What do you get for the budding astronomy enthusiast in your life? A good book about outer space is the answer, and here are 21 smart options, ranging from the classics to books for kids. Deck the halls — and deck the bookshelves with these gift options.

The essentials

"A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawkin

You can't go wrong with any book by Stephen Hawking, but "A Brief History of Time" is considered to be an essential on every space enthusiast's bookshelf. Hawking excels at explaining very complicated topics in understandable ways. For anyone who has ever wondered where the universe came from, this is an excellent place to start.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan"Cosmos" by Carl Sagan

This stellar tome accompanied the original PBS show of the same name and went on to become a bestseller. As with Hawking, Sagan is responsible for several books about space that will amaze.

"The Day We Found the Universe" by Marcia Bartusiak

Those interested in the history of space science will enjoy this book which discusses the time in the mid-twentieth century when our perception of the universe changed. Heavy hitters discussed in the text include the men and women responsible for shaping our understanding of our expanding universe.

"The Right Stuff" by Tom Wolfe

This is a must-read for those interested in the space race and the first astronauts. The book is as entertaining as it is well-researched and enlightening.

Hot topics

"Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void" by Mary Roach

This book combines humor with science. The book is full of facts, wry and not shy at all about discussing the more personal aspects of lengthy space travel.

Astronaut's Guide to Life On Earth"An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" by Colonel Chris Hadfield

Everyone’s favorite Canadian astronaut and YouTube star brings us an honest and compelling book about life on the ISS as well as life back on Earth. Just as Hadfield entertains and educates in his many videos, so too does he in his book.

"Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity's Chief Engineer" by Robert Manning and William L. Simon

Who doesn't love that adorable rover? This is for people who are interested in how we managed to build, transport and land such a capable and curious Mars-exploring robot.

"The Science of Interstellar" by Kip Thorne

This one is a perfect gift for fans of Christopher Nolan’s 2014 sci-fi hit or of Kip Thorne’s aptitude for relaying the finer points of theoretical physics in laymen's terms.

"How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming" by Mike Brown

This one is for the fans of the former ninth planet who are still coping with the solar system’s loss. This book also explores the life of an astronomer.

"Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries" by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Not only does this book offer information on the nature of the universe, but it explains what might happen in certain situations: for example — as the title suggests — what would happen if you tempted fate in outer space.

Coffee table books

Universe in a Nutshell

"The Universe in a Nutshell" by Stephen Hawking

This book is both a nice introduction to complex ideas as well as a stunning addition to any scientific library or coffee table.

Expanding Universe: Photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope" by Owen Edwards and Zoltan Levay

This is a great gift for Hubble fans and people who like to get lost in space photography. Flip through page after page of mesmerizing deep space images.

"The Space Book" by Jim Bell

This stunning reference piece chronologically explains our universe, giving one page to each main event, object or theory with a corresponding photo on the opposite page. It would do well on the coffee table or in your personal reference section.

"Planetfall: New Solar System Visions" by Michael Benson

The solar system is shown a lot of love in this ideal coffee table book full of magnificent images of the planets and their moons.

For kids

"National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space" by Catherine D. Hughes (author) and David A. Aguilar (illustrator)

Ages: 4-6

This is a handy book for kids expressing interest in the solar system. It’s chock full of interesting, fun facts and will serve as a reference for aspiring scientists.

"There's No Place Like Space!: All About Our Solar System" by Tish Rabe (author) and Aristides Ruiz (illustrator)

Ages: 4-8

The Cat in the Hat, among other memorable Dr. Seuss characters, travels to the eight planets on a colorful adventure sure to engage even the youngest of astronomers.

Star Stuff"Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos" by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Ages 4-8

This picture book introduces kids to a young Carl Sagan as he is, himself, inspired by science and the stars.

"Space: A Visual Encyclopedia" by DK Publishing

Ages: 7-10

This reference book provides an exemplary and detailed guide for smart kids with questions about the universe. They will learn about space while flipping though gorgeous photos.

"Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet" by Buzz Aldrin and Marianne Dyson

Ages: 8-12

Mars might be cold, but it's a hot topic. The Red Planet holds a special fascination for the generation that might see humans traveling to Mars. Co-authored by space hero Buzz Aldrin, this book will show kids what life as a Martian might be like.

Honorable mentions

"The Martian" by Andy Weir

While a work of fiction, "The Martian" includes so much information about space travel and Mars, that it earns its place on this list. It’s ideal for someone who loves a great adventure story, fun characters, witty dialogue and learning about the intricacies of survival on the Red Planet.

"Contact" by Carl Sagan

It’s hard to talk about great space books without mentioning "Contact." It’s an inspirational story with a beautiful message and has surely turned many readers into space enthusiasts.

Whether you pick up these books as gifts for a loved one or for yourself, you’re sure to have a merry and educational holiday season. Goodnight, moon!

21 great books about space
Holiday gift ideas for future astronauts and solar system aficionados.