Reading Wednesday: The Ordinary Spaceman by Clayton C. Anderson

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAlright folks, it’s our first Reading Wednesday review! It’s an exciting time. Especially because yesterday, I was contacted by a publisher to do a review for a YA novel and received a free copy. That is great news for me! Of course I was more than happy to oblige and that review will be up in the future.

For my first Reading Wednesday review, I’ll start with The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut by Clayton C. Anderson, which I recently read. This memoir caught my eye at the new non-fiction section of the library, and I thought how cool! Every kid dreams of being an astronaut at some point and here’s a guy who actually went on to do it. I had high hopes for the book given the subject matter along with the promise of humor.

However, to be honest, the book fell flat for me, and I was disappointed. The word I would use to describe it as best is okay. Anderson begins his book with the promise to keep things fun and interesting as he goes on to describe his life. Maybe I don’t understand the writer’s sense of humor or writing style, but it seemed a bit chaotic and incoherent. Additionally, the attempt to “keep things interesting” detracted from the emotional depth this book could have possessed. Anderson applied 15 times to become an astronaut before he was accepted. What an amazing feat! However, he goes over this rather fast in my opinion, and I didn’t feel as emotionally invested as I should or as motivated to persevere. What could have been one of the most inspiring lessons of the book was skimped over for the sake of comedy and entertainment.

Others parts of the book perturbed me. For example, Anderson goes out of his way to tell us how much he loves his wife and how devoted he is to her and God. Then he goes on to comment on the level of physical attraction possessed by every woman introduced to us subsequently. The juxtaposition was strange and unnerving. Furthermore, he begins a chapter by describing people with influence, making the statement that astronauts had influence. I thought how nice. He’ll say something about all the good astronauts are doing in the world or something. Nope. Instead he talked about them all going down to Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, flashing bouncers, and watching porn. This actually infuriated me. It made me mad that these people of such high caliber acted in so poor of taste. These aren’t exactly the kind of people I want having influence or using money from my tax dollars. Such is life, right. All in all, the objectification displayed by Anderson and his peers to women, particularly in this chapter, disturbed me.

I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, go ahead and call me one of the crazy feminists. I could care less.

There were parts of the book that I did enjoy however! I honestly did not realize how few astronauts there are. I didn’t know anything about the process of becoming an astronaut and it was actually one of the more interesting parts of the book, which again I wish had been described more. The training and then living on the space station was cool as well and informative. My favorite part was the chapter From Russia, With Love since I speak Russian and lived there for a year. It was probably the only section that emitted a genuine laugh from me, and I appreciate Anderson’s portrayal of the Russian language and culture.

My final conclusion, if you’re looking for something informative, entertaining, and different then this might be for you. If you want something emotional, motivating, and awe-inspiring, which is what I was after, then this is probably not it. At least, I wasn’t able to find it here. Kudos to you if you did!

Editor’s Note: So I guess Mr. Anderson decided to post this on Twitter though I’m not quite sure why. Needless to say that I’ve received some backlash from his fans. Naturally, everyone is focused on one part of the review and I think you can guess which. Everyone is entitled to their opinion of course. I would like to clarify that I don’t think Anderson is a bad person. I was simply confused by the way he decided to portray himself, found it strange, and did not like it. Period. The book was not my cup of tea. And you can’t expect to publicly publish written work and not have it and yourself scrutinized, just as I have opened myself up to both praise and scrutinization by writing this blog.


4 thoughts on “Reading Wednesday: The Ordinary Spaceman by Clayton C. Anderson

  1. I’m real proud of Mr. Anderson and the honesty in his book. Astronauts are human, after all, they have flaws, they make mistakes like the rest of us. This book destroys the untouchable, robot-like view we had of the atsronauts of the Apollo era. So he eyed up some topless girls, so what? He’s human. I wonder, if the book had been about a female astronaut who wrote about ogling male strippers and/or watching porn would that infuriate you too. Or the same feminist double standard at work, hmm?


    1. Thanks for the comment, Claire! The great thing about literature is that we’re all entitled to different opinions. I personally didn’t know much about astronauts before reading this book, so the book more helped form an image more than dispelling one. To answer your question, if the roles were reversed and this were a female, I would hold the same distaste. As a wife and a Christian, I believe fidelity in both thought and deed is super important. I’m by no means a prude and I don’t expect anyone to be perfect, but felt the description he gave of himself and his actions did not match and went unresolved. I felt confused by the message he was trying to send. The book was just not my cup of tea.


  2. Hello! Calling all “geeks!” ;0)

    First, thanks to the “geeking goddess” for taking a chance on The Ordinary Spaceman! I appreciate it greatly.

    Second, so sorry you didn’t thoroughly enjoy it. I wanted to reach out to you regarding your comments, to give you more of my perspective as a first-time author. I wrote the book primarily to provide information, via comedy and entertainment. There are lessons contained within its pages indeed, but my goal was to first to inform… in an entertaining way. Personally, I do not consider myself smart enough to specifically offer life lessons, e.g., perseverance. They are there of course, but it is left to the reader to discern what they may from the stories that present them.

    In addition, I love my wife dearly. Our trust in each other is immeasurable. But the stories of the young ladies were simply too good to be true! You can’t make that stuff up! Relating these larger than life incidents is meant to entertain, to let people know what being an astronaut was REALLY like.

    Regarding the chapter on influence (one of my favorite chapters of the book), astronauts do have it, in spades. The point of that chapter is not all astronauts use it appropriately (IMHO). You SHOULD be mad some of our nation’s heroes placed in this “high caliber” position behave as they do. It pisses me off still today. If the public only knew of the shenanigans that have gone/continue to go on. I am not perfect, but as I state in the book, I take the responsibility of role model very, very seriously.

    Again, my sincere thanks for taking the time to read my book! BTW, I had no ghost writer; it was just me.

    Clayton C. Anderson
    US Astronaut, Retired
    Author, “The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Clayton! First, I want to say that it is super cool that you’re reaching out, especially to a small time blogger such as myself. Thanks for being humble enough to take some criticism. Though your comment here really clears up for me many of the issues I had with the book! I just wish this had been explained this more clearly when I read it because I often felt unsure of what you were trying to say and how to respond. I’m an emotional reader and tend to judge a book by the author’s ability to evoke emotion out of me. So I guess your influence chapter had the desired effect! Again, I just didn’t know it at the time, otherwise my review might’ve been entirely different.

      If you decide to write and publish again, which I think you should, I will definitely read it. I’m always willing to try something twice. And like I said there were parts of it I enjoyed and it was immensely informative as I honestly had never thought about the life of an astronaut. I’d also love to see your growth in writing as a writer and reader myself.

      Thank you for your contributions to the scientific world and literary world, and for taking the time to write me!

      Bailey McGinnis


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