• First Man

  • The Life of Neil A. Armstrong
  • By: James R. Hansen
  • Narrated by: Jeremy Bobb
  • Length: 16 hrs and 26 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (755 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Soon to be a major motion picture, this is the first - and only - definitive authorized account of Neil Armstrong, the man whose “one small step” changed history.

When Apollo 11 touched down on the Moon’s surface in 1969, the first man on the Moon became a legend. In First Man, author James R. Hansen explores the life of Neil Armstrong. Based on over 50 hours of interviews with the intensely private Armstrong, who also gave Hansen exclusive access to private documents and family sources, this "magnificent panorama of the second half of the American twentieth century" (Publishers Weekly, starred review) is an unparalleled biography of an American icon.

In this “compelling and nuanced portrait” (Chicago Tribune) filled with revelations, Hansen vividly recreates Armstrong’s career in flying, from his 78 combat missions as a naval aviator flying over North Korea to his formative trans-atmospheric flights in the rocket-powered X-15 to his piloting Gemini VIII to the first-ever docking in space. For a pilot who cared more about flying to the Moon than he did about walking on it, Hansen asserts, Armstrong’s storied vocation exacted a dear personal toll, paid in kind by his wife and children. For the near-50 years since the Moon landing, rumors have swirled around Armstrong concerning his dreams of space travel, his religious beliefs, and his private life.

A penetrating exploration of American hero worship, Hansen addresses the complex legacy of the First Man, as an astronaut and as an individual. “First Man burrows deep into Armstrong’s past and present.... What emerges is an earnest and brave man” (Houston Chronicle) who will forever be known as history’s most famous space traveler.

©2018 James R. Hansen (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

What listeners say about First Man

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    3 out of 5 stars

Not really 'unabridged'

I own the original hardcover book, for which Audible had previously offered only an abridged version.

I've been eagerly awaiting this "unabridged" version for several months, and downloaded it immediately when it became available. What a disappointment to learn that this audiobook is based on a new, abridged paperback version, published in preparation for the release of the "First Man" film later this year.

Drastic surgery has been done on the original. Chapters have been rearranged and entire passages eliminated. As a point of comparison, the original hardcover length is 784 pages; the new paperback is just 464 pages.

The Armstrong story is fascinating, but this audio production doesn't do it justice. Jeremy Bobb, the narrator, is monotonic, and between his reading style and the butchered editing of the original book, the chapters on Armstrong's early years in the Navy and as a test pilot sound like a resume recitation, full of numbers and obscure abbreviations.

I just finished the audio version of Michael Collins's "Carrying the Fire," which I found to be a better written story with a much more evocative narrator (David Colacci).

89 people found this helpful

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As always, the book is better than the movie

This was a very well written and interesting book from start to finish. So much so, that almost any time I could listen to a few minutes, I would pop in my earphones. While it provides many facts and details about Neil Armstrong, I still left not feeling as though I knew him as a friend would know him, as I sometimes feel with other biographies. However, given Armstrong's very private nature, I think that is what he would have preferred, and in that sense I feel the author spectacularly succeeded.

5 people found this helpful

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First Man

The first half is full of names and dates but your patience will be greatly rewarded with the second half.

3 people found this helpful

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Insightful Biography

Thought this was going to be a dry recital of facts about a very interesting person. However, once I got into this book it was hard to put down. Very much appreciate the writing and telling of this book. Also, it is ended in a very wonderful way!!

3 people found this helpful

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Best overall book on Neil Armstrong!

A significant amount of detailed information relating to Apollo 11 mission and how difficult it was in order to be successful. Most people think about Armstrong as a lucky person to be chosen as the first man to set foot on the moon. None of this would’ve been possible if it were not for the following three attributes of Armstrong.

1- excellent pilot
2- ability to deal with stress during emergency procedures
3- very mechanically knowledgeable with engineering background.
4-Ability to work with different type of people under all kinds of conditions

3 people found this helpful

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Such an amazing man.

Great story about an amazing man and personal hero of mine. I was glued to the TV throughout Apollo 11 and all of the Apollo program, so many memories of those incredible days are forever part of me. This awesome book brings a better understanding of the man who is a hero to so many.

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This is a good book but alittle more then I wanted

Very amazing story. The more I learned about neil the less I liked him but we can never forget his amazing accomplishments. The author went a little over board on his family heritage. Its the most detailed biography I've ever read.

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When I landed on Chapter 27...

Although it was way too technical in the beginning (which probably would appeal to an aviator, a pilot, or an aviation enthusiast, but not to a ground dweller such as myself) I did enjoy Hansen's biography of Neil A. Armstrong and was immersed in it until Chapter 27 when he wrote about whether Neil Armstrong took anything to the Moon for his daughter Karen. What I'm quoting below detached me from the story occupying my head with protest and a bit anger at the author:

"... Another loved one that Neil apparently did not remember by taking anything of hers to the Moon was his daughter Karen. [1] What could have made the first Moon landing more meaningful for all mankind than a father honoring the cherished memory of his beloved little girl by taking a picture of the child, dead now over 7 years--she would have been a ten year old--one of her toys, an article of her clothing, a lock of her hair, her baby bracelet. [2] What if Neil did something for Muffie but never told anyone about it? Not even Janet because it was of such an intensely personal nature. [3] How much more would posterity esteem the character of the First Man? It could have elevated the first Moon landing to an even higher level of significance."

So, the first Moon landing itself, AS-IS, was not "significant" or "meaningful" enough that it also needed something "intensely personal" and not to mention private out of Neil Armstrong such as taking something of his daughter to the Moon? Maybe, he did and didn't want to share with anybody as the author himself states. [2] He doesn't know. Nobody knows. And, nobody needs to know--nobody other than Neil Armstrong, whom the entire world knew as a very private person, whom also Hansen portrays as such in this book. Hansen is [3] patronizing and [1] condescending. After this passage, I have lost respect of what the author had to say about Neil Armstrong, who sounded like he wasn't up to the author's moral standards when it came to what personal stuff to take to the Moon and how greater the whole thing would be if the First Man told the world what, if any, of his daughter he took with him.

Regardless of my beef with the above words of the author, Jeremy Bobb's narration is suberb.

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Encyclopedic

The book often reads like a list of facts rather than narrative. While detailed, some may have been better left to appendices. The book jumped around in time rather than being chronological, even though on the surface it was organized by time period. I have read or listened to many books about the space race. this was an informative work, but not as engaging as many others.

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Please read this book!

This book made me cry at least 4 different times.

I do not believe there was any human more perfectly suited to be the first man than Neil.

The patron saint of engineers and pilots

He is truly a hero; who will live forever in history and in the hearts of mankind.

This book is not truly the unabridged version of the book, but is still 1000% worth reading.

Please, please do yourself a favor, and read this book.