Yes, you read the title correctly. This is indeed an autobiography of our galaxy, and yes, it is nonfiction. The Milky Way’s debut book—a creative, humorous and enormously entertaining one at that—comes to us earthlings via Dr. Moiya McTier, who studied both mythology and astronomy at Harvard before earning her Ph.D. in astrophysics at Columbia University.
The galaxy begins its life story this way: “Take a look around you, human. What do you see? Actually, don’t answer that. Why would I bother listening to you when I know you’ll get it wrong?” The Milky Way, it seems, is rather a stuck-up know-it-all. (Superior, omniscient, haughty—perhaps a bit like your cat. As Dr. McTier explains in the acknowledgements, whenever she needed to get into the Milky Way’s voice, she would look at her cat, Kosmo.) Although, once you stop to think about things from our galaxy’s perspective, it’s easy to see why. After all, the Milky Way is more than 13 billion Earth years old and home to more than 100 billion stars. Impressive, to say the least.
And that’s just the beginning. In chapters covering its early years, growing pains, constellations and modern myths, the Milky Way details a page-turning life story, full of drama (massive black holes!), major changes (the death of stars!) and tumultuous relationships with neighboring galaxies, such as Andromeda. It is quite adept at explaining complex scientific concepts to us (vastly more ignorant) humans, but the most surprising aspect of this book is that the Milky Way has a buoyant sense of humor, as well as a passion for “inspiring others.”
As with any translation from another tongue, readers may marvel at the role of the translator in creating a book that is both informative and truly inspirational. Here, it’s clear Dr. McTier has harnessed the sense of marvel she felt as a child, when she imagined the sun and moon as celestial parents who watched over her and talked to her on a regular basis. That childlike wonder, combined with her expertise in mythology and astronomy, makes her the perfect human to assist in telling this story.
At any rate, since the Milky Way took the time to help us all understand more about our universe, it would be only polite to put this highly recommended title at the top of your reading list.