The Books Briefing: One Small Step That Opened a Lifetime of Wonder

One giant leap for literature: Your weekly guide to the best in books

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This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which revealed a new visual perspective of humans’ home planet, set in the deep suspension of a newly documented outer space. The fiction writer Don DeLillo incorporated that image into a short story, in which one character aboard an orbiting space station becomes transfixed by the look of Earth at a distance. The astronaut Chris Hadfield took thousands of photographs during his own, real-life orbit, which he published in a book for people who may never get to enjoy the same view.

Even before space travel became a reality, the imaginative looks at the galaxy in Francis Godwin’s and Margaret Cavendish’s 17th-century science fiction may have helped to inspire deeper exploration into the unknown. A novel by the security theorists Peter Singer and August Cole describes, in thrilling detail, how a war in space could play out. And Lorrie Moore’s short stories capture the oddity of human nature by imagining people as aliens.

Each week in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas. Check out past issues here.

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What We’re Reading

The view from the moon “satisfies every childlike curiosity”
“The planet ‘fills his consciousness,’ DeLillo writes, ‘the answer to a lifetime of questions and vague cravings.’”

📚 “Human Moments in World War III,” by Don DeLillo

The science fiction that came before science
“What makes these books fascinating is not just that they reflect the new science of the time, but that they demonstrate literature’s influence on scientific inquiry.”

📚 The Man in the Moone, by Francis Godwin
📚 The Blazing World, by Margaret Cavendish

Earth, as seen by an astronaut
“All we know of our civilization and history, everything from the Sphinx to what’s going on right now in Gaza, that’s all right there in one glance out of the window, brought to life by the lights of dusk. A fascinating part of the world to look at.”

📚 You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes, by Chris Hadfield

The aliens next door
“Moore’s particular genius lies in her ability to isolate in human relationships a current of inexplicable oddity as exotic as the strangest science fiction.”

📚 Birds of America, by Lorrie Moore
📚 A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore

The growing risk of a war in space
“It is not only science fiction … to suggest that the future of war could be offworld.”

📚 Ghost Fleet, by Peter Singer and August Cole

The Reference Desk

(New York Public Library)

Need more warm-weather (or for those in the Southern Hemisphere, cold-weather) reading suggestions? In search of the right poem for your reading at a wedding in the following months?

Write to the Books Briefing team at or reply directly to this email with any of your reading-related dilemmas. We might feature one of your questions in a future edition of the Books Briefing and offer a few books or related Atlantic pieces that might help you out.

About us: This week’s newsletter is written by Myles Poydras. The book at the top of his reading list is The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson.

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