That suave gentleman in the Dos Equis commercials might have some competition for the title of most interesting man in the world in Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut who achieved widespread popularity on social media after tweeting from the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this year. In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Hadfield discusses his career as an astronaut, from his early career as an air force test pilot to last year’s mission to the ISS.
Given Hadfield’s impressive resume (not to mention his musical proficiency, memorably demonstrated in his “Space Oddity” music video, set on the ISS, that went viral on YouTube last May), it’s really no surprise that he’s also a solid writer. His stories about his work as an astronaut—which includes three space flights as well as a stint as the director of operations for NASA at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center in Russia—are enthralling, as are his detailed descriptions of the minutiae of day-to-day life aboard the ISS.
The book is mostly memoir, but it’s also part motivational manual, although the latter is subtle and not preachy. “It’s puzzling to me that so many self-help gurus urge people to visualize victory, and stop there,” writes Hadfield; instead, his astronaut training advocates a different approach. “Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive.” And it’s clever how several of the chapters, with names such as “The Power of Negative Thinking”, invert popular self-help concepts.
Certainly, the tales of travelling by rocket are fascinating. But there are arguably few who are better qualified to discuss the merits of motivation and success than an astronaut with three space flights and 166 days in orbit under his belt. Hadfield’s deft pairing of astronaut anecdotes with his philosophies about life (on Earth and in space) makes An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth a rewarding read.