, the physical toll and the sheer distance from everyone you love. Highly recommended! Space geeks will love it, but everyone can be inspired by this man's life and experience to-date.
I've also read biographies about Neil Armstrong and Alan Shepard. Reading Buzz Aldrin and Chris Hadfield next!