Jake's Reviews > Light This Candle: The Life & Times of Alan Shepard--America's First Spaceman

Light This Candle by Neal Thompson
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's review
May 04, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: biography, non-fiction

Light This Candle is a biography that adopts the swagger of its subject: Alan Shephard. Mixing new interviews with material from earlier records, author Neal Thompson delivers a book that proceeds at a steady, confident clip. As such, Light This Candle achieves a gut-level intensity that seems appropriate given the ambitious man it depicts.

At times, this book feels like a piecemeal eulogy. While the bulk of the narrative recounts Shephard’s storied career, chapters dealing with his youth and post-flight years have a summary quality. Even accounts of memorable flights have a no-frills aspect. And this is generally to the author’s credit. It could be tempting to weigh down descriptions of aerial adventure with extravagant prose. However, Thompson wisely takes a no-nonsense approach to rehearsing Shepard’s past.

Light This Candle falls short of feeling revelatory. But this appraisal is not meant as harsh criticism. As the author remarks, Shephard vigilantly maintained privacy in spite of his fame. Like the many who brushed shoulders with the first American in space, Thompson doesn’t gain full-access to Shephard’s personal life. Readers may even be left with the impression that no one, not even Shephard’s beloved wife Louise, was privy to the real story.

Ultimately, Light This Candle is about taking stock of a man who competed and won often. Shephard’s exploits in and out of the cockpit dominate the pages, as they should. In a broader context, Light This Candle is a worthy tome about the American test pilot. It proves a lively read that can stand shoulder to shoulder with other notable books and films about Shepard and his fellow explorers.

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Reading Progress

May 4, 2011 – Shelved
August 14, 2011 – Started Reading
August 14, 2011 – Shelved as: biography
August 14, 2011 – Shelved as: non-fiction
August 15, 2011 –
page 30
August 18, 2011 –
page 50
August 20, 2011 –
page 104
22.41% "Pretty riveting biography."
August 22, 2011 –
page 301
August 27, 2011 –
page 357
August 28, 2011 –
page 463
August 28, 2011 – Finished Reading

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