• Rocket Boys

  • The Coalwood Series, Book 1
  • By: Homer Hickam
  • Narrated by: Tom Stechschulte
  • Length: 13 hrs and 38 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (1,015 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times best-selling memoir that inspired the film October Sky, Rocket Boys is a uniquely American memoir - a powerful, luminous story of coming of age at the dawn of the 1960s, of a mother's love and a father's fears, of a group of young men who dreamed of launching rockets into outer space... and who made those dreams come true. Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Homer Hickam's lush, lyrical memoir is a marvelously entertaining chronicle of triumph.

©1998 Homer Hickam (P)2011 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

"A thoroughly charming memoir... [An] eloquent evocation of a lost time and place." ( The New York Times)

What listeners say about Rocket Boys

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Endearing Memoir of the Early Space Race

Born in the 40's or 50's? This book is for you -- full of nostalgic events and settings that will take you back to a time when poodle skirts and DA hair cuts, saddle oxfords and suede shoes were the fads of the day. Most of all, this memoir recounts in a wonderful voice, the coming to age of Homer Hickam in the coal country of West Virginia. While the story is mostly about boys, it is not just a story of interest to boys. Yes, it has science in it and views the world from the personna of a teenage male, but it will interest women who may remember these days too. It may even interest younger women who want to better understand the events that chartered America's leadership of the space race.

Great narration of a well crafted story. Highly recommended.

10 people found this helpful

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A memoir that reads like a novel

This is a coming of age story in a small West Virginia coal mining town. Not only does the author captivate you with his childhood story, he makes you applaud his and his friends accomplishments with amateur rocketry. His passion and imagination takes him to the stars. A great story showing that with a lot of passion and support, one can do anything in life. Except for his singing, the narrator did a good job. I think he would have been better off reading the lyrics.

7 people found this helpful

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The BEST Narrator!

I listened to this on audio, and let me tell you, that was the RIGHT choice. The narrator is AMAZING.

I was already a fan of the movie October Sky, and I owned a secondhand paperback copy of this book when I decided to get the audiobook.

It was everything I hoped it would be and I cried (along with the narrator who seemed to genuinely choke up at a certain point) during the last half hour.

I am still a little emotionally raw at the moment, but trust me, this book (and the audio version!!!!!) are sooooo worth the time.

I loved this book.

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Great Story about Growing Up

This book is probably my all time favorite memoir, though I admit I've read relatively little of the genre. It presents a rich portrait of life in late 1950's West Virginia that is simultaneously colored with nostalgia and lamentation. Ultimately though, there is a mostly happy ending that will leave the reader satisfied and with some lasting observations to ponder.

When I first read this book while still in school almost a decade ago, the part that grabbed my attention was the unifying narrative of the BCMA. The observations about the community were interesting, but rather removed from my experience, as was the complicated family dynamic. Now, though still somewhat foreign, and perhaps for that reason, the author's experiences struggling with his parents and the atmosphere of uncertainty that shaped the lives of everyone in his West Virginia mining town are just as if not more intriguing. The book while being nominally about something else, manages to explain the mechanics of mining, and life as a miner. If you didn't go to a high school where the only three likely outcomes for a boy were becoming a miner, a soldier, or going to college on a football scholarship, I think you would find these details enlightening.

The power of an education in science and math is something else this book illustrates wonderfully, and is a lesson I wish I'd heeded as a younger man. We can't all be engineers of course, but it seems like more couldn't hurt.

Tom Stechschulte seems to have a voice purposefully designed for nostalgic contemplation. It is at once deliberate and subtly emotional. In short, it feels like the perfect vehicle for the author's recollection. This is not a performance in which characterizations really jump out at you, but it isn't meant to be.

I would recommend this book to anyone.

3 people found this helpful

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Good Nostalgic Read about Beginning the Space Age


Rocket Boys lived up to the hype, a good nostalgic, heart-warming story about small town adolescence in the late 1950's. There was much I could identify with, despite being 9 years behind the author. I don't remember the Sputnik vividly, but I do remember standing in our backyard and pointing at Telstar, the American satellite, as it crossed the sky in the early 1960s. The beginning of the space age was a remarkable period in our history that spanned my youth, with the historic landing of man on the moon coming in the summer after my senior year of high school.

So this story is set against that backdrop, and it is a combo story about the Big Creek Missile Agency and its attempt to build rockets that would fly several thousand feet in to the sky, but it also a story about teenage angst in relationship to family, other teens, and the community at large. And as much as I enjoyed the rocket building portion of the story, I found Hickam's teenage musings about the people around him very enjoyable. At times it got a little sappy. At other times, I felt a bit embarrassed that he was being so critically honest about the shortcomings of his parents. But on the whole, they were not bad parents, and clearly fit the maxim that we did not have perfect parents, and none of us have become perfect parents.

One of the things I thought this book did a great job of was giving you the typically skewed caricature that individuals have of others, but then eventually opening the window to see that the person was really much more than the caricature initially perceived. This happened both with the author's peers and with some of the adults in the community with whom the author interacted. I think back to the teachers and administrators and youth group leaders with whom I interacted as a teenager, and realize now how little I really understood of who they were in the limited contacted we had. This is particularly true of teachers, who we evaluated totally on the basis on how we saw them in the school, when many had so much more going on in their lives that would have been relevant.

Finally, in light of the current anti-labor union mood of our country, I find it scary that many seem to want to return to the days like those presented in this book, where workers were at the mercy of the owners, and the outcome was often unpleasant. But that is another issue.

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It sucks

I hated the book, the story is bad and the characters are unlikable


-student who was forced to read/listen to it

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Excellent read

So much of this tale reminds me of my father and his father's experiences in the Silver King mine located in Park City, Utah. My father became an engineer and worked for NASA and the Air Force. He often spoke of the strength and stamina of mine workers but also of the need to dream.

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Emotionally honest memoir! Wonderful narrator.

Having grown up in the rural midwest and graduated high school the same year as Homer Hickam, I couldn't help but personally relate to this story. Much of it seemed so familiar: the turbulent post-Sputnik years; the inspirational high school science teacher; the satisfaction of self-taught learning; the tensions within families; the dreams and insecurities of adolescence; the beginning of the Cold War.... It's all here together with the warmth of a band of boys growing together. This is not just an autobiography for young adults. The reading by Tom Stechschulte, in an accent that is true to West Virginia hills, truly enhanced the experience. I gather that the memoir was made into a movie entitled October Sky, but I'm sure it could not possibly capture the complexity of the book.

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it’s boring sorry sonny.

i don’t like it. it’s boring. like what’s the point of this being a story? sorry sonny! i it’s your life and all but i simply don’t care that much.

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I now plan to read all his books.

I grew up in Huntsville AL and Homer Hickam lived at the base of “my” mountain. My parents talked of him and my mom had a signed copy of Rocket Boys. She would not let me take it out if the house to borrow and read it. I am so grateful for this Audible version. The narrator is perfect. The telling of this Homer’s true life adventure as a boy growing from coal mining town youngster to rocket scientist will thrill anyone with an interest in either. The story is humorous, winsome, and encouraging. I am a rocket scientist daughter of a rocket scientist, and I also spent part of a summer in coal mining town of Welch West Virginia. I so relate to Homer Hickam’s life experiences, I want to find a way to write him and say thank you for becoming an author.

By the way, there is another chopped up version of this title on audible, which needs to be removed by admin. But the one I am reviewing narrated by Tom Stechschulte is pure joy to me. It is true that if you liked the movie “October Sky”, you will find great pleasure in this unabridged full telling of Homer Hickam’s story.