The Right Stuff

Tom Wolfe

Illustrated by Tavis Coburn

Introduced by Andrew Chaikin

The Right Stuff is an exhilarating flight into the death-defying lives of the Mercury Seven, America’s first astronauts. This Folio edition of Tom Wolfe’s classic features superb retro-styled colour illustrations by Tavis Coburn.

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‘Learned, cheeky, risky, touching, tough, compassionate, nostalgic, worshipful… The Right Stuff is superb.’
  1. New York Times

‘What is it that makes a man willing to sit up on top of an enormous Roman candle, and wait for someone to light the fuse?’ In The Right Stuff, hailed as one of the greatest books ever written about space flight, Tom Wolfe sets out to answer the question, and lays bare the mindset and motivations of the first American astronauts to risk life and limb to beat the Soviets into orbit. He blows apart the mythology of the Mercury Seven – Deke Slayton, Gus Grissom, Alan Shepard, Wally Schirra, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter and Gordon Cooper – and the forerunner of them all, supersonic test pilot Chuck Yeager. Dazzlingly written, this is a thrilling account of men who ‘pushed the edge of the envelope’ at work and play, all to prove they possessed the quality that Wolfe famously christened the right stuff. Opening with a new introduction by space historian Andrew Chaikin and featuring Tavis Coburn’s striking retro-styled graphic illustrations, this is an exceptional edition of a 20th-century classic from the Folio Society.

Bound in printed and blocked cloth

Set in Cartier Book with Helvetica as display

448 pages

Frontispiece and 7 colour illustrations, including 5 double-page spreads

Black & white chapter details

Printed endpapers

Printed page edges

Printed slipcase

9 ½˝ x 6 ¾˝

‘He doesn't have a nerve in his body! He's a block of ice! He’s made of 100 percent righteous victory-rolling True Brotherly stuff!’

This is the ultimate edition of Tom Wolfe’s most celebrated non-fiction book. To produce it, the Folio Society tapped into the expertise of Andrew Chaikin, author of A Man on the Moon – the definitive account of the Apollo space programme, published in its own lavish Folio edition in 2021. Chaikin worked closely with Folio and illustrator Tavis Coburn on the visual look and feel of the book, which takes its cue from 1940s comic art and Soviet posters of the time. The illustrations portray the astronauts as Cold War heroes, and Coburn’s beautiful retro-futurist cover design perfectly captures the aesthetic and spirit of the early Space Age. Andrew Chaikin’s new introduction explores the origins of the book, and its uncanny ability to get inside the mindset of the Mercury astronauts: ‘Wolfe seemed to have found his way into their high-octane psyches and spilled their secret, innermost thoughts… they became three-dimensional human beings.’

Tom Wolfe (1930–2018) is best known as a pioneer of the ‘New Journalism’ and as the author of The Bonfire of the Vanities, the acclaimed and bestselling novel about 1980s Wall Street. Wolfe grew up in Richmond, Virginia and studied at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, followed by a doctorate at Yale, before abandoning academia for a career in journalism. After several years reporting for the Washington Post and the New York Herald Tribune, his breakthrough came in the mid-1960s. Wolfe’s radical experiments with the use of literary techniques alongside ‘straight’ reporting came to typify the ‘New Journalism’ movement – most famously in The Right Stuff and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, an account of the emerging hippie scene in the late 1960s. Among his many awards was the National Book Foundation Medal for a Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and he continued to publish provocative non-fiction into his eighties, most recently 2016’s The Kingdom of Speech, a critique of Charles Darwin and the linguist Noam Chomsky.

Andrew Chaikin is an American author, speaker and space journalist. He was born in 1956 and grew up in New York and studied geology at Brown University. He went on to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA and was a researcher at the Smithsonian’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies before he became a science journalist in 1980. Chaikin has written numerous articles about space exploration and astronomy and is best known for his book A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts (1994, Folio 2021).


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