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 in a lot of cases also extraterrestrial 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 will be meeting about once every two months in the evening.
If you have questions connected to the Book Club, please contact Emma Puranen.

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem


Our Centre for Exoplanet Science Book Club is back this semester – we start off by reading ‘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 were reading 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 were reading 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 were reading 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.