Readalikes for Andy Weir’s The Martian

The Martian. The story of Mark Watney—a near-future Robinson Crusoe trapped alone on Mars with only his Macgyver sensibilities, a potty mouth, and a roll-with-it attitude that never gives up, no matter how many obstacles are thrown in his path. And there are a lot of obstacles—a new life-or-death situation occurs in nearly every chapter.

There are as many reasons for a reader to dig The Martian as there are obstacles for Watney to overcome: there are the hard sci-fi elements, where practical, authentic applications of math, chemistry, physics, biology, geology, botany, and engineering are made exciting and relevant to Watney’s survival aspect, there’s the page-turning action, the irreverent humor, the detailed descriptions of the Martian landscape, the dramatic tension of man vs. nature, the effects of severe isolation, the pacing, the ingenuity of lateral thinking to overcome setbacks, and Weir has pulled off the seemingly-impossible feat of writing a fast-paced thriller with SO much math, it’ll make your head spin.

The books in this list won’t cover all the selling points The Martian offers, but if you like action, humor, survival, outer space, or laughter, there’s a pretty good chance one of them will rock(et) your world.

Rescue Mode

Science fiction veteran Ben Bova teams up with NASA scientist Les Johnson for this outer space adventure story about 8 people stranded on an inhospitable planet when the first manned mission to Mars goes sideways, resulting in survival challenges like those found in The Martian. Combining hard science fiction with technical realism, this book also focuses on the shady political agendas impacting the space program.

The Complete Cosmicomics

A blend of magical realism, philosophy, and cosmology, each story in this collection opens by introducing a scientific concept that is used as a jumping-off point to explore the evolution of the universe in a funny and accessible way. There are no human characters, but it’s still about humanity, our place in the universe, and it’s a lively romp for science nerds or those who want to learn, but also want a little fun.

The Mysterious Island

From one of the giants of adventure fiction comes a story of a group of men (and a dog!) carried away in a hot air balloon to a deserted island where they will have to use all their ingenuity and the available resources to survive. A stickler for scientific accuracy and research, Verne goes into great detail about the natural sciences across a number of disciplines: chemistry, geology, meteorology, and yes—botany!

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

As delighted by the scatological components of space travel as our goofy Mark Watney, Mary Roach sets out to research the effects of outer space upon the human body, all without ever leaving the ground. If you enjoy learning about science through the filter of someone a little too preoccupied with bodily functions, this is the book for you! It’s hilarious and horrifying, which is the best way to learn about science.

The Martian Race

A billionaire takes the space race into his own hands, offering a huge prize to the first manned team to make it to Mars…and back. Reality television and the privatization of space travel are eerily prescient components of this 1999 novel, which has all the realistic drama and peril of  “things going wrong in space” you want out of a book written by an astrophysicist, with more alien life than The Martian supplied.

Ready Player One

This book is just an opportunity to embrace your inner geek; to celebrate your nerdparts in a fountain of 80’s pop culture references, gamer fantasies, and rollicking adventure. There’s no direct overlap between this and The Martian, but Mark Watney would probably dig this novel for its pacing, fun, and humor, and because it’s a geek-centric wonderland romp of a book that would distract him from all those potatoes.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

This is a gripping nonfiction account of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914. Shackleton and his men faced as many challenges as Watney (minus the disco), during their odyssey; from cold and hunger to blizzards and shipwreck, illness, ice-filled blisters and amputations, but Shackleton somehow maintained his high spirits and his unflagging optimism that he was going to bring his men home.

The Moon is Hell!

Written in 1950, eighteen years before the first moon landing, this book imagines a moon-landing gone horribly wrong, trapping a group of men on the lunar surface where they struggle to survive against the elements and each other. Like The Martian, this is told though diary entries, and while the science is not as rigorously factual as in Weir’s book, it’s a fun little time-capsule piece of man v. moon.


Math! Nerds! Unite! This book is more sprawling and ambitious in scope, and much more densely-written than the action-packed Martian, but it’s perfect for math enthusiasts looking for more of a meal than a snack. There’s plenty of adventure, codebreaking, war, computers, history, and humor, but also graphs, illustrations, and algorithms, so you can have your fun while also engaging your thinking-parts.

Mars Crossing

On the first successful manned mission to Mars, the 6-person crew realizes their equipment is too damaged for the return journey, there’s no time to wait for rescue, and their only hope for survival is to trek 4000 miles to the site of a vehicle from a previous mission. The kicker? That ship, if it’s even still functional, is only able to carry two of them home. Who will survive the journey? Who will be left behind?

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Amazon Disclaimer

Bloggycomelately.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties including but not limited to, amazon.com, or endless.com, MYHABIT.com, SmallParts.com, or AmazonWireless.com.


this feels gauche, but when i announced i was starting a blog, everyone assured me this is a thing that is done. i’m not on facebook, i’ve never had a cellphone or listened to a podcast; so many common experiences of modern life are foreign to me, but i’m certainly struggling financially, so if this is how the world works now, i’d be foolish to pass it up. any support will be received with equal parts gratitude and bewilderment.

To Top