Top critical review
In The Shadow of Hansen's "First Man"
Reviewed in the United States on December 1, 2018
It seems unbelievable to me that this book has 4+ star reviews. Jay Barbree is a respected space reporter but he is not a historian. This fact was made painfully apparent by no less than National Air & Space Museum Space History Department head Michal Neufeld in a sometimes scathing interview with Jay Barbree done on CSPAN's "After Words" on July 7, 2014. It's easily accessible online and worth a look to expose the weaknesses of Jay Barbree's book, Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight.
"A Life of Flight" was not authorized by Neil Armstrong and the book was not supported by his family. It shows. Barbree claims to use the "reportage style" of writing which in this case, apparently means if he doesn't have a direct quotation from an individual on which to draw, he'll make up something that sounds about right to him. The result is a literary disaster of a book which masquerades as fact, but is largely woven from Mr. Barbree's extensive bank of astronaut tales and myths. There has also been a suggestion that Barbree's effort borrows rather excessively from "First Man" to the point of some potential legal jeopardy.
Here's one fact you can take to the bank: This half baked book would not have seen the light of day if Neil Armstrong was still alive.
On the other side of the coin is James Hansen's authorized biography of Armstrong "First Man", which had the full cooperation of Armstrong's family and Neil himself. Armstrong participated in 55 hours of taped interviews and the author had full access to the astronaut's family and friends. Hansen paints a thorough and accurate portrayal of the man where Barbree falls well short in accuracy and depth.