Books about black holes to the interested layman

One question I get often is:

What books on the topic of black holes would you suggest as a starting point for interested readers without specialized knowledge of physics and math?

I interpret this question as: what books about black holes that I would suggest for people who are not pursuing physics or math as a career or taking a physics/math undergraduate course? Luckily, there are many lovely books for a broad spectrum of readers.

For readers with high-school or higher education

If you are interested in a more “apocalyptic” take on black holes and their destructive power, check these books out:

For kids

In-depth books without math

For those wanting to go deeper, without falling inside the event horizon. I would especially recommend the books below for physics, math or engineering undergraduate students.

  • Gravity’s fatal attraction: Black holes in the universe. Mitchell Begelman & Martin Rees. For the undergrads that come to me interested in doing a undergraduate research project on black holes, I always recommend to read a couple of chapters from this book. Clear, non-technical description of black hole astrophysics, getting into a bit more detail than other expositions on the subject.
  • Black holes and time warps. Kip Thorne. A classic, must-read book for anybody wanting an in-depth account of the history of black holes and the main discoveries until the mid-nineties. Written by one of the leaders in the field and one of the pioneers of the LIGO observatories (he eventually got a Nobel prize for LIGO). Thorne gives a lot of historical details about the development of the theory of black holes and their observations.

Recent developments: Gravitational waves and the first image of a black hole

  • Black hole blues and other song. Janna Levin. I have to say this book was a ton of fun to read! This is a required reading for anybody wanting to understand the history of LIGO and the quest for gravitational waves.
  • Einstein’s shadow. Seth Fletcher. A description of the challenges behind the Event Horizon Telescope, published before the first image of an event horizon was taken.

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