Summary and book reviews of John Glenn by John Glenn

John Glenn

A Memoir

by John Glenn, Nick Taylor

John Glenn
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Nov 1999, 422 pages
    Oct 2000, 576 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

This extraordinary book captures the unique alchemy that brings a man to the forefront of his time.

He was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. Nearly four decades later, as the world's oldest astronaut, his courage riveted a nation. But these two historic events only bracket a life that covers the sweep of an extraordinary century. In this engrossing book, John Glenn tells the story of his unique life--one lived at the center of a momentous time in history by a man who helped shape that history.

He is the kind of hero who resists being called a hero. And yet his exploits in the service of his country, his dedication to family and friends, and his rock-ribbed traditional values have made this small-town boy from the Midwest a true American icon.

John Glenn's autobiography spans the seminal events of the twentieth century. It is a story that begins with his childhood in New Concord, Ohio, in the aftermath of World War I. It was there that he learned the importance of family, community, and patriotism. Glenn saw firsthand the ravages of the Depression and learned that determination, hard work, and teamwork could overcome any adversity. These were the values he carried with him as a Marine fighter pilot during World War II and into the skies over Korea, for which he would be decorated for his courage, dedication, and sacrifice. Glenn flew missions with men he would never forget, from baseball great Ted Williams to little-known heroes who would never return to their families. Always a gifted flier, it was during the war that he contemplated the unlimited possibilities of aviation and its next frontiers: speed and space.

John Glenn takes us into the cockpits of the experimental planes and spacecraft he flew to experience the pulse-pounding excitement of the early days of jet aviation, including his record-setting transcontinental flight in an F8U Crusader in 1957, and then on to his selection for the Project Mercury program in 1959. We see the early days of NASA, where he first served as a backup pilot for astronauts Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom and helped refine some of the initial cockpit and control designs for the Apollo program. In 1962 Glenn piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission of the United States. Then came several years in international business, followed by a twenty-four-year career as a U.S. senator--and in 1998 a return to space for his remarkable Discovery mission at the age of seventy-seven.

This extraordinary book captures the unique alchemy that brings a man to the forefront of his time. Married to a woman he first met when they were both toddlers, known for his integrity, common sense, and leadership in the Senate, John Glenn tells a story that we must hear. For this narrative of steadfastness, devotion, courage, and honor is both a great adventure tale and a source of powerful inspiration for an age that needs John Glenn's values more than ever before.

PATRIOTISM FILLED THE AIR of New Concord, the small eastern Ohio town where I grew up. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Armistice Day were flag-waving holidays of parades and salutes to the United States and to the soldiers, living and dead, who had fought for freedom and democracy.

My father was one of those soldiers. He served in France during World War I, delivering artillery shells to the front on trucks and horse-drawn caissons, and he came home partially deaf from a cannon blast but otherwise unharmed. He also was a bugler. He blew the bugle for reveille and taps, for mail call and mess call, and when the flag was raised.

At home, on those patriotic days that I remember, Dad was again called upon to play the bugle. He marched in the parade formations when the local veterans from the Thirty-seventh Ohio Division marched down Main Street on Armistice Day, and played the colors when they raised the flag at the American Legion hall at the end of the parade. But the ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!


Media Reviews

Library Journal

John Glenn's life story reads like a Frank Capra movie: Small-town Ohio boy weathers the Depression nurtured by conservative patriotic values, marries his high school sweetheart, flies combat missions in two wars, is selected as one of the original Mercury astronauts, becomes an instant national hero as the first American to orbit the earth, is elected to the Senate, and, after serving for four terms, improbably returns to space aboard the Shuttle at age 77. Glenn's account of his storybook life rings as true as his All-American Boy Scout image that Tom Wolfe caricatured in The Right Stuff. Yet even Glenn's long career was not totally immune from the hint of scandal, as he recounts his tangential role in the Keating S&L scandal. Still, in the current national climate, Glenn's account of his life and times provides a refreshing contrast to the public cynicism that all too often attaches to public figures. Recommended.

Booklist - Gilbert Taylor

Readers will opine on Glenn's politics according to their wont, but nostalgia for his uncomplicated courage and patriotism will create waiting lists for his reminiscences.

Kirkus Reviews

Despite the simple, even pedestrian writing, Glenns story of how he became a throwback to the heroic age of discovery is enduringly thrilling.

Publishers Weekly

Glenn's utterly plainspoken yet thrilling autobiography will put a lump in readers' throats.

Reader Reviews


An entertaing read about a true American hero.

Hello to all my Astronaut fans. This is a good good book. Not great , as the ones done by Deke Slayton, Jim Lovell, and Mike Collins.
Glenn...was a good pilot. To me however he was not a great astronaut...despite the amount of effort he put into ...   Read More

Brenda Castor Higgins
I am from John Glenn's hometown, New Concord, OH. John's wife, Annie, is my father's first cousin. Since I know both John & Annie I naturally wanted to read his book. I found it extremely interesting and in-depth. It is a ...   Read More

This is an incredible book about an incredible man! Senator Glenn gives personal details that make me admire and respect him even more than I already did. He gives wonderful "inside information" about the NASA programs he was ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!


Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked John Glenn, try these:

  • The Last Pilot jacket

    The Last Pilot

    by Benjamin Johncock

    Published 2016

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Set against the backdrop of one of the most emotionally charged periods in American history, The Last Pilot is a mesmerizing debut novel of loss and finding courage in the face of it from an extraordinary new talent.

  • Madam Secretary jacket

    Madam Secretary

    by Madeleine Albright

    Published 2005

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Albright's memoir combines warm humor with profound insights which are weaved together to form a fascinating tapestry, both intimate and panoramic, of the life of the highest ranking woman in American history.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member

Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    North of Crazy
    by Neltje

    The remarkable life of a woman who carves her own singular path.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.