Like Mark isn’t cooler than all of the Apollo astronauts put together.

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

Astronaut Mark Watney is left for dead on the surface of Mars as the rest of his crew escapes a deadly dust storm. But he’s not dead, and now he has to figure out how to let NASA back on earth know he’s still alive and how to get home. I’m pretty sure I have a permanent heart murmur now (thanks a lot, Weir) as about every tenth page of this book something awful happens to Mark that first he has to survive and then somehow fix. Explosive decompression event? Oh hell, that’s nothing, Mark’s the first guy to wreck a car on Mars.

I had to keep putting the book down because as long as I didn’t finish it Mark was still alive. I was irresistibly (and continually) reminded of that Star Trek episode, “City of the Edge of Forever,” where Spock tells Edith Keeler, “I am endeavoring, ma’am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins.” Spock–for that matter, not even McGyver himself–had nothing on Mark.

And he is such a great guy, you’re just rooting for him every minute of every sol (Martian for day). I think my second favorite passage in the book is on p. 268, when Mark says

I need to ask myself, “What would an Apollo astronaut do?”

He’d drink three whiskey sours, drive his Corvette to the launchpad, then fly to the moon in a command module smaller than my Rover. Man those guys were cool.”

Like Mark isn’t cooler than all of the Apollo astronauts put together.

But my favorite line is on the last page, when Mark says

Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.

As everyone back on earth and his crewmates on Hermes care. And so will you.

Okay, sucking the tears back into my eyeballs, here’s what I think:

I think this book should be read by

1. Every writer who thinks they know how to write a thriller. They don’t.

2. Every school kid ten and older. Every kid who reads this book is going to want to learn how Mark did all that. She’ll want to study mechanical engineering, navigation, botany, chemistry, astronomy. You want to raise a kid interested in STEM? Here you go.

3. Everyone else.

View all my reviews

And opening this Friday…

Coffee Table on KBBI — Good reads for summer!

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I was a guest on Coffee Table on KBBI this morning, keeping company with Shady Grove Oliver and Terry Rensel as we talked about our favorite reads with people who call in. It was a blast, as always–thanks, guys!–and without further ado, here’s the books we talked about on the air.

Caroline
Cow Woman of Akutan (there’s a title for you) by Joan Brown Dodd
The Wind is not a River by Brian Payton

Lee
The Martian by Andy Weir
Astoria by Peter Stark (Lee compares this book to Alfred Lansing’s Endurance, one of the great survival stories.)
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Trish
A Thousand Prayers by James Sweeny
The List, a collection of short stories also by James Sweeny

Shady
Shadow Show by Sam Weller
Hyperbole and a Half (another great title) by Allie Brosh
I’m a Stranger Here Myself and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (Dana inserts herself here with her favorite Bill Bryson book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid)
The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley (Shady says its a great adventure story).
All’s Fair by Mary Matalin and James Carville (Shady says it’s a horrible book but you won’t be able to put it down. I just ordered a copy from the Homer Bookstore, so sold!)
Among Others by Jo Walton
Also, she’s been reading a lot of Agatha Christie, and says it’s interesting to see how Christie’s craft evolved over the years (decades)[century]. If you have yet to encounter Dame Agatha, Dana recommends Murder on the Orient Express. (They made a terrific movie out of it, too.)

Murder on the Orient Express

Terry
A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin, a history Terry says reminded him of Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly.
Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright (which Terry recommended in response to my recommendation of Read My Pins, see below)
Winston Churchill, Winston Churchill’s War Leadership and Churchill’s Political Philosophy, all by Sir Martin Gilbert. (Terry says these books are small, about 116 pages each, and a quick way into the life and character of Churchill, if you’ve always wanted to read about him but were daunted by the massive amount of books with his name in the title. Like me.)
The Martian by Andy Weir (Dana says she’s halfway through and loving it.)

Dana
If I Should Die by Matthew Frank
Sniper’s Honor by Stephen Hunter
The Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Euphoria by Lily King
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
The Plantagenets by Dan Jones
Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Read My Pins by Madeleine Albright
You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld
Dana says you can read her reviews of these books on her Goodreads page.

You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack

And a shoutout to the Homer Public Library’s Read 15 in ’15 reading challenge, because Shady and I and Terry are all participating. Click on the link to download a list of 150 books in various categories, and pick 15 of them to read in 2015. You can fill out an online form about a book you’ve read and leave a few comments, too. They’re printing out the comments and posting them on a bulletin board in the library so you can stop buy and get a few ideas. I’ve read seven from their list so far and every one has been a book I never heard of or something I wouldn’t have picked for myself. Fun.

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