Reading lists

Best books about the moon landing

It's 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their ‘giant leap for mankind’. Matt Blake recommends what to read to understand more about the greatest adventure in history.

Best books about moon landing |

Few stories have come to encapsulate American identity more powerfully than the Apollo moon landing of 1969. It had everything: a young president leading the nation to a new frontier, a shadowy Soviet rival hell-bent on beating him to the punch, the swashbuckling explorers themselves prepared to die in the dark for their nation (a fire two years earlier had killed the three men supposed to go instead), Neil Armstrong's heroic piloting, the most famous sentence ever spoken by a man and that photograph.

It was the perfect feel-good end to a lousy decade. JFK had been slain, and so had Martin Luther King - slowing an accelerating civil rights movement. There were race riots, urban decline, and of course, Vietnam. But for a single moment, on 20 July 1969, the world gazed upwards to focus on three men in a little rocket, and suddenly none of that seemed to matter.

Exactly half a century later, we're still talking about it, not least because – despite iPhones containing a million times more computing power than the NASA machines that launched Apollo 11 – only 10 humans in total have returned and no one has been at all since 1972.

But what's left to know about the most famous mission in the history of humankind? As it turns out, plenty. Below is a selection of books that shed new light on man's small step, including the remarkable story of Armstrong himself to the persistent tin hat conspiracies that it was all faked somewhere in a California studio.

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