While last year’s community wide reading event was firmly planted in the earthbound world of presidential politics, the 2018 edition of Brookfield Reads! is out of this world.

The book for the fourth annual community-wide reading event, sponsored by the Brookfield Public Library, is “Rocket Men” by Chicago area bestselling author Robert Kurson, which tells the story of Apollo 8, whose astronauts in December 1968 were the first to leave the Earth’s orbit in order to orbit the moon and pave the way for the first moon landing less than a year later.

Apollo 8’s mission capped a tumultuous year for the United States, which witnessed the assassinations of both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, riots in the wake of King’s death in many major American cities, continuing protests against involvement in the Vietnam War and battles between police and protestors outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

The U.S. space program also was under pressure to make good on President John F. Kennedy’s pledge to land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s – pressure made more intense by Soviet space program efforts.

“I never realized how much the public and the government was doubting NASA,” said Frank Murray, head of reference and electronic services at the Brookfield Public Library. “They had their backs up against the wall and they knew how much was riding on it – not only beating the Russians but proving they could do it and do it safely.”

Murray said it was Librarian Deb Donovan who made the connection with Kurson, whose book “Shadow Divers” was the subject of a discussion group she led last year. Kurson was unable to make it to the library to talk about the book at the time, but he told her about a new book he was about to publish.

Donovan asked Kurson if he would like to be part of Brookfield Reads!, and the die was cast.

Murray, Donovan and Librarian Christy Eyre all attended the launch party for “Rocket Men” at the Museum of Science and Industry – which has the Apollo 8 command module on display – on April 5. In addition to Kurson, all three Apollo 8 astronauts attended the launch party.

“What stood out was the camaraderie they had with each other,” Murray said of astronauts Frank Borman, 90; James Lovell, 90; and William Anders, 84. “They acted like brothers. They were funny, but also serious.”

Kurson, whose 2004 book “Shadow Divers,” about the discovery of a Nazi submarine off the coast of New Jersey, was a New York Times bestseller, will take part in a discussion and Q&A event on Thursday, May 31 at 7 p.m. at the Brookfield Zoo Discovery Center.

The author event will be moderated by Riverside-Brookfield Landmark Editor Bob Uphues. More than 300 people turned out for the 2017 author event featuring David Axelrod, former advisor to President Barack Obama.

To register to attend the author event at Brookfield Zoo, sign up online at brookfieldlibrary.info/brookfieldreads.

Brookfield Public Library will also be hosting special events prior to the author event in connection with Brookfield Reads!

Book discussions open to the public will be held May 19 at 2 p.m. at the Brookfield Public Library, 3609 Grand Blvd., and on May 24 at 7 p.m. at Irish Times, 8869 Burlington Ave., Brookfield.

Print and digital copies of the book are available for check out at the library.

On May 22 at 7 p.m., the library will also host “The Space Race,” presented by Michelle Nichols from the Adler Planetarium. Nichols will take an in-depth look at images and information about the space race between the U.S. and Soviet Union, which has surfaced in the past 20 years.She’ll also bring NASA moon and meteorite samples.