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Review: do we need another book about Apollo?

Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon
By David West Reynolds
Harcourt, 2002
Hardcover, 272 pp.
ISBN: 0151009643

The Apollo program is easily the most chronicled project in the short history of human spaceflight. Published works about Apollo range from chintzy coffee-table books to comprehensive, elegant tomes like Andrew Chaikin’s A Man on the Moon to astronaut autobiographies. These books have provided all types of perspectives on this program, from technology to policy to its lasting effect on those who traveled to the Moon. Apollo has been covered from almost every angle.

This, then, raises a question: do we really need another book about Apollo, particularly one that offers only a broad, general examination of the program? That question evidently didn’t cross the minds of the publishers at Harcourt, nor author David West Reynolds (whose previous books have focused on the science-fiction world of Star Wars). Their book, Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon, appears to cover much of the same ground as countless other books about Apollo. Nonetheless, Reynolds does a good job providing a good overview of the program.

At first glance it would be easy to dismiss Apollo as another coffee-table book, given its large dimensions (about 25 centimeters on a side) and its lavishly-illustrated interior. Unlike the typical coffee-table book, though, the text does not get short shrift: the book goes into considerable detail about not just Apollo but events leading up to it as well as later programs, notably Skylab. Also, Reynolds clearly did more than simply dig up photos from NASA’s archives to include in the book, as there are a number of original illustrations to help explain the program. The book does tend to focus more on the later, science-intensive Apollo missions, discussing then in greater detail than the earlier landings, even Apollo 11.

While Apollo is a cut above the typical coffee-table examination of Apollo, it’s not necessarily a book for you. Someone already familiar with Apollo will likely learn only a little by reading this book, and most of the images in the book will look familiar. However, as a gift for someone who wants to learn more about Apollo, Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon is as good a choice as any. Perhaps there is room for another book about Apollo.