One Giant Leap…

Fifty years ago, today, man walked on the moon.

buzz aldrin vintage GIF by US National Archives

So put down the mini computer that you hold in your hand and just think how mind-blowing it is that FIFTY years ago two men walked on the moon.

People designed and built a machine to keep men alive in space. People figured out all the crazy variables involved in space flight. People did this at their 9-5 job in a time before:

  • soft contact lenses
  • airbags
  • 9-1-1

They put man on the moon and brought them home…alive! That one step is proof scientists, mathematicians, engineers, pilots, and explorers can accomplish anything. Apollo 11 .

I had planned to share reviews on four stories to celebrate the anniversary of the lunar landing. I managed to get Hidden Figures and The Martian up on the site. I am still reading the other two! And these reviews will be up soon. (A Man on the Moon is 600 pages long. This will take time.)

Keep reading. Keep learning. And keep striving to branch out and explore all the world, and space beyond, has to offer. Happy reading!

Lindsay

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Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures
by Margot Lee Shetterly

The #1 New York Times Bestseller. Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program. Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘coloured computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets and astronauts, into space. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the women’s rights movement, ‘Hidden Figures’ interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world. 

NOTE: There will (hopefully) be four books reviewed this week. Each will cover either the space race or the future of space travel. I wanted to start the week with Hidden Figures. It just seemed like the perfect book as it covers the development of NASA’s predecessor, NACA, and the unique people behind the aeronautical advancements from WWII to the 1960s. Enjoy!

Hidden Figures has been on my TBR since the day it came out. I love the history of NASA, I love reading about science, and I enjoy reading the achievements of a semi-forgotten group of people. It was my type of book! And yet…I hadn’t picked it up and finished it until last weekend. Why? A few things:

1. I was worried it would turn into a history of the Civil Rights movement. There is nothing wrong with that topic, but I wanted what the book promised…super smart women doing amazing things!

2. I was worried it would be an unintelligible information dump. This is a valid worry. So many nonfiction stories are ruined because the story is downed by a sea of data.

3. And lastly….I’ve really been struggling to read nonfiction. This year seems to be my comeback!

I should have read Hidden Figures a long time ago. It was great! These women were absolutely amazing! Shetterly’s book was informative without being overwhelming; it was incredibly organized and flowed for a perfect read. The story discusses the impact of many women but focused on three central computers, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine G. Johnson, and their contributions at NACA/NASA.

The most impactful aspect of Hidden Figures was how these women tackled their social hurdles in the same calm and professional manner they approached their work. My biggest worry was Hidden Figures would quickly become an expose on the Civil Rights movement; however, Shetterly just delivered the facts in a seamless documentation of extraordinary lives. These women managed their work, the raising of their children, the push for equal education, and the impact of the Civil Rights movement on their daily activities with a stoic determination. They steady broke down social barriers while diligently working to build up their community. They were ‘just doing their job’ and the humility and kindness of these women cover these pages.

Hidden Figures was meticulously organized and written in an easy to understand style, but it was also dry. The story was engaging and I couldn’t put it down, but I felt that a little extra time spent on developing a showing instead of telling style would only draw readers deeper into the lives of these computers. Her writing just wasn’t strong, but I see her quickly developing into an excellent nonfiction author. Also, I mentioned earlier how Shetterly fluidly mixed details of the Civil Rights movement in seamlessly with all other aspects of the women’s lives. But, this wasn’t necessarily the case during the last few chapters, where we read of Katherine’s involvement with calculating the reentry of John Glenn’s orbital flight. The information was quickly presented before Shetterly transitioned to the negative social responses to the cost of the space program and the lament over the lack of an African-American astronaut. Valid points, but I was craving more details concerning Katherine’s personal experience with the Mercury flight. I was hoping to hear if she felt apprehensive, or even proud of her contribution. And it just wasn’t there. This is thankfully the only negative thoughts I have on Hidden Figures.

I have yet to see the movie, but will be watching it later this week. It seems as if the movie combines decades of segregation and racial tension and presents them as all occurring during the Mercury-Atlas 6 flight…which was not in the book. I just hope it is an accurate representation of how these women overcame social hurdles with intelligence, grace, and poise.

Hidden Figures was a wonderful book that left me feeling hopeful and inspired. The brilliance of Dorothy, Katherine, and Mary has pushed me to learn more about other scientific achievements. Let me know what you thought of Hidden Figures!

Lindsay

Space!

I had no intention of doing another theme week until September, but then I realized the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing is in just one week!

Guys….I love mystery stories. I love historical nonfiction. But your girl is the biggest fangirl/nerd when it comes to aviation and space exploration history! I mean…I fly an airplane build in this late 40s…I used to work at an aviation museum (dream job!)…I watched the last night launch of the Space Shuttle! I had to read all the books, and then of course share them with you!

lift off space GIF by US National Archives

The next week is going to include a great selection of nonfiction and fiction, and I am so excited to be sharing it with you! Please hit me up with your favorite books on this topic. I definitely need to add more to my library.

excited anna kendrick GIF

Lindsay

Bookish Facts

Bookish Fact #6: My dad made me a history lover.

I am lucky in that both of my parents are readers. My mom prefers fiction and reads a lot of mysteries. My dad loves historical nonfiction. My mom may have been the driving force behind my love of reading, but Dad was just as influential on my reading tastes.

We only had one TV growing up, and evenings meant watching things together as a family. The channels were often tuned to a baseball game or some random educational program (How stuff Works, Myth Busters). Dad’s favorite was The History Channel…back went the programming was actually about history.

His favorites were the history of the military, baseball, the space race, industry, and of course aviation. (I happily admit that I adore all these topics as well) We went to museums as a family on a regular basis. He’s sat through hours of me retelling my lessons learned in my college history courses. And to this day he still calls me with book recommendations and requests.

My parents are the reason my nieces and nephews get books for gifts, because can anything really beat the gift of a good story? Have your parents, or some other awesome person, influenced your reading this way? Please share!

Lindsay