What One Book: Magic

We know you love the old “let’s pull the rabbit out of the hat” trick, but it’s time to move on to more advanced deceptions. As always, we gather a panel of experts to recommend books on a specific topic. We questioned magic practitioners and historians of the field to give you a sense of what’s possible in your own world–and what may be pure illusion.


What One Book – The U.S. Space Program

courtesy of Bookmarks Magazine

The following experts recommend books, fiction and non-fiction alike, for those of you who plan to colonize another planet – or just want to read about it.

Roger D. Launius


Roger D. Launius is chair of the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Between 1990 and 2002, he served as chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He has written or edited more than 20 books on aerospace history, including Critical Issues in the History of Spaceflight (2006); Space: A Journey to Our Future (2004); Imagining Space: Achievements, Possibilities, Projections, 1950-2050 (2001); and Frontiers of Space Exploration (1998; 2004).

Probably the most sophisticated application of an exploration imperative to spaceflight, this book by the premier American space scientist of the latter 20th century lays out a rationale for human colonization of the solar system. Sagan believes we should leave this planet because we can. He writes that as far as we know, this is the first time that a species has become able to journey to the planets and the stars. Our leverage on the future is high just now.

In his significant analysis of the close relationship between popular culture and public decisions in space-flight, McCurdy finds that while spaceflight seems to be generally popular with Americans, it is not a high priority for most. He shows how closely the dominant trends in science fiction literature and film, as well as public perceptions, reinforce actual events in spaceflight and fundamentally affect public support. While a close relationship during the 1950s and 1960s between reality and perceptions created an expectation that supported the lunar landing program, the paths of public perceptions and actual events have diverged since then.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book analyzes the race to the moon in the 1960s. McDougall asserts that Apollo prompted the space program to stress engineering over science, competition over cooperation, civilian over military management, and international prestige over practical applications. Juxtaposing the American effort of Apollo with the Soviet space program and the dreams of such designers as Sergei P. Korolev to land a Soviet cosmonaut on the moon, McDougall explains how the United States recreated the same type of command technocracy that the Soviets had instituted in its effort to reach the moon.