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The Right Stuff

13 recommendations

Tom Wolfe Has Died

It is a brilliant book, especially his description of what he thought those poor chimpanzee astronauts were thinking and feeling.

CPAhem, over 4 years ago

Tom Wolfe Has Died

Read "The Right Stuff" for the first time recently. I didn't find myself particularly invested in the Mercury astronauts' story, but Wolfe's utterly delightful prose made it hard to pull away. Loved the mantra-like phrases that his writing would circle around: climbing the ziggurat, being left behind, single-combat warriors, the titular right stuff (among many others). Coupled with the fast-talking pace and the incredibly vivid language (waters "about as clear as the eyeballs of a poisoned bass!"), it almost read like poetry at times.

Oh, and the book was hilarious! It's rare that I find myself laughing out loud at literature, but Wolfe's descriptions were just so absurd and clever.

If you can find a torrent, I highly recommend Michael Prichard's Books on Tape recording. The quality is low but the narration is just exceptional.


archagon, over 4 years ago

Tom Wolfe Has Died

> it makes The Right Stuff seem like an amateur hour aviation book

I doubt that.

The Right Stuff is not simply a book about Yeager. And while Yeager is a fascinating and exciting man and truly a hero, Tom Wolfe is one of the greatest non-fiction stylists of the twentieth century. I would be very surprised if Chuck Yeager could write, or commission a ghost writer, with one tenth the chops of Tom Wolfe.

JackFr, over 4 years ago

Tom Wolfe Has Died

The Right Stuff --- one of my favorite books of all time.

dfsegoat, over 4 years ago

Tom Wolfe Has Died

I might start with 'The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby' which is a collection of his essays. The first chapter of 'The Right Stuff' is worth reading by itself. The rest of the book is fascinating but drags on a bit in the last third. My favorite is 'The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test'. I haven't gotten around to reading 'Bonfire of the Vanities' however so I can't really comment on that.

carbolite103, over 4 years ago

John Glenn has died

While not a replacement for book, 'The Right Stuff' the movie is a great movie.

Keyframe, almost 6 years ago

Managing your emotional state is fundamental to great design

This book might be worth checking out

stoddler, almost 7 years ago

Astronaut Selection

You might like to read The Right Stuff [1], the film is good too but the book goes into quite a bit of detail on how the astronauts were seen as representing the nation.


rjsw, almost 7 years ago

Books to Read in a Lifetime

Although I'd change some books (actually, quite a lot,) I'm positively surprised by some choices, with books you usually don't see in "best of" lists but which rank high in my personal preferences.

For science fiction I'd change Dune... Even though it's a great book and I like it (I even read Herbert Jr.'s sequels... spoiler: don't) I'd pick something "shinier." Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, or 2001: An Space Odissey... or go with the weird and pick Rendezvous with Rama. Or just Foundation. Sci-Fi-wise you can't go wrong with Foundation.

Ninja-edit: How could I forget The Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon? Written in the late 40s, I didn't give much for it as Sci-fi goes. I read it in one sitting. Ended with a headache, dizzy and hungry. It was well worth it.

For Murakami, I'd pick instead a relatively unknown book by him: Hard-boiled Wonderland and The End of The World. An inception-esque plot-inside-plot book, set in an almost Neuromancer-like setting. I love it.

For Dystopian... Even though I have not read The Giver, just classification-wise I'd have to pick Shades of Grey (Jasper Fforde's book, not to be confused with another, numbered, similarly named book.) It was a thrilling read (I think it's the best novel I've read in the past 3 or 4 years, but well, I don't read that much fiction lately), sadly part of a trilogy waiting to be finished. Beware: once you are done with the book you'd want to go to Britain and tie Fforde to his desk until he is done with the next book.

The books that surprised me though are incredibly well-spotted. I like that Guns, Germs and Steel is there. It's been on my reading list for... 3 years already (I have it, but it's a heavy book so I'm always eager to pick an ebook or thinner material for a commute,) because the theme is so compelling. The Right Stuff is not the usual book you see in a best-of list, but for me, it should be in all these lists. Heck, writing from it is used as example of good writing in On Writing Well (which is surprisingly a very good read).

The Long Goodbye, by Chandler. Chandler is great, period. Having one of his books in this lists validates other books I'd never consider... Even though you can't have a Chandler and don't have a Hammett. You can't go wrong with a book by Hammett, I'd probably pick The Maltese Falcon. A classic.

Of course, there are some books that I'd personally treat to a Bradbury process... Catcher in the Rye and On the Road are two books I was looking forward to reading (not being English-based meant I didn't get to read them on high school) and found dull. I guess read in a different context would have made it different, but I couldn't see all the praise. Personal opinion, though.

RBerenguel, over 8 years ago

ISS Commander Chris Hadfield Covers ‘Space Oddity’ in Space

When I was young, I just thought astronauts were lucky people who got to go to space. It wasn't until I got older and read through their bios (and such books as, The Right Stuff), that I realized they were actual uber-men/women...not only good at operating a space shuttle, but at a hundred other skills that may be needed when you're in space, including musical performances.

danso, over 9 years ago

Mercury-Redstone 1 - The four inch flight

I remember that scene from the book too.

Very dramatic with the Mercury Seven astronauts bravely considering the safety of the rockets they were to ride on. Indeed they had the "right stuff".

SlipperySlope, almost 10 years ago

Neil Armstrong, Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman

"The Right Stuff" by Tom Wolfe has quite a bit on this topic. The answer seems to be habitualizing or "adapting out" fear. According to the book, when John Glenn was launched into space for the first time, the situation was so familiar that his heart rate held at around 70bpm.

megafaunasoft, about 10 years ago

Ask HN: What have you changed your mind about recently?

NASA and the ability for a government program to be startup-like, as well as my impression that test pilots were selected only for bravado.

I'm reading Carrying The Fire, a book by the Gemini and Apollo astronaut Michael Collins. I was totally caught off-guard about how fast-paced, creative and generally entrepreneurial the early space program was. A common description of their working life was that people on a space mission put in insanely long hours because they were captivated by the long term vision and routinely made fun of other areas of the government where people were just punching the clock.

Even working with otherwise disagreeable folk was tolerated. Collins on learning that he'd have to work with John Young on Gemini 10:

"...besides, I would have flown by myself or with a kangaroo - I just wanted to fly. All that stuff about crew psychology compatibility is crap. Almost anyone can put up with almost anyone else for a clearly defined period of time in pursuit of a mutual object important to each."

Also, I thought test pilots were crazy people with a death wish, probably because of The Right Stuff. Turns out they practice a form of user-centered design and consider themselves as advocates for the end user (pilots in the field). It doesn't surprise me that the current field of HCI was born from the study of airplane cockpits. A joke in the book was about the true story of emergency instructions printed on the inside of a canopy - all the steps after the first one were completely unusable in the context of a real emergency because step #1 was to blast off the canopy.

alabut, almost 13 years ago

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