Ladies and gentlemen, this man is floating in space

Yuri Gagarin may have been the first man in space, but his trip was shrouded in mystery, and the cosmonaut himself died (under mysterious circumstances) a few years later; there’s still a great deal we don’t know about his voyage. That makes Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony’s biography of Gagarin especially valuable, and utterly fascinating.

Starman first came out in the U.K., in 1998; this revised edition, published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight, marks the book’s first appearance in the U.S. (where it has already provoked a fair bit of controversy). The wait was worth it. Gagarin had a short but fascinating life, and Doran and Bizony’s gripping, thoroughly researched biography is also a history of the Soviet space program (without which the story of America’s own space program makes a lot less sense). And because the age of space exploration seems to be ending, their book is also something of a eulogy.

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Ladies and gentlemen, this man is floating in space