Are you ready for the August 21st solar eclipse? Why not get ready by reading a story that features a solar eclipse as an important plot point? Or, you could read a nonfiction title about the history of eclipses. Whether you’re looking to learn or be entertained, we’ve got some recommendations for you!
Every Soul a Star (2008) by Wendy Mass
Every Soul a Star is an award-winning novel for children and young adults about three teenagers whose totally different lives intersect during a rare total solar eclipse. The book hops between the first person narration of overweight and unconfident Jack, beautiful and popular Bree, and homeschooled, science-minded Ally.
After failing science class, Jack’s teacher offers him the chance to be his assistant on an eclipse-viewing trip to Moon Shadow campground. At Moon Shadow, he meets the daughter of the campground caretakers, Ally, who loves her nature-saturated life in the Middle of Nowhere, USA. When model-esque, queen bee Bree arrives at camp with her astrophysicist parents, she and Ally learn that they’re going to be switching lives after the eclipse: Bree’s parents will stay at the campground to do research while Ally’s parents take their children to “civilization” to expose them to new cultural experiences. The girls are horrified and begin scheming up ways to stop the switch from happening.
After Jack’s teacher’s wife falls ill and leaves the campground, the three characters band together to continue his work. As their unexpected friendship grows, so does their confidence, sense of wonder, and contentment with their roles in the world.
American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World (2017) by David Baron
Interestingly, this book also follows three characters—though, this time, they’re American historical figures who grabbed their telescopes, headed West, and observed the 1878 total eclipse.
James Craig Watson was a “planet hunter” who wanted to prove the popular belief of his day: that there was another planet between the sun and Mercury that the science community dubbed “Vulcan”. Maria Mitchell was a leader of a woman’s college and astronomer who paved the way for many American women to study science. And Thomas Edison was an up-and-coming inventor who wanted to prove that his invention worked. Watson, Mitchell, and Edison’s work, including their observations of the eclipse, put the United States on the radar of the global science community.
In its starred review, Booklist said David Baron brilliantly presents “three larger-than-life figures intent on making their mark” while “transport[ing] us to a remarkable moment that brought a nation together to witness the wonders of the heavens.”
The Strain (2009) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
In this horror novel, Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro and crime novelist Chuck Hogan pair up to imagine what might happen during a solar eclipse–in a universe where vampires exist.
When the story opens, a plane arrives in New York City, touches down, and goes dark. Authorities force open the airplane door and discover all the passengers and crew but four are dead. One of the survivors, an attorney, threatens legal action, and the four survivors are released. Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather and his former colleague and lover, Dr. Nora Martinez, are called in to examine the bodies. They find no disease. They do find, however, that a large coffin filled with soil ended up in the plane’s cargo hold.
Meanwhile, a total eclipse occurs over NYC, and a creature stowed on the plane escapes into the city. Over the next 24 hours, the four survivors gradually transform into vampires while many of the seemingly dead passengers disappear from the morgue and return to their families, spreading the vampire virus all over the city. Joined by a motley crew of fighters, Eph and Nora must find a way to stop the infection and save the city—including Eph’s wife and son—before it’s too late.
The Strain is the first of a trilogy of books and has been running as a television series on FX since 2014.
Mask of the Sun: The Science, History, and Forgotten Lore of Eclipses (2017) by John Dvorak
One part scientific explanation, one part historic snapshot, this book is a fascinating introduction to all things solar eclipse. After giving an overview of how eclipses work (including a four-page illustrated “eclipse primer” that is so so helpful), Dvorak presents an interesting collection of stories and anecdotes that chronicles humanity’s obsession with eclipses. Civilizations in Asia, Europe, Central America, and the Middle East interpreted eclipses as bad omens and devoted a surprising amount of effort to predicting when they would occur. They had sets of rules for what you should and shouldn’t do during an eclipse to avoid becoming unlucky.
The Library Journal gave Mask of the Sun a starred review, noting that the author “does an excellent job of conveying the wonder of eclipses, describing both their historical-cultural value and the inspirational effect they have on people.”