Book Review: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

Book: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
Author: Chris Hadfield
Number of pages: 295
Price: Rs. 599

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield, one of the most seasoned and accomplished astronauts in the world, is a warm and engaging tale of Hadfield’s years of training and exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. Most of us will never make it into space, but the book provides a refreshing perspective of life on Earth. The secret to his success is an unconventional philosophy he learned at NASA: prepare for the worst — and enjoy every moment of it.

Hadfield, in the very beginning, reveals that he wasn’t destined to be an astronaut. He had to turn himself into one. The book reads somewhat like a biography of his professional life, tracing his childhood and adult life, in the backdrop of space exploration. It is candid, revealing and intense. For most part, it decodes the life of an astronaut, a profession and a way of life that a lot of us are not very familiar with. And in those pages lie hidden several gems of wisdom, which Hadfield himself incorporated in his life, successfully.

The most compelling lines read as follows on pages 28-29:
“An astronaut is someone who’s able to make good decisions quickly, with incomplete information, when the consequences really matter. I didn’t miraculously become one either, after just eight days in space. But I did get in touch with the fact that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. I still had a lot to learn, and I’d have to learn it the same place everyone learns to be an astronaut: right here on Earth.”

The Contents page is a fair indication of the tone of things to come, specifically in the Pre-Launch Section:

  • The Trip Takes a Lifetime
  • Have an Attitude
  • The Power of Negative Thinking
  • Sweat the Small Stuff
  • The Last People in the World
  • What’s the Next Thing That Could Kill Me?

Climbing Down the Ladder (in a later section) is my favorite chapter. Hadfield reflects on the importance of “avoiding being derailed by the big shiny moments that turn other people’s heads. You have to figure out for yourself how to enjoy and celebrate them, and then move on.” He also stresses on the need for a longer-term view of the environment, having seen our planet from afar, and the personal obligation to be a good steward of Earth.

Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is a brilliant read. It is refreshing, inspiring and revealing. Savor it. A lot of what he abides by is also elementary knowledge. It is stuff that we are often told to do or keep in mind. But he packages all those nuggets of wisdom into a compelling read. It could have read like a dry biography, but it doesn’t. I’m extremely glad that I read this book. You should too.

Learn more about An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.

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