Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly
EnduranceA Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery is a memoir written by retired Navy pilot, astronaut, and human guinea pig Scott Kelly. He documents his unlikely path to becoming a fighter pilot and then going on to become one of the lengthiest space occupants ever (520 days).
The book takes the familiar structure of memoirs of this type: alternating chapters between flash back and 'present' tense. Present tense being Kelly's year long (340 days, close enough) stay on the International Space Station. Scott Kelly was one of two astronauts, the other being Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. Remember, we work up in space with those guys? Anyway.
The chapters dealing with his rise to fighter pilot status and eventual astronaut candidacy are necessary but laced with the "if I can do it, you can do it, you just have to put your mind to it" common in these triumphal narratives. He was not a good student, liked to screw around, but then read the "Right Stuff" (as one does) and decided to become an astronaut. This is all fine.
The book really shines when he describes life on the space station. It is not glamorous. Fixing the space shitter is a recurring event. (someone needs to build them a better shitter). And the constant threat of CO2 poisoning and NASA's inability to recognize the threat. The boredom. The homesickness. Missing weather, air, showers, human contact, gravity. How do you deal with a tragedy back home? His father as sick while in orbit. His sister-in-law Gabby Giffords was shot while he was in orbit. Dealing with these tragedies while looking down on the planet and unable to do anything at all is pretty unimaginable. It's only 250 miles up...
Recommended. p.s. I listened to the audio book narrated by the author. I think that's the right way to read this book.