The Space Shuttle: A Mission-by-Mission Celebration of NASA’s Extraordinary Spaceflight Program by Roland Miller

“Sumptuous” is an adjective too often used to describe beautifully produced books, so, though that word does in fact describe The Space Shuttle, let’s instead call it “stellar.” The author has been interested in the space program since the Mercury missions, but it was only after moving to South Florida after the first space shuttle, Columbia, launched, in 1981, that he became fully entranced in recording—in his words and with pictures supplied by NASA—all 135 flights, the last one having taken place in 2011. Especially moving, of course, are Flights 025, in 1986, when those aboard the Challenger never made it into space, and Flight 113, in 2003, when its crew members died on re-entry. Yet the reader leaves this book with a deep sense of awe about the program itself and what it accomplished in helping us to better understand what is above us.

World Citizen: Journeys of a Humanitarian by Jane Olson

It takes a special kind of person to leave her husband and three children in 1984 to visit Nicaragua on a humanitarian mission, but, luckily, Jane Olson had an understanding family. In the ensuing decades, Olson has traveled from her home in Pasadena to every imaginable spot riven by violence and war, always as someone seeking to help and understand and chronicle what she sees. World Citizen proves what a remarkable and perceptive writer she is, recording the tales of those who have suffered so much. These stories are as much about survival and optimism as they are about tragedy, and Olson is a superlative witness, whose empathy is such that “at times, I experienced a tangible energy that connected me with those I meant to help, until caregiver and victim became one.”

The West Wing and Beyond: What I Saw Inside the Presidency by Pete Souza

This is the ultimate behind-the-scenes book, and no one is better suited to photograph and write it than Pete Souza, who was the official White House photographer for Barack Obama. He has already had a best-seller in Obama: An Intimate Portrait, and so most of the pictures here are about the people who make the White House run, whether it be groundskeepers (including a beekeeper!) or Secret Service agents or the stewards who make the president his lunch. Souza captures them all at work, often in a frenzy, and his eye for detail makes this volume better than a White House tour itself.

World Citizen and The West Wing and Beyond are available at your local independent bookstore, on Bookshop, and on Amazon. The Space Shuttle will be available beginning November 8