The best books about life on Mars as we’ll soon know it

Who am I?

My passion for Mars began when I stumbled upon an old newspaper article from 1926 about a lawyer who was in telepathic communication with a Martian woman named Oomaruru. How could I not be intrigued? As I dug into the story, I learned about his attempts to send telegrams to Mars, his disappointment at our scientists for not being smart enough to receive their responses, and the many other interesting beliefs about intelligent Martians that were prevalent at the time. The more I learned about this early history of Martians, the more fascinated I became. It all led me on the path to what became The Big Book of Mars

I wrote...

The Big Book of Mars: From Ancient Egypt to The Martian, a Deep-Space Dive Into Our Obsession with the Red Planet

By Marc Hartzman,

Book cover of The Big Book of Mars: From Ancient Egypt to The Martian, a Deep-Space Dive Into Our Obsession with the Red Planet

What is my book about?

Mars has been a source of fascination and speculation ever since ancient civilizations observed its blood-red hue and named it for their god of war. But it wasn't until 1877, when "canals" were observed on the surface of the Red Planet, that scientists, novelists, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs became obsessed with the question of whether there's life on Mars. In The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells suggested that we wouldn't need to make contact with Martians—they'd come for us—while a year later Nikola Tesla claimed that he did make contact.

Filled with entertaining history, archival images, pop culture ephemera, and interviews with NASA scientists, The Big Book of Mars is the most comprehensive look at our relationship with Mars—yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

The books I picked & why

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The Martian

By Andy Weir,

Book cover of The Martian

Why this book?

The beauty of The Martian is how its simple premise—man gets stuck on Mars and needs to find a way to live and get home—can include so much science yet be so accessible to a mass audience. Following Mark Watney’s plans for survival from growing potatoes from poop to rebooting Pathfinder is an endlessly entertaining journey. 

The Martian Chronicles

By Ray Bradbury,

Book cover of The Martian Chronicles

Why this book?

Bradbury’s classic explores a future in which we populate Mars, but being the conquerors we are, we end up killing off all the native Martians. From there, Bradbury reminds us that even if we can escape Earth, we can’t escape ourselves. We face the same old human problems, they just happen to occur on a new planet.

The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must

By Robert Zubrin, Richard Wagner,

Book cover of The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must

Why this book?

This is the one non-fiction book on my list. Zubrin wrote The Case for Mars in the mid-1990s with a plan to get to the Red Planet, utilize its natural resources, terraform the planet, and build a society. That idea may sound like science fiction, but Zubrin lays out specific scientific details on how it could all be possible. 

Red Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Book cover of Red Mars

Why this book?

The first book of Robinson’s trilogy follows the first hundred settlers of Mars. Similar to Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, we see how humanity’s baggage can never be left behind. But Robinson goes much deeper into the issues and the science, and creates a remarkable vision of what may come to be.

The Alternate Martians

By A. Bertram Chandler,

Book cover of The Alternate Martians

Why this book?

There are so many science fiction books about Mars, so I wanted to choose at least one of the more obscure ones. This one is particularly interesting because it explores the idea of a universe in which the many famous Martian tales that came before it, like John Carter of Mars, were based on actual beings and events—the details were just embellished and perhaps misremembered a bit by the authors.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Mars, survival, and extraterrestrial life?

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