Author likes a helping of science in her fiction

In “Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us from Missiles to the Moon to Mars,” science writer Nathalia Holt tells the stories of the women who transformed rocket design in the 1940s and ’50s and laid the groundwork for the US space program. Holt, whose previous book, “Cured,” explored how HIV was defeated, lives in Roslindale with her husband and two daughters. The paperback of “Rise of the Rocket Girls” is out Wednesday.

BOOKS: What are you reading?

HOLT:Artemis” by Andy Weir. I loved how he packed as much science as possible into his fiction. For “The Martian” he included all these details about calculating orbital dynamics. For this book he has precise technical specifications on how to pressurize a lunar base. I love science fiction, especially when the author has a real love of science. One of my favorite books, “All Our Wrong Todays” by Elan Mastai, also does a perfect job of bringing real science concepts into the text.


BOOKS: Which other authors would you put in that category?

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HOLT: Kim Stanley Robinson. He has his Mars trilogy, which is about as close as any of us can come to walking on the Martian surface. I also love his “New York 2140.” It has climate science but still has the feel of real human nature. I read a lot of nonfiction too and also prefer science.

BOOKS: What have been some of your recent favorites?

HOLT: I loved “Code Girls” by Liza Mundy. She does a wonderful job of incorporating the science of the famed code breakers during World War II with all these first-person interviews. I also enjoyed “Quakeland” by Kathryn Miles. She does a wonderful job of writing about earthquakes, how they affect much more than California. I loved “Woolly” by Ben Mezrich.

BOOKS: Do you read anything not science related?


HOLT: I love popular fiction. I loved “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer and “The Animators” by Kayla Rae Whitaker. I assume there is no memoir involved, but you feel as if you’re seeing parts of the authors’ inner lives.

BOOKS: How do you read so much with two little kids?

HOLT: I’ve always read a lot. I think as a writer you have to read a lot. I usually read at night after the kids are in bed, but if a book is really good I’ll sneak to it any chance I can.

BOOKS: Can you recommend any science books for young kids?

HOLT:Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11” by Brian Floca. That is a great nonfiction book that can go across a lot of ages. It’s a beautifully done picture book with many details of the flight. Another book I love is “Tiny Creatures” by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton. It’s so much fun to teach kids about this hidden world of [microscopic] creatures.


BOOKS: Were you also able to keep up your reading while you finished your PhD in microbiology?

‘I’ve always read a lot. I think as a writer you have to read a lot.’

HOLT: I did. People are always telling me I don’t have enough time to read. I understand the demands, but I can’t imagine life without reading. Even with the craziness of finishing a dissertation I still read as much as I could. And there are books that are my comfort books.

BOOKS: What are your favorite comfort books?

HOLT: My biggest comfort books are by Jane Austen. My mom died 15 years ago, and she left me her Jane Austen books. They are just paperback, but they have her notes in them. Reading those books, I have that connection with her. My favorite is “Persuasion.” I feel like that is the one Austen put herself into.

BOOKS: What’s coming up?

HOLT: I’m not sure. I love going to a bookstore and not knowing what you are going to get and browsing and just finding the book that calls out to you. That is what I need to go do.

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