This book was recommended by Tom Tamlyn, who said it was his favorite of the many books he’s looked at on the Apollo program. After reading it I have to agree. It is the engineers’ story of the development of the technology for the Apollo program, and it is riveting.
Most books leave me with a few key understandings that I didn’t have before. For this book, it was that the Apollo program was not an evolution of Mercury and Gemini, but rather was developed by itself in parallel to what those programs were doing. In other words, NASA was designing and building the Apollo spacecraft, the Saturn booster and the enormous facilities for supporting them while it was still learning how to successfully launch and recovery the first Mercury capsules.
Of course they benefited from the techniques and experience that the earlier programs provided as they took place, but Apollo was not, as I’d often thought, just a drastically enlarged Gemini with different functions.
Again, Tom was right – this is my favorite Apollo book now, followed by Jonathan Ward's Rocket Ranch and Countdown to a Moon Launch about the activity at KSC – the first is about the technology at KSC, and the second is about the people. Not that the astronaut biographies, most notably Andrew Chaikin’s book, aren’t great, but I’d rather approach the story of the program from the engineering perspective.