Book Review: Breaking the Chains of Gravity by Amy Shira Teitel

“The difference between nations lay not in the technology itself but in the totality of the effort that brought that technology to life.”

Amy Shira Teitel, Breaking the Chains of Gravity

Title: Breaking the Chains of Gravity
Author: Amy Shira Teitel
Genres: Non-fiction, History, Science, Space
Length: 8 hrs, 38 mins (Audiobook)
Published: January 12th, 2016

My Rating: ★★★
Read: 5/13/2023 – 6/1/2023


I had decent expectations from this book. I read a lot of books that discuss the dawn of the space age. I haven’t yet read a book that focuses so much on Wernher von Braun, though his name naturally makes an appearance in any space book about this era. Breaking the Chains of Gravity certainly keeps a spotlight on him and I was actually disappointed that the rest of the information was largely summarized rather than deeply explored given the title alludes to this era as a whole. 

The book has a mechanical and technological focus going through the history of rockets and the scientists behind them. This information is good, though I noticed inconsistencies (particularly historic dates) with other books and what has become general knowledge for me through my reading. It also leaves a nasty elephant in the room and almost minimizes von Braun’s connection to the Nazi party. I understand this book aims to look through a technological lens, but it’s hard to look past the fact there was a lot of unmentioned human experimentation going on with enslaved prisoners. I don’t know the extent of von Braun’s moral story and I’d been hoping through this book to gain more insight, instead, I walked away feeling like everything had been justified. I’ll believe the claims that he was trapped into joining the party, but that doesn’t mean it will ever sit right with me personally. I’d rather read an account that plainly discusses the good as well as the bad.

Aside from this, the rest of the book was interesting enough. I do like the technical side of things. Under these circumstances, I think I would have taken a dryer telling that didn’t include much about the members behind the innovations. I do believe there is a time and place to discuss both sides but the way it was presented here just didn’t work for me. I would need to read deeper into von Braun’s life to solidify my opinion.

Likes & Dislikes:

What I liked:

  • The technical talk.
  • Fairly chronological.

What I didn’t like:

  • As I mentioned above, I feel a lot about Werner von Braun’s Nazi ties were minimized by the author. I don’t claim to know his entire story but I can’t set aside in my mind the damage his and other Nazi scientists’ work did. At the same time, I can acknowledge the good and advancements that his work and NASA eventually brought to the world. I don’t feel I need to justify pasts to say so. I’m a firm believer in giving people a chance to change but that unfortunately doesn’t erase regrettable pasts.
  • The topics of focus jumped around too much.


Though I might have picked up a thing or two, the book hasn’t stuck with me. I don’t know how much that has to do with my interpretation.

Where to buy the book:

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