Reading in Astronomy

by John P. Pratt
©1998 by John P. Pratt. All rights Reserved.

Astronomy Home Page


There are several good books on practical astronomy available. Those listed here are not on modern astrophysics, but rather about how to go out and actually see the stars and know what you're seeing.

Elementary School Level

van Cleave, Janice. Constellations for Every Kid (New York: Wiley & Sons, 1997). Excellent introduction to stars and constellations. Wonderful illustrations, fun activities, great for home school. Good introduction for adults also. Softback, about $13.00.

Jr. High School Level

Kanipe, Jeff, A Skywatcher's Year (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1999). Also a good general introduction to astronomy, without even needing binoculars. Jr. High to adult level. Some pictures.

High School Level

Berman, Bob. Secrets of the Night Sky (NY: Harper Perenniel, 1995). A fun, really well written introduction to interesting facts and lore about the sky. It covers planets to galaxies, even touching on black holes and in an interesting fashion that will be instructive to both novice and experts. I couldn't put it down but had to read the whole thing. Would be great for homeschooling, being interesting and understandable. It is not, however, a comprehensive text covering all the constellations or even all the introductory principles of astronomy. It is more of a selection of interesting topics. Softback, about $15.00

Golden Books, Sky Guide (New York: Golden Books, 1990). Excellent field guide with all introductory info needed. Covers equipment, stars, constellations, nebulae, galaxies. Great start charts and super-well illustrated. This was the companion book to the college astronomy course I taught. Softback, about $14.00.

Muirden, James, Astronomy With Binoculars (New York: Crowell Publishers, 1979). An introduction to general observing, including sun, moon, planets, comets, meteors, and lists of good objects to see in binoculars in the constellations. Many clusters and even some galaxies are visible in binoculars; they are not small, they are just dim. That means they don't need the high magnification of a telescope, they only need high light gathering power of the large binocular lenses.

Aveni, Anthony. Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico (Austin, Texas: U. of Texas Press, 1980). A great introduction to ancient astronomy of Mexico, complete with all the astronomy needed to understand the principles.

Not Recommended

Rey, H. A. "The Stars, A New Way to See Them". Rey must have been the star of his class at following the dots, and has come up with great ways to actually see the constellations. The problem is he totally ignores the classical figures and both ruins the symbolism of the stars as well as makes it difficult to refer to a star by its position in the constellation.