To accompany you in your journey to the stars, whether it be a literal or a figurative one.
1. The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut
If your only exposure to Kurt Vonnegut so far has been Slaughterhouse Five, I would honestly understand your lack of interest in reading more of his work. But I would seriously urge you to give him another go. This book is full of Vonnegut nuttiness and the kind of send-up of human folly and arrogance for which he is justifiably famous.
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
This book seems like the most obvious choice to accompany any space travel adventure, particularly if the dominant tone of such a trip is snark. But let’s not let its complete cultural assimilation (and rather sad film adaptation) get in the way of our enjoyment of it. There are many reasons why this book has been treasured for so long, just one of which is Marvin, the Paranoid Android.
3. The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin
Shevek, an eminent physicist from the anarchist planet of Anarres travels to Urras, a capitalist society, to study at a university and develop his theory of time. The book alternates between Shevek’s time on Urras and his life history back on Anarres. The books builds upon these two timelines to a surreal conclusion that demonstrates Ursula K. Le Guin’s supreme genius.
4. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
Set a century or so in the future, the book opens with the appearance of a massive alien shape ship (given the moniker Rama) in our solar system and follows the exploration of the ship by a group of scientists. The book is a bit of a slow burn, with relatively little climactic action, but is evocative in its description of the vastness and strangeness of a perfectly encapsulated alien world.
5. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
I recently reread this after many a conversation with E, who adores this book. Meg is such a little spark plug and who could not wish, after reading this book, to have an encounter with Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which? Throw in a tesseract for good measure.
6. The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
This book will thoroughly disturb you. At least, that was the effect it had on me. It’s composed of a series of loosely linked vignettes chronicling the colonization of Mars and the encounters between humans and Martians. One of my favourite pieces from the collection is “The Martian,” which tells the haunting story of a couple, recently immigrated to Mars, who lose their son only to have him reappear, alive, one night.