A Boy’s Guide to Outer Space

Winner: Best Novel, William Faulkner / William Wisdom Competition 2011
Finalist: Dana Award for the Novel 2017
Semi-Finalist, Big Moose Book Award 2017
Shortlisted: Steel Toe Books Book Award 2022

1963. HATTERTOWN, CONNECTICUT. Leo “Half” Napoli mourns his hat factory worker father while daydreaming of being the first man on the moon and partaking of “something of the infinite.” Meanwhile he and his fellow Back Shop Boys (their fathers all worked in the dangerous, mercury-fume-laden back shops of hat factories) seek to learn the identity of the mysterious Man in Blue who wanders the town collecting odd items in his rucksack. Elected to spy on him, instead Half enters an odd friendship during the course of which the man teaches Half to swim. Meanwhile Half discovers not only what “Jack Thomas” has been collecting in his rucksack, but the extraordinary circumstances that led to his fugitive existence — an odyssey extending from pre-WWII Bohemia to a German POW Camp and beyond. A Boy’s Guide to Outer Space is about the places on earth where the mundane and the miraculous meet and one boy’s re-discovery of his lost sense of wonder.

PRAISE FOR A Boy’s Guide to Outer Space:

A Boy’s Guide to Outer Space: is an engaging, plucky and taught performance by a writer who is clearly in control of his work.” — Competition Judge Will Murphy, Senior Editor, Random House

“Peter Selgin is an absolutely beautiful writer and he’s created an unforgettable narrator.” — Jennifer Barth, Vice President and Executive Editor HarperCollins

“Incredibly moving and beautifully written.” — Lindsay Sagnette, Senior Editor, Crown & Hogarth

“Quite a special book, with myriad stories at work in symphony, all told with seeming ease and an impressive and engrossing style.” — Robin Desser, Senior Vice President, Knopf Publishing Group

“Selgin is such a talented writer. He immediately drew me into the world of Leo and his friends.” — Megan Lynch, Senior Editor, Riverhead

“Selgin is a masterful storyteller … and it’s gorgeously, gorgeously written book. I was fascinated by the Man in Blue, by Half’s relationship with him, and by all the little gloriously intricate stories Selgin has woven in here, from the ‘history’ of felt, to Half’s stepfather’s fervor for hats, to the story of Virgil’s brothers’ deaths in the convertible.” — Sarah Bowlin, Henry Holt & Co

“I found it a compulsive read, and Peter Selgin is a masterful stylist; his writing flows like water.” — Hannah Wood, HarperCollins

“Peter is a remarkably talented writer, and there were graceful touches throughout that made me pause, made me re-read, so that I could savor the precise, insightful characterization.” — Miranda Popkey, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

“Peter is an incredibly talented writer, and with this novel, he’s wonderfully evoked the spirit of early-60s America, as well as created a unique narrator with Leo” — Anne Brewer, Editor, Thomas Dunne Books

“Reminiscent of Alain Fournier’s 1913 classic, Le Grand Meaulnes, this is a novel for readers who love the drama of mysterious worlds and the spell of enchanting words.” — Alta Ifland, author of The Wife Who Wasn’t

“At turns poignant, zany, always fresh and exuberant, A Boy’s Guide to Outer Space is a bittersweet coming of age story, beautifully told in exquisite prose.” — Linda Lappin, author of Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne

“In his finely crafted novel, A Boy’s Guide to Outer Space, Peter Selgin presents a lost world of 1960’s small town life with all its constrictions and aspirations. Selgin skillfully balances the warmth of nostalgia with the disquieting blaze of youthful doubt and guilt. It’s a poignant tale, with its share of loss and betrayal, but also a boisterous and humorous one—and, at its core, a meditation on the survival of the spirit.” — Michael Nethercott, author of The Séance Society

“In A Boy’s Guide to Outer Space, Peter Selgin has crafted the touching philosophical tale of a boy’s coming of age with masterful eloquence. A world of fading prosperity, the complexities of adolescence, the pain of horrific loss, and the beauty of forbidden friendship—all are woven into a mesmerizing page turner. Selgin’s insights into the human condition along with his beautifully drawn characters make him the rival of our literary icons.” — Morgan Howell, author of The Sky Won’t Talk

“‘Like all good stories, this one starts with an exploding star,’ begins Peter Selgin’s terrific new novel A Boy’s Guide to Outer Space, and this charming, wise book is proof enough of that. The kid living the story daydreams of adventures on the Moon and beyond, and lives by his late father’s advice to follow his fears. Little does Half know that following his fears will lead to life-changing encounters and irreversible decisions; it’s his own world where he finds the unexpected, adventure, and real danger. Ultimately, this insightful book reminds us that inner space is where we need guidance most.” — David Ebenbach, author of How to Mars

“A Boy’s Guide to Outer Space is unlike any novel I have ever read. It is so many things at once—a story of fathers and sons, a story about friendship, a war story (two war stories!), a UFO story (not an inclusive list, I hasten to say) and by turns zany, heartbreaking, exuberant, tragic, and witty—that I found myself holding my breath for entire portions of it. I never once knew what was going to happen next—where I would be taken, what new turns were coming. I’m still breathless, hours after finishing it.” — Michelle Herman, author of Close-Up

“Peter Selgin’s novel about an unlikely friendship between two solitary people—a man with a secret past and a boy who lost his father—is a tender, wise, and deeply moving coming of age story. Read it. You are in for a very great pleasure.” — Megan Staffel, author of The Exit Coach

“A kaleidoscopic and astronomic depiction of boyhood’s metamorphosis into manhood. Selgin’s bildungsroman celebrates the mysteries of teenage years from the vantage point of Half, a curious lad who inadvertently befriends a German POW in Connecticut in 1963 while wrestling with the guilt of his disabled brother’s tragic fate. Wrought with bottle rockets and rocket ships, A Boy’s Guide to Outer Space is a dazzling explosion of stars, innocence, and transcendence.” — Nathan Elias, author of Coil Quake Rift

“Leopold Napoli IV, known to his friends as “Half,” is one of the most compelling narrators in modern literature. His narrative of that one extraordinary year of his life has everything: heart, wit, sly humor, tragedy, and a significant if unusual friendship. Selgin is a magnificent storyteller, and he has gifted us a confident, audacious novel delivered in beautiful, miraculous prose.” — Chika Unigwe, author of The Middle Daughter