Recent Reads: An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth
Very rarely do I read a self-help book and find myself quoting them. Even rarer, I put the writer's advice to use. Not to say I don’t enjoy self-help books, they happen to be a very guilty pleasure of mine. My library is littered with popular titles such as You are a Bad Ass by Jen Sincero and Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight. Still, while I read them often they never really sit in my head for very long. Nor do I really put effort into adding their advice to my life. That is until I read the An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth by Colonel Chris Hadfield.
I initially picked up this book as a present for my fiancee thinking it was a biography about a man both of us would have an interest in, an accomplished astronaut. I quickly realized that this was no ordinary biography if you could even group it into that genre. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a genre that this title fits into perfectly because it is this takes on so many different forms, almost like a metamorphic alien book. At its core, it is a hybrid of biography and self-help. It also nears the teases the border of being a behind the scenes look at NASA, a career advice handbook (applicable to any career) and 300-page dad lecture manifesto all rolled into one.
While most reviews on this book start with “I am a NASA nut…” I honestly can say that is NOT me. I have an interest in space and NASA as an organization but not a but by any means. In fact, this book was my first look at what it actually is like to be an astronaut. Spoiler alert - it’s hard. But the way Hadfield writes, he perfectly captures the passion and love he has for the job along with many other astronauts he has worked with along the way. Hadfield writes about the triumphs he had and the seemingly endless amount of time he put into preparing for the possible, endless failures. His quote and question “what will kill me next?” is something I have adopted and use in a metaphorical sense when dealing with the daily stresses and pressures of adulting. He eloquently and concisely pinpoints the demands of being an astronaut in a way that feels relatable even if you don’t have a background in rocket science. But be warned, like any dad lecture, this book can be repetitive, but perhaps that is why I am finally taking something away from a self-help(ish) book.
I think what makes this book, so unique to a reader like me is the humble attitude he has towards himself and those in his field. He does not paint himself to be the hero or a great explorer of the universe. He is a Canadian man, who won a professional lottery after years of diligence and duty and paints himself as a civil servant. Here is a man, who has lived in space and continues to reckons himself as an ordinary person but he isn’t, and neither is his book. An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth has quickly turned into a favorite of mine that I continue to recommend to friends and family in all stages of life. I have suggested it to my friend who is in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, to my mom who is still grieving the loss of my dad, the girl next to me on the plane who forgot her diabetes medicine and now, you.