Centre for Exoplanet Science Book Club

The aim of the book club is to read and discuss books that feature thought-provoking portrayals of exoplanet environments (and, very often, extra-terrestrial life). In discussing these works, we can learn from each other as well as from the books – they might even give us some ideas for our own research.

All members are welcome to join at any time! We meet about four times a year. If you have questions connected to the Book Club, or to be added to the email list, please contact Emma Puranen ([email protected]).

ResoluteReader: Naomi Mitchison - Memoirs of a Spacewoman

‘Memoirs of a Spacewoman’

Our next read is ‘Memoirs of a Spacewoman’ by Naomi Mitchison, about a communications expert as she travels around the galaxy and encounters various aliens.

Our meeting will take place on Thursday 6 April 2023, 3:00-4:00pm on MS Teams.

Project Hail Mary By Andy Weir Book Review - Book and Film Globe

‘Project Hail Mary’

Our next book was ‘Project Hail Mary’ by Andy Weir.

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

Or does he?’ (from Goodreads).

Our meeting took place on Tuesday 1 December 2022, 3:30-4:30pm on MS Teams.

A Door into Ocean - Wikipedia

‘A Door Into Ocean’

Our next book was ‘A Door Into Ocean’ by Joan Slonczewski.

A ground-breaking work both of feminist SF and of world-building hard SF, A Door Into Ocean concerns the Sharers of Shora, a nation of women on a distant moon in the far future who are pacifists, highly advanced in biological sciences, and who reproduce by parthenogenesis–there are no males–and tells of the conflicts that erupt when a neighboring civilization decides to develop their ocean world, and send in an army.’ (from Goodreads).

Our meeting took place on Tuesday 3 August 2022, 2-3pm on MS Teams.

‘The Three-Body Problem’

Our next book was ‘The Three-Body Problem’ by Liu Cixin (translated by Ken Liu).

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion.‘ (from Goodreads).

Our meeting took place on Tuesday 19 April 2022, 6-7pm on MS Teams.

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem


Our first book of the 2021-22 school year was ‘Solaris’ by Stanisław Lem.

‘Solaris’ follows a crew of human scientists at a research station on an ocean world, and their attempts to communicate with an alien the size of the planet. ‘Solaris’ is an essential read for anyone interested in questions about extraterrestrial intelligence, how one might recognise it and its biosignatures, and how one might communicate with it.
‘Solaris’ is translated from Polish, and the recommended translation is by Bill Johnston.

Our meeting took place on Tuesday 16 November 2021, 7–8pm on MS Teams.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

‘To Be Taught, If Fortunate’

The next book we read was ‘To Be Taught, If Fortunate’ by Becky Chambers (2019).
From Goodreads:   “In her new novella, author Becky Chambers imagines a future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves. At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations.”

Our meeting took place Tuesday 15 June 2021, 7–8pm on MS Teams.

The Left Hand of Darkness

‘The Left Hand of Darkness’

The third book we read was ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ by Ursula K Le Guin (1969).
From Goodreads: “Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world,
‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.”

Our meeting took place Tuesday 6 April 2021, 7–8pm on MS Teams.

Contact by Carl Sagan


The second book we read was ‘Contact’ by Carl Sagan (1985).
‘Contact’ is a classic that deals with the consequences – social, political, and scientific – of what happens when humanity receives a message from an intelligent extraterrestrial civilization.

Our meeting took place Tuesday 9 February 2021, 7–8pm on MS Teams.

Book Club Lunchtime Meeting Event – Dr Paul March-Russell

Dr Paul March-Russell, the editor of the journal Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, joined us on 1 February 2021 to talk about science and science fiction: “Found in Space: Female Space Exploration in Contemporary SF”.

Recording of the lunch talk by Paul March-Russell.

A list of the book titles that were mentioned in the talk:
Iain M. Banks, The Player of Games;
Becky Chambers, A Closed and Common Orbit;
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice;
Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness;
Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon and Binti;
Namwali Serpell, The Old Drift;
Tade Thompson, Rosewater.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson


The first book we read was ‘Aurora’ by Kim Stanley Robinson (2015).
It is about a generation ship traveling to Tau Ceti, and is narrated by the ship’s Artificial Intelligence.

Our first meeting took place on Tuesday 1 December 2020, 7-8pm on MS Teams.