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The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,257 ratings  ·  129 reviews
This is the absorbing story of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s lifelong fascination with the night sky, a restless wonder that began some thirty years ago on the roof of his Bronx apartment building and eventually led him to become the director of the Hayden Planetarium. A unique chronicle of a young man who at one time was both nerd and jock, Tyson’s memoir could well inspire other ...more
Paperback, 203 pages
Published May 1st 2004 by Prometheus Books (first published 2000)
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 ·  1,257 ratings  ·  129 reviews

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Erin O'Quinn
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What do these two people have in common:

A young, good looking black astrophysicist. And an older white woman who writes books and book reviews.

Answer: both of us wanted to be astronomers since we were kneee-high to a toy telescope. And that's where my astral career ended. Tyson, however, took his lifelong love of the stars from the Starlight Apartments in the Bronx (poetic irony, yes?) first to a Ph.D. in physics and then to a career as college professor, Director of the Hayden Planetarlum, comm
Menglong Youk
"The Sky Is Not the Limit" is an autobiography of Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of my few favorite astrophysicists alive. It reveals what happened during his childhood that lead him to get absorbed into astrophysics when he was just nine, the age of which many people have no clues to their future. It also vividly describes his passion when he got involved in astronomical events and a trip to West Africa to see solar eclipse with many famous people, including Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foo ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this biography of Tyson. I'm a long term fan of Cosmos the Sagan then Tyson updated version, and it was very interesting reading about Neil's path to the stars and about his meeting with Carl Sagan. Lot's of good stories about science and about being black in America. ...more
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson

“The Sky Is Not the Limit” is the entertaining biography of astrophysicist Neil De Grasse Tyson. Best-selling author and science icon Neil deGrasse Tyson takes the reader on a journey through his eyes, which is to say the cosmos and many interesting insights of his life. This uplifting 203-page book includes the following seven chapters: 1. Night Vision, 2. Space, the Final Frontier, 3. Scientific Adventures, 4
Kevin Shepherd
“Beyond the judgment of others, rising high above the sky, lies the power of ambition.” ~NdGT

One part memoir and three parts astrophysical awesomeness. Tyson recounts his journey from a star-struck Bronx adolescent (with a telescope) to one of the world’s most prominent and recognizable scientists. Along the way he shares his insights and opinions on topics as diverse as public education, NASA, race relations, 9/11, Stephen Hawking, dark matter, neckties, and male strippers.

Did you know..?

* A s
Brandon Easton
Oct 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in space science or african-american scientists
This guy is one of my personal heroes. A black dude from the Bronx who went to earn a Ph.D in Astrophysics. This guy rocks. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in NYC, and he has become a minor celebrity in the world of science.

Not so much because of the color of his skin, but for the story of how a kid in a NYC apartment fell in love with the study of deep space physics and phenomena. This book is very breezy and fun. The few times he
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this because I like Neil Degrasse Tyson. But it turns out that I like the cool, smart, yet approachable Neil of 2015 way more than I like the vaguely condescending People Magazine's Sexiest Astrophysicist Neil of 2004. I don't know who the intended audience was for this memoir and I'm not quite sure he did either. There was a push for NASA funding alongside bemoaning funding going to the arts in school. There were sections that just meandered and I actually flipped past them, wh ...more
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
How does a young black kid from the Bronx become a world-famous astrophysicist, Director of the Hayden Planetarium and the second coming of Carl Sagan? The Sky is Not the Limit is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s semi-autobiographical account of how he came to be seduced by the study of the night sky, one that doubles as a light work of popular science, promoting informed, critical thinking and asserting that yeah, science is cool. Subtitled Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist, Tyson’s memoir reveals tha ...more
Sep 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Hopefully, likely, someday there will be a comprehensive biography of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. No rush though. With several published works, and many videos and audio recordings available for free online, the in-process life of Dr. Tyson is quite accessible. And for those of us who want the equivalent of an extended personal conversation, there is The Sky Is Not the Limit. Published in 2004, this book is far from comprehensive. Still, it is a wonderful survey of the life of the man Pe ...more
Quotes from Neil deGrasse Tyson that I found inspiring:

"I want every generation of stargazers - whether they sit atop a tenement roof or an Appalachian mountain - to have a polished lens with which to see the universe and reach for their own star."

"A student's academic life experience can be constructed from much more than what happens in the classroom. Good teachers know this. The best teaches make sure it happens."

"Unlike what you might be told in other sectors of life, when observing the univ
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies, science
I thoroughly enjoyed this. There's not a wasted moment in this book, it's full of interesting recollections, and opinions that each end on solid points while flowing nicely to the next sections. The last few books I read meandered throughout, and I often found myself wondering where they were going, so it was a relief to read this and never feel lost. These were at times funny, harrowing, and at times beautiful and profound. His 9/11 recollection was probably the most vivid I've come across, pos ...more
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well written engaging autobiographical story of his early years and enduring love and pursuit of astrophysics
Oct 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Five wonderful stars for an inspirational, thought provoking, informative and fun read. Somehow, I used to think of memoirs and autobiographies to be dull and boring, specially if one is written by a nerdy astrophysicist, like what interesting could happen in the life of a geek, but I was wrong.
Neil is not only a brilliant scientist but a hilarious writer and an amazing educator too with some interesting life stories.
He is a staunch advocate of funding new space exploration programs and making
Neil DeGrasse Tyson is possibly the coolest astrophysicist to have ever lived. Unfortunately this means that I have no idea what his research is about (since even this autobiography of sorts breezes through his grad school years) but that I do know he's one of the great modern popularizers of science. The Sky is Not the Limit shed light both on his astrophysical and personal life and gives more detail beyond his Daily Show persona.

From beginnings, including going up to the roof with a telescope
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very entertaining memoir, but a bit dated since it was written in 2004. Would love to know more about the past 10 years, and sad illness caused us to miss deGrasse Tyson speak here in Madison. Main point that will stay with me in this book it nurturing the natural passions of our children. He was 9 when he set his sights on the stars, and his parents supported and encouraged him every step of the way. Second point, the important of science projects and critical thinking as part of childhood. As ...more
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommend
Neil De Grasse Tyson is an astrophysicist, he's the director of the Hayden Planetarium, and he's black – a combination making for a unique viewpoint. The book is mostly autobiography with a good helping of space science. Tyson's kind of a larger-than-life figure, and the same energy he brings to his interviews permeates this fun – and often funny – book. He never hesitates to detail his accomplishments,which is great, as he's done some amazing things. He doesn't downplay how much the media seems ...more
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
It tells the somewhat inspiring story of Neil deGrasse Tyson. He focuses especially on his way through High-School and College, as well as the troubles he faced due to his skincolor. He also offers his thoughts on several subjects, such as religion, 9/11 and the media
It is written with a certain kind of dry wit which I enjoyed quite alot.
However, he judges certain groups of people pretty harshly within the book, so if that kind of stuff isn't your cup of tea, you best avoid this book.
Tracey Baptiste
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Makes me wish I'd taken some college-level math so I'd have a better understanding of the universe and how it works. But it's not necessary to know any math to read the book. It's quite a good portrayal of a regular guy who became one of the most prominent astrophysicists of our time, and who just happens to be black, breaking the mold on stereotypes. Plus, it's witty and elegant. ...more
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This man is very brilliant. Neil Degrasse Tyson for president please.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fun book by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist of the title. It's not quite an autobiography, more of him just musing about his life and how he sees the world with fun digressions into things like peoples' reactions to math equations and the end of the world.

It's not too big on hard dates which for my purposes is a little difficult--it feels like his 14th year lasted forever! But I really liked the personal stories he told about that time. It's comforting to read about a kid who was not pe
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An interesting and informative read. For most of the book I wondered why the author made very little of the fact that he's a man of color. I thought that certainly must have been a factor in his life. And, sure enough, later in the book he devotes a chapter about how his color did play a roll for him. He is certainly an amazing and accomplished man, irrelevant of his skin color. And a good writer, too. ...more
3.5 stars. An episodic look back on Tyson's career up to 2004, interspersed with a lot of scientific information. I was expecting a more cohesive, singular narrative of his past based on the description, but this book was more anecdotal than not. Some parts of Tyson's experience are really powerful and unique, and I was especially moved when he recalled being in NYC during 9/11 and reflected on his experiences as a black man and astrophysicist in America. However, in other places he can be rathe ...more
Beverly Hollandbeck
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I thought I was getting an autobiography of Neil deGrasse Tyson. He did include a few personal stories, but he spent a lot of time explaining cosmic stuff. I think he can't help himself. Also, I got the feeling that some of the chapters were recycling of speeches he had made. You'd think his life would be so full that he could write a whole book about himself. Or more likely, when he is talking about th cosmos, he IS talking about himself, as I have heard him say that all of us are made with the ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I love Mr. Tyson and it’s tempting to rate any of his books high because of the the the magic of the subject and his friendly approach.

This book is not different, though more of an autobiography than the rest of his books, it’s still fascinating, at points even more than usual because it’s nice to read about his passion sometimes more than reading complicated physics.

At times I’ve found some of his approaches a bit arrogant and surprisingly ditching others, usually for their poor understanding
Apr 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2009
It was interesting to see how Tyson got to be where he is and the challenges he faced. Not as good as his other books, but still interesting. He really is a great writer and speaker, and knows how to bring the very complicated subject of astrophysics down to everyone's level. If you enjoyed this, I highly recommend his Death by Black Hole. ...more
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us what it was like growing up as a kid in the city with an early passion for astronomy. He got to do some really cool stuff at an early age. And it's sort of all to do with the Hayden Planetarium, which he's now director of.

I found it very interesting, and it might just get you interested in astrophysics!

For my longer review of this, see Triple Take.
Tyson is a classy guy with a great story. It is well worth reading. With that said, it took me months and months to finish the book. I'd read a chapter and not read another one for weeks. There is nothing wrong with the book or the story. Tyson came from humble beginnings. He's brilliant, and he worked hard. He's a family man, happily married with kids. This just doesn't make for page-turning excitement. I highly recommend the book, but you will be able to put it down.
James Martin
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've seen quite a few of Dr. Tyson's lectures and interviews on the web, so I thought I might like reading some of his work, and a memoir seemed like an easy first step. I enjoyed this book. It's mostly autobiography, of course, but there's also a bit of cosmology, media criticism, social criticism, and some thoughts on education and religion. It is, for the most part, a light and entertaining read. And, having read it, I'm certainly likely to give some of his other books a try. ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I've enjoyed everything I've read by Tyson. This book seemed 70% biography, and 30% opinion. This is not a negative critique of the book. I'm interested in just about anything he wants to talk about. Having now gotten some background information on him, my opinion has not changed. This will definitely make you look a little inward, and assess whether or not you have had a productive and fulfilling life. ...more
Sharon Healy-Yang
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Tyson is bright, funny, and inspiring. He deftly blends reason and impish humor to reveal the need for applying the clarity and logic that science demands to our everyday life. His chapter on "Dark Matters" is a sensitive, wise use of inductive argument to circumvent the usual knee-jerk emotional responses to the topic of racism, freeing his readers to recognize its pervasiveness. I use the book in my Critical and Creative Thinking class, and the students love it. ...more
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Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia.

Tyson's professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our

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