Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Right Stuff” as Want to Read:
The Right Stuff
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Right Stuff

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  26,967 ratings  ·  705 reviews
When the future began...

The men had it. Yeager. Conrad. Grissom. Glenn. Heroes ... the first Americans in space ... battling the Russians for control of the heavens ... putting their lives on the line.

The women had it. While Mr. Wonderful was aloft, it tore your heart out that the Hero's Wife, down on the ground, had to perform with the whole world watching ... the TV Pres
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 30th 2001 by Bantam (first published 1979)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinA People's History of the United States by Howard ZinnBattle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
Best American History Books
33rd out of 1,069 books — 1,526 voters
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
100th out of 3,244 books — 5,253 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jan 22, 2008 Richard rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Space Buffs, Aviation Buffs, Cold War Buffs, Dudes in General
This would have been a superb book but for Wolfe's puzzling decision to libel astronaut Gus Grissom. Sadly, between the book and its movie adaptation, Wolfe's distortions are probably all that most people know about Grissom (assuming of course that they remember any astronaut other than Neil Armstrong in the first place).

Grissom was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, and the second to go into space. After his capsule splashed down, its hatch blew before the recovery helicopter arrived
Glenn Sumi
Yee-hawwww!!! Tom Wolfe's 1979 book about the American space race is a high-octane non-fiction masterpiece.

Wolfe's maximalist style – full of exclamation marks!!! ... ellipses ... and repeated italicized phrases that take on the rhythm of great jazz – is perfectly suited to his gargantuan, ego-driven, patriotic, rah-rah subject matter.

He has a voice like no one else's, and although he obviously did tons of research, he imparts his facts clearly and gets inside the heads of the scientists, astro
Elizabeth K.
Good GRIEF, somebody please remind me about this the next time I think I will read a Tom Wolfe book. I seem to read one about every 15 years and in between I forget what an unpleasant experience I find it. I cannot! Take! The exclamation points! I'm one of those people who, constitutionally, cannot ignore an exclamation point on the printed page, so reading this was like being shouted at for great lengths of time. As everyone in the free world already knows, this is Tom Wolfe's book about the Me ...more
Graeme Hinde
This book genuinely gets the adrenaline pumping. There's a scene where Chuck Yeager takes an NF-104 up to 110,000 feet (about 10 miles into "space"), then looses control and goes into a spin, plummeting to 20,000 feet before regaining enough control to safely eject. Then the seat gets tangled in the parachute lines and spills corrosive fuel (why was there corrosive fuel in the chair?) on his face and hand. He fights through the intense pain of melting eyeball to free up the parachute and land sa ...more
The Very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff, that Righteous, Righteous stuff, the Indefinable, Unutterable, Integral Stuff.

Test pilots have The Right Stuff. Astronauts have The Right Stuff. Thus Tom Wolfe pulls us into Chuck Yeager's world in Muroc in the 1940's when the sound barrier is about to be broken and segues us into the original Seven - the chosen ones with the righteous, righteous stuff, the first men into space. (Never mind a monkey's gonna make the first flight! Never mind our rockets al
Alain Dewitt
While I am not a fan of Wolfe's writing style (wasn't that impressed with 'Bonfire of the Vanities' either) I do acknowledge that he is a keen observer and makes some astute observations about the space program and the country's relationship with it in the early days.

I have seen the movie many times - and enjoy it, probably more than the book - but reading the book I found that an important part of the narrative had been grossly underplayed in the movie. In the movie, it's implied but not very f
Way back in 1979, Tom Wolfe packaged together an exciting story about the initial fleeting moments of the space race, as well as a delightful sense of humor, within the two covers of a non-fiction book. But don’t let the narrative’s 33 year-old publishing fool you. The Right Stuff aged well, managing in this recent read to deliver relevant and insightful commentary about an intensely fascinating historical period amidst the Cold War. From Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern Cal ...more
John Wiswell
Jun 22, 2007 John Wiswell rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Literary readers, fans of non-fiction and biography, and readers who are jaded towards heroism
Easily one of the best books I've read this year, and one of those books I kick myself for having put off for so long. It possesses the very best of Wolfe; Kesey-like humor, Heller-like shrewdness and Steinbeck-like depth. Unlike so many biographical or journalistic books, it managed to make me feel for these people as well as inform me about them. He grabs the possibiltiy of their heroism and absoluteness of their cultural importance like the two horns of a bull, and wrestles the creature down ...more
Michael Burnam-fink
No better book has been written about flying or the space race. Tom Wolfe has what it takes, the bubbling enthusiasm and critical eye, to write properly about astronauts. The Right Stuff is about endurance, guts, reflexes, a cool head, and giant titanium testicles. It's about going up day after day in high performance jets that are trying their level best to kill you-and statistically will kill 23% of pilots in peacetime-and pushing them to the edge of the envelope and beyond. It's about sitting ...more
Shepard, Cooper, Glenn, Grissom, Carpenter, Schirra, and Slayton…these were the men chosen by NASA to be astronauts for Project Mercury, a program that put men into space for suborbital and orbital flights. They were called the “original seven” and they were considered the greatest pilots and the bravest men in America because they were pilots on the most daring flights in American history. When they accomplished their missions they became national heroes because they risked their lives for thei ...more
Sep 01, 2008 Traci rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
9.1.08 I wish I could give half stars because then I would give this book four and half. I absolutely loved it, the half star deduction from five is only because I had a really hard time finishing the last 40 pages or so. They seemed to drag a little. Otherwise, this was a fantastic book. As I mentioned before, I really thought it would be dry (perhaps that was my issue with those stubborn last pages) but it wasn't. Tom Wolfe's narrative was funny and straightforward and I breezed through comple ...more
Having just about got over I Am Charlotte Simmons, I wanted to remind myself why Tom Wolfe was once considered an important writer. And my faith was restored. While his style is still a little too jarring with its vernacular stylings, here it is put to good use. Wolfe does a brilliant job of conveying the culture of elite military pilots. Having established the fighter-jock spirit he shows how it was undermined in the early days of the space programme, and then how it was gradually restored so t ...more
Content - really good, informative without boring the reader. But ... oh, the writing ... I got so I couldn't stand the plethora, the multitude, the excessive amount of hyperbole, of italicized words/phrases, of exclamation points! Lest you think I exaggerate, I'll open the book to random pages:

p. 208 - two exclamatory sentences
p. 209 - one exclamatory sentence

p. 292 - two exclamatory sentences and two italicized phrases
p. 293 - one italicized word

p. 356 - two italicized phrases
p. 357 - eight ex
Always been somewhat fascinated by space travel, so this may be a little more in my wheelhouse than for others. That said, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to anybody. Whether the subject is the genesis of NASA and the Mercury Program, the individual sub-orbital and orbital missions, or broader discussion of the space race with the Soviet Union, the writing moves at a breakneck pace and captivated me from open to close. There is some especially great stuff about the dangers faced by th ...more
The subject itself gives this book a lot of appeal- who doesn't want to read about fighter jocks of old battling and beating government bureaucracy? It makes one long for the days when a man could still drink a six pack of beer, put on his aviators, wink knowingly to his superior and climb competently into millions of dollars of bleeding edge government property. It's a special sort of recklessness that is easy to feel nostalgic for, the same sort of thing that we used to feel when we watched we ...more
Oh but for just a taste of that ever righteous stuff! Ever the cultural analyst, Tom Wolfe dives into a pretty fascinating era, the space race in the U.S. as the country entered the Cold War with Russia, and the corresponding characters / personality types in 'The Right Stuff'.

This book partially serves as a history of how the space program came to be in the U.S. I hadn't really studied this too closely so it was interesting to hear what drove the U.S. into creating its space program, with the
This is the story of America's first astronauts. The original seven men chosen to go into space. It starts out explaining what it was like to be a fighter pilot in the late 50 and discussed Yeager breaking the sound barrier and how the way he carried himself influenced other pilots. He had the right stuff. And to be a great pilot, you had to have the right stuff. Part of that included some level of contempt for death. Because you had a 23% chance of dying as a fighter pilot in some sort of accid ...more
Why yes, most of the books on my shelves ARE 4 or 5-star books. I am quite picky about what I read. I know from a look at the inside jacket, as well as reading the first few lines, if I will like a book or not. This one? I read it at least once a year.

Technical, thorough, methodical and compassionate: this is how Tom Wolfe brings the history of the U.S. Space Program to us. Mr. Wolfe is a genius with fiction and he brings that same genius to writing about the manned space program from its beginn
Oh my God, I loved this book. It's so gigantic and so about the manliness of pilots that at first I didn't think I would be able to finish, especially because I shy away from nonfiction. But it was MAGNIFICENT! I couldn't put it down. I've ignored my children, the Olympics, important deadlines, all because I couldn't stop reading about the rockets. I haven't read a book in a long time that I just could not stand to put down, and I felt like I had to pry this book from my exhausted fingers late a ...more
My friend Ty is a big fan of both the movie and the book. When I happened to mention that I hadn't seen or read either, he was aghast. I enjoyed the film quite a bit, and so he insisted I read the book. The stories themselves and the people involved are quite interesting, and make for compelling reading. Wolfe's style is a bit grating at times - he picks a few themes and then mentions them and points them out OVER and OVER ad nauseum, as if the reader might not be able to connect the dots withou ...more
Tom Gase
This is a very good book about the space race from 1957 to about 1964. It seems everyone knows who the first men on the moon were, but who were the first seven astronauts designated to go into space? Thomas Wolfe does a great job telling the courageous stories of those astronauts, along with the story of Chuck Yeager, who basically started it all. Wolfe does a great job telling how these men didn't panic in a tough situation, even though sometimes the situation may have called for a panic. I als ...more
"Breathtaking...epic...There are images and ideas in the Right Stuff that glisten like a rocket screaming to the heavens." - Los Angeles Times

The Right Stuff deals with test pilots who establish a sound barrier in space. This story is divided among the seven main astronauts, and the test pilot Chuck Yeager.
This is not only an inspiring tale of astronauts and test pilots, but also an extremely suspenseful story as well. Every second of the way, Tom Wolfe sparked readers' contemplation within the
"The Right Stuff" is a fantastic account of the Mercury astronaut program, but it's also a window into American culture in the early 1960s.

Tom Wolfe's writing is second to none, and the story unfolds like a good novel (though it factually covers a fascinating part of American history). The space program wasn't just about flying into space -- it was about the United States competing with the Soviets, Americans rallying around a new breed of "Single Combat Warriors" who enjoyed a form of celebrit
Wolfe's story of the U.S. supersonic test flight and early space programs transports you back to a bygone American era when pilots were heroes, scientific advance seemed endless, and the quest for higher, faster, first ruled the news. To Wolfe's credit, he paints real portraits of these guys&mdashthey're drunks, adulterers, bad fathers, arrogant pricks—but ultimately, he loves them. They have it! They have the right stuff. Wolfe is a powerful writer. Reading about a test flight gone wrong as ...more
Amanda R
To paraphrase another reviewer, I feel like I gained something by reading this book, but the process was....well, not the most enjoyable reading experience I've ever had. It's great and interesting information and would be excellent if I were a fan of Tom Wolfe's idiosyncratic writing style, but I am emphatically not. Too! Many! Exclamation points! for one thing--and when he comes up with a phrase that he thinks is especially clever, he uses it at least once on every single page of the book. I c ...more
Rebecca Curtis
Hmmm. I have mixed feelings about this book. The subject matter, space exploration, is fascinating. The way it was written drove me crazy! Wolfe writes in a way that does not resonate with me at all. There was so much redundancy, way more swearing than I cared to read, and so many exclamation points it started to feel like I was being shouted at. (Fighter Jocks with the Right Stuff!!!!!) It felt like Wolfe's intent was to increase the suspense by dragging out every last detail before actually ge ...more
Tom Wolfe blazed an original trail, writing news as fiction. That and his powerful, poetic voice make this book worth reading. He plays with rhythm like a jazz musician. But the RIGHT STUFF tells a great story, nicely mixing adventure with research.

Being from Houston, I particularly liked the various anecdotal stories about the Houston of the 1960s--including the Astronaut parade ending at the old Sam Houston Coliseum (now home to Bar Houston and etc.). Best of all was the discussion of the gre
Lisa Vegan
Jun 28, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who enjoys nonfiction that reads like good fiction
I couldn’t put this book down when I read it soon after publication; it was riveting. I’ve heard since that it might not be completely the nonfiction book it claims to be, despite the obvious detailed research needed to write it, but who cares. It’s basically an incredibly honest account of the first American astronauts and other test pilots, most notably Chuck Yeager. I think it’s a brilliant examination of American culture and how celebrities are created. But it also makes clear the bravery of ...more
Marie Gase
I enjoyed the excitement of this book- especially comparing it to my memories of the reporting of these events at the time they occurred. Only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is the authors overuse of exclamation points. Millions of them make you feel like you are listening to somebody on speed ALL THE TIME.
Steven Peterson
A literate and fascinating examination of the seven original astronauts. The book takes us through the early years of the space program, the sometimes quirky personalities of the astronauts, the role of Chuck Yeager (I am still bemused by Wolfe's claims that pilots mimic Yeager's drawl), the harsh reality of life as an astronaut. There are poignant anecdotes, such as John Glenn's effort to protect his wife's privacy. The movie actually captures some of the essence of the book, althopugh it is sa ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Right Stuff 2 36 Feb 24, 2014 11:22PM  
How about for young teens? 7 47 Dec 01, 2013 12:00PM  
Test 1 19 Jun 19, 2012 11:11AM  
The Saga Brothers: The One And Only Vennela The Great 106 26 Jan 23, 2012 06:45PM  
  • A Man on the Moon
  • Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journey
  • Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13
  • Failure is not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
  • Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon
  • First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong
  • Yeager: An Autobiography
  • This New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age
  • The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America's Race in Space
  • A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam
  • Moondust: In Search Of The Men Who Fell To Earth
  • Of a Fire on the Moon
  • We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves
  • Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon
  • Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir
  • Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut
  • Deke!: An Autobiography
  • The Good War: An Oral History of World War II
Wolfe was educated at Washington and Lee Universities and also at Yale, where he received a PhD in American studies.

Tom Wolfe spent his early days as a Washington Post beat reporter, where his free-association, onomatopoetic style would later become the trademark of New Journalism. In books such as The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe delves into
More about Tom Wolfe...
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test The Bonfire of the Vanities I am Charlotte Simmons A Man in Full Back to Blood

Share This Book

“In time, the Navy would compile statistics showing that for a career Navy pilot, i.e., one who intended to keep flying for twenty years... there was a 23 percent probability that he would die in an aircraft accident. This did not even include combat deaths, since the military did not classify death in combat as accidental.” 3 likes
“Night landings were a routine part of carrier operations—and perhaps the best of all examples of how a man’s accumulated good works did him no good whatsoever at each new step up the great pyramid, of how each new step was an absolute test, and of how each bright new day’s absolutes—chosen or damned—were built into the routine.” 2 likes
More quotes…