cover image The Milky Way: An Autobiography of Our Galaxy

The Milky Way: An Autobiography of Our Galaxy

Moiya McTier. Grand Central, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-538-75415-3

Astrophysicist McTier delivers in her debut a delightful report on the Milky Way’s inner workings, told from the galaxy’s imagined point of view. McTier describes in her foreword how, growing up as a Black girl in rural Appalachia, she was enamored with space, and studying it made her feel connected to people and nature, and that theme of the harmony between humans and the planet pervades what follows. McTier, writing as the Milky Way, cleverly covers the origins of the universe (“Don’t concern yourself with thoughts of what came before the Big Bang. That kind of knowledge is not for the likes of you”), how it might end (with another bang “could be kind of fun”), and key players in the history of space science, all in a droll, dignified voice gently scornful of human foible: “Your world is no longer set up to appreciate my splendor,” she writes. McTier’s narrator is authoritative, funny, and moving, whether considering humans’ insignificance or the utility of myth (“That’s what all your myths are: tools for understanding the natural world and communicating that knowledge to others”). McTier writes that her goal is to help people “understand how ephemeral [our] existence is.” She succeeds smashingly. The result is truly stellar. (Aug.)