14 Must Read Carl Sagan Books

When it comes to science books, there is perhaps no one more well-known or widely read than the late Carl Sagan. A renowned astronomer and astrophysicist, Sagan was also an excellent writer, and penned several bestselling books on science, technology, and the universe. 

Although he passed away in 1996, his work remains influential to this day. 

Read on for a summary of all of his most popular books.

Carl Sagan Books

1. Cosmos


Written by: Carl Sagan

Published: 365

Pages: 1980  

Written in a set of thirteen chapters, this is an incredibly in-depth and exciting look at so many different subjects that they could all be different books. Sagan has always been known as someone who could explain the most arcane theories so that anyone could understand them, and this book is no different. An example of this is how he describes the Relativity of Light using a Vespa scooter.

Trust us; you aren't going to find that comparison anywhere else.

This book was initially produced during the Cold War with the Russians, and so it is somewhat antiquated. However, that is also one of its benefits: You see how people were thinking at that time and how Sagan thought in a larger picture since we are all humans.

His desire for everyone to prosper, especially at that moment, gave hope to the world and equality. This book is an excellent addition to the movie of the same name.

2. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

The Demon-Haunted World

Written by: Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

Published: 1995

Pages: 457

The Demon-Haunted World is a much-needed call to arms for those who value science and reason. Sagan shows how a growing anti-intellectualism and superstition threaten modern society, and he presents a powerful argument for using science as a candle in the dark.

Instead of using science and evidence, people continue to believe in faith healing, past lives, and of course, as the title suggests, demons.

Throughout the book, Sagan explores some of history's most famous cases of pseudoscience and superstition, and he offers clear explanations of the scientific method. He also examines how this type of belief affects the world in a very negative way since facts and data are thrown out and ignored.

Sagan always uses his ability to make complex subjects easy for the average person to understand. That is precisely why it is a must-read so you can fend off the popular myths instead of falling prey to them.

3. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

Pale Blue Dot

Written by: Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

Published: 1994

Pages: 429

Even back in the day when this was written, Sagan knew what we have since learned: The Universe is more extensive than any of us can even hope to imagine. Meanwhile, we tend to think we are the only essential creatures in it and put ourselves in an important position.

The reality is that we are just a small part of so much more, and we should be trying to explore it. Instead, we end up fighting over land or politics.

And this is where he shows his views on technology: We have nuclear weapons, which could destroy us all in an instant, but we also can send spaceships into the unknown and possibly save us all.

However, he notes we also need to deal with climate changes and other issues that might derail this possibility and why we need to look elsewhere to survive as a species. It is an intriguing look into how much humanity can achieve if we look at reality and science.

4. Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

Billions & Billions

Written by: Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan

Published: 1998

Pages: 296

The final book, written by Sagan, is a collection of essays as he deals with the questions that he is still pondering and tries to figure out. It, of course, delves into space. However, instead of just sticking to space and the universe, he looks at global warming and other environmental problems specific to Earth.

And even though these are dated because of when they were printed, they are still relevant to today's world.

Something that may intrigue people who aren't specifically interested in just space will be his discussion on abortion and its history. Most people think it was initially a religious issue, but that is not the case. It is much more in-depth and exciting.

The final chapter is incredibly touching as he describes the bone marrow cancer that will kill him and did kill him before this was published, and you will definitely shed a tear or two.

5. The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God

The Varieties of Scientific Experience

Written by: Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan

Published: 2006

Pages: 284

Published by the late Sagan’s wife Ann Druyan 10 years after Billions & Billions, this is a celebration of the man and his thoughts. In this book, Druyan gives us the talks from the Giffords Lectures in Scotland that Sagan appeared in 1985.

In them, he discussed so much of his lifelong held beliefs about science and how humanity must embrace it or we will fall victim to tragedies unlike we've ever known.

They are written in his classic, easy-to-understand voice, and Druyan makes sure that his points are updated and more current with what is happening. He delves into the idea of intelligent design, creationism, cosmology, nuclear wars, and so much more.

As always, you will feel as if you are right there, watching him lecture in person since his writing is so beautiful and humble.

6. Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science

Broca's Brain

Written by: Carl Sagan

Published: 1979

Pages: 347

Paul Broca was one of the most respected surgeons of the last 19th century. His brain has been kept, and Sagan could hold it at one point. This made him think about the memories and insights that could be in that brain if we could download them.

However, he also immediately thought of the ethics of doing such. This was the genius of Sagan: He could see the benefits of this and the issues with it while so many others just pushed their beliefs.

That, thankfully, is just one of the essays laid out in this book. Many of them had previously been published in magazines, giving a very nice, fully formed look into the man and his belief system.

He always continues to look at the idea that technology can be the bane of our existence if used without thought and respect for all living creatures, yet has hopes we can use it for good.

7. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Written by: Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan

Published: 1992

Pages: 505

Any fan of Sagan knows that religious texts are easily disproven by science. And as a fan of Sagan, you know that his books are based on facts and data that show the likely source of our existence. This relates to how all life started on the Earth, how DNA connects us, and how sex allowed all species to adapt and continue life while others died.

One of the most compelling parts of the book is when he compares us to our common ancestors, apes, monkeys, and chimps and explores how we are not so different. We think of ourselves as superior because of our civilization, but are we any more civilized than they are? The question is interesting and the answer even more so.

8. Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective

Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective

Written by: Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

Published: 2000 (1973)

Pages: 302

The adventure of Sagan working on the NASA Mariner space probe while competing with Russia's Venera spacecraft is one of the more intriguing parts of this book. It is fun to imagine yourself being there as they worked on it and tried to figure out all the issues that might arise for it.

He also goes into his view on how humans have adapted over the last five billion years. He also explores how we have only touched the surface of what space and extraterrestrial life means and how much we still have to learn about it.

Interestingly, he delves into how we are killing dolphins and whales, how that relates to our dehumanizing of people, and why it is so easy to start wars and other destruction.

9. Comet


Written by: Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan

Published: 1985

Pages: 414

Wanna take a ride on a comet? This book starts with just that experience through Sagan and Druyan's eyes, which is terrific. Then, instead of just looking at their science, they go into the mythologies and beliefs that humans have had about them forever.

Did a comet or asteroid destroy the dinosaurs? Did they usher in a new era? Even more fundamental, where do they come from, and how are they made? This book does a great job of not only giving possible answers to these questions but gives you a more in-depth view using illustrations, paintings, and photographs. It is utterly enthralling and different from any other book on this list.

10. Conversations with Carl Sagan

Conversations with Carl Sagan

Written by: Carl Sagan & Tom Head

Published: 2005

Pages: 167

This is a collection of conversations, lectures, and essays that Sagan produced during his lifetime. He looks at the scientific method, the reality of how superstition and myths continue to obscure science and data, and more.

Most of what is written are expanded in more depth in his other books.

Some questions include whether there are UFOs and if the government is hiding information from us. If you have read his other books, it might be too simplistic or repetitive for you, but it is an excellent primer for those that don't know much about the man or his scientific expertise.

11. Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record

Murmurs of Earth

Written by: Carl Sagan

Published: 1978

Pages: 273

Imagine if you will that you have almost exactly one year to create probes that will be launched into space. It may seem impossible, but on a summer day in 1977, two spacecraft were launched from Cape Canaveral. The Voyagers had begun their journey to the stars.

Many decades later, they have continued to explore and reveal the secrets of our universe. Along the way, they also became history's ambassadors to any intelligent life that may exist beyond our solar system.  

On each of the Voyager spacecraft is a golden record that contains sounds, greetings in over sixty human languages (and one in whale!), and images of Earth. The records are a time capsule, a message in a bottle telling the story of who we are and where we come from.

Carl Sagan tells the story of how the interstellar records came to be, the reason between each choice, and what they mean for humankind's place in the cosmos.

12. Intelligent Life in the Universe

Intelligent Life in the Universe

Written by: Carl Sagan and Iosif Samuilovich Shklovsky

Published: 1966

Pages: 509

Initially published in 1966, this is a great book to read if you want to see just how far Sagan's opinions have changed, or not changed, during his lifetime. Since both Sagan and Shklovsky were extremely respected astrophysicists, this is a fun view of how they believe that we are just a tiny piece of the universe and that life would be found elsewhere.

The beauty of this book is that even though they are scientists, they aren't dogmatic about it. If they realize they may not have the answer, they can show different opinions. It is fascinating to see how they come to their conclusions about life in the universe, how abundant it is or isn't, and how that would affect us.

Interestingly, some of these same arguments in today's world and absolutely prescient.

13. A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and Its Implications

A Path Where No Man Thought

Written by: Carl Sagan and Richard Turco

Published: 1990

Pages: 499

As you can guess, this is not a light read. Even though written long ago, Turco and Sagan look into the horrors of what could happen if a nuclear war broke out. Or even if just one nation decided to launch nuclear weapons. It seems as if very few of the military leaders had even considered the fallout, pun fully intended, that would occur and the damage it would cause the Earth.

Most people think about the death that will happen from the moment the bombs land. They don't think of the nuclear fallout, with forests burning and ashes covering everything that would kill all life on Earth. What is truly horrifying is that so many countries now have stockpiles of nuclear weapons that are well beyond the amount needed to destroy us all.

It is a brutal reminder that we still haven't come to terms with war and death all these years later. Twenty-four illustrations exemplify just this issue.

14. Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence

Dragons of Eden

Written by: Carl Sagan

Published: 1977

Pages: 280

This book focuses on how the human brain evolved and why we are supposedly the most advanced civilization in the world. It starts with the universe being created and then moving forward in time. Interestingly, the brain has as many atoms as there are in the universe.

A fantastic thought, and discovery, if ever there was one. It shows how human brains have evolved and how their brains aren't as large as ours; they can still have a community and culture.

Not willing to just give information on the background, he goes into how the brain works and what each part of it does to keep us alive. It is incredibly written to understand even people who have never read his work.

Last but not least, he goes into where the future may lead us and what life on other planets, and how the universe's rules may make them similar to us regarding intelligence and brain size.