The most recommended books about life on Mars

Who picked these books? Meet our 28 experts.

28 authors created a book list connected to life on Mars, and here are their favorite life on Mars books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The Martian Chronicles

By Ray Bradbury,

Book cover of The Martian Chronicles

Nathaniel Hardman Author Of School

From the list on magic-in-space for middle schoolers.

Who am I?

I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy since I was a kid, and I love when the two genres meet. I’m also fascinated by the power of stories and language, which has led me to work as an intern at a literary agency and later as an editor at a website that reviewed and gave feedback on unpublished manuscripts. I love finding ways to imbue stories with the kind of magic that can transport us to new worlds.

Nathaniel's book list on magic-in-space for middle schoolers

Why did Nathaniel love this book?

No one creates ambiance like Ray Bradbury. It’s his superpower.

I read this at thirteen and remember feeling the loneliness of that desolate planet in my bones. You feel this book, the melancholy, the magic, the wonder of it as Earth sends ships to colonize Mars. There’s a sadness to it as things don’t go the way the humans expect, but there’s also pleasure in this land refusing to be conquered.

A book that deeply shaped the way I think of society and growth. (Note that Bradbury probably wouldn’t call this a fantasy. But I say any book that ignores the laws of physics this hard has to be magic)

By Ray Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Martian Chronicles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Martian Chronicles, a seminal work in Ray Bradbury's career, whose extraordinary power and imagination remain undimmed by time's passage, is available from Simon & Schuster for the first time.

In The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury, America’s preeminent storyteller, imagines a place of hope, dreams, and metaphor— of crystal pillars and fossil seas—where a fine dust settles on the great empty cities of a vanished, devastated civilization. Earthmen conquer Mars and then are conquered by it, lulled by dangerous lies of comfort and familiarity, and enchanted by the lingering glamour of an ancient, mysterious native race. In this classic work…

Red Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Book cover of Red Mars

Tony Benson Author Of Galactic Alliance: Betrayal

From the list on exploring the dangers of discovering new worlds.

Who am I?

I’ve loved all kinds of science fiction since I was a child, and always enjoy discovering new worlds, and the frisson of danger that inevitably accompanies the discovery. After a successful career in science and engineering, spanning more than three decades, I left the corporate world to make stringed instruments and to write fiction and non-fiction. My two novels are An Accident of Birth, and the space opera, Galactic Alliance: Betrayal, and I’ve written a non-fiction reference book Brass and Glass: Optical Instruments and Their Makers. I live in Kent, England with my wife, Margo, and our cat.

Tony's book list on exploring the dangers of discovering new worlds

Why did Tony love this book?

When great science fiction strives for scientific credibility, and hits the nail on the head, you end up with a story like this. A hundred people arrive on Mars as the first colonisers, to begin the process of terraforming it for human habitation. The natural environment presents its own dangers, from low atmospheric pressure and unbreathable atmosphere to low gravity and destructive sandstorms. But the challenges don’t stop there. Not everyone has the same vision of the future Martian world, and the resulting conflicts threaten the whole project. The first book of a trilogy, this epic novel is a must-read for anyone who plans to make a new life on Mars.

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Red Mars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first novel in Kim Stanley Robinson's massively successful and lavishly praised Mars trilogy. 'The ultimate in future history' Daily Mail

Mars - the barren, forbidding planet that epitomises mankind's dreams of space conquest.

From the first pioneers who looked back at Earth and saw a small blue star, to the first colonists - hand-picked scientists with the skills necessary to create life from cold desert - Red Mars is the story of a new genesis.

It is also the story of how Man must struggle against his own self-destructive mechanisms to achieve his dreams: before he even sets foot…

Life on Mars

By Jon Agee,

Book cover of Life on Mars

Nancy Vo Author Of Boobies

From the list on with sideways humor and irony.

Who am I?

I was born where the sun rose in the prairies and set behind the Rockies. Now I live on the West Coast of Canada. I am a picture bookmaker, and from my recommendations, you might think that I also have a thing for thieves: cupcake thieves, underwear thieves, hat thieves, chicken thieves, pie thieves. But I’m really here for the element of surprise and well-earned laughs in children’s picture books. They say comedy is hard, but comedy in picture books is even harder. These five picks are a great place to start if you like smartly silly picture books with a bit of off-kilter humor and a sense of irony. Bonus points for puns.

Nancy's book list on with sideways humor and irony

Why did Nancy love this book?

A hapless astronaut is on a mission to find Life on Mars and explores a seemingly barren landscape. The astronaut is unaware of what is going on -- if only he would turn around! This becomes a source of great entertainment and an early lesson on irony. I enjoyed this book not only for the illustrations, which are well suited to this story, but more importantly for the way that the words do not match what is going on in the illustrations.

By Jon Agee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life on Mars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A daring young astronaut arrives on Mars, certain he will find life there. He has even brought a gift of chocolate cupcakes. But soon he realises he's made a mistake as the planet seems to be totally barren except for one little flower. However, as only the audience can see, if only he would turn around he would meet the friendly Martian who is always lurking shyly one step behind! As he settles in for the journey home, he cracks open his cupcakes-only to discover that someone has eaten them all! Fans of Oliver Jeffers and Jon Klassen will love…

The Rock from Mars

By Kathy Sawyer,

Book cover of The Rock from Mars: A Detective Story on Two Planets

Stephen P. Maran Author Of Astronomy for Dummies

From the list on space from someone with 35 years at NASA.

Who am I?

I’ve studied space for 60+ years, including spotting Sputnik from atop 30 Rock for Operation Moonwatch; monitoring an exploding star for a PhD at University of Michigan, leading the Remotely Controlled Telescope project at Kitt Peak National Observatory, hunting pulsars from Arizona and Chile, and helping develop scientific instruments for the Hubble Space Telescope. I worked for 5 years at Kitt Peak and 35 years for NASA. As Press Officer (now retired) of the American Astronomical Society, I organized press conferences on many notable cosmic discoveries. Minor Planet 9768 was named Stephenmaran for me, but I haven’t seen it yet. What I have spotted are five exceptional books on space.  Enjoy!

Stephen's book list on space from someone with 35 years at NASA

Why did Stephen love this book?

Politics, ambition, and science collided when NASA announced that a small rock that fell on Antarctica contained tiny fossils of ancient life on Mars. Advance plans for the public report were kept secret while coordinated all the way up through President Bill Clinton. Aides wondered if the great discovery would help his re-election. But after a televised press conference and the subsequent media circus, many qualified scientists disputed the claimed fossils. NASA is still searching for past or present life on Mars.  They will surely take greater care in reaching future conclusions, won’t they? And if you may wonder why an alleged DC sex worker had prior knowledge of the “breakthrough,” read ace Washington Post reporter (now retired) Kathy Sawyer’s brilliant and thorough account.

By Kathy Sawyer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rock from Mars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this riveting book, acclaimed journalist Kathy Sawyer reveals the deepest mysteries of space and some of the most disturbing truths on Earth. The Rock from Mars is the story of how two planets and the spheres of politics and science all collided at the end of the twentieth century.
It began sixteen million years ago. An asteroid crashing into Mars sent fragments flying into space and, eons later, one was pulled by the Earth’s gravity onto an icy wilderness near the southern pole. There, in 1984, a geologist named Roberta Score spotted it, launching it on a roundabout path…

The Lady Astronaut of Mars

By Mary Robinette Kowal,

Book cover of The Lady Astronaut of Mars

Daniel Robledo Author Of Cages of the Soul

From the list on speculative short stories about life.

Who am I?

Life is a complex matter, and so sometimes you need a few aliens, werewolves, and dragons in order to make sense of it. From struggling with one’s career, to finding your identity, to finding forgiveness in myself, I’ve struggled with a lot in life, and these are all things that I tackle in my stories, because in addition to being entertaining, I also believe that what we read should also be insightful.

Daniel's book list on speculative short stories about life

Why did Daniel love this book?

The Lady Astronaut of Mars takes place in a science fictional world, but like all the best sci-fi, it knows to keep its focus on its characters. There are no hour-long passages about future technologies or scientific theory. Instead it uses its setting to tell a human story about the missed opportunities in life and about growing old. Second chances are rare, and sometimes the decision about what to do isn’t so clear, but The Lady Astronaut of Mars reminded me that more often than not, experiences are worth having.

By Mary Robinette Kowal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lady Astronaut of Mars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner: 2014 Hugo Award for Best Novelette

Thirty years ago, Elma York led the expedition that paved the way to life on Mars. For years she's been longing to go back up there, to once more explore the stars. But there are few opportunities for an aging astronaut, even the famous Lady Astronaut of Mars. When her chance finally comes, it may be too late. Elma must decide whether to stay with her sickening husband in what will surely be the final years of his life, or to have her final adventure and plunge deeper into the well of space.…

The Sirens of Mars

By Sarah Stewart Johnson,

Book cover of The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World

Laura Krantz Author Of Is There Anybody Out There?: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life, from Amoebas to Aliens

From the list on the search for alien life.

Who am I?

I was never going to hack it as a scientist. So I became a journalist instead. After all, both careers stem from a sense of wonder about the world and asking questions, looking for answers, and accepting that there might not be any. In 2018, I started my narrative podcast Wild Thing, which let me explore some of our weirder collective fascinations (like aliens) using science, history, psychology, and humor. I’d never aimed the podcast at kids, but I realized that all those big open-ended questions that I had about everything were the same kinds of questions that kids had - which really set me up to write the Wild Thing book series. 

Laura's book list on the search for alien life

Why did Laura love this book?

Imagine for a moment that we found life on Mars.

That discovery would shake our world, change our outlook on the universe, and answer the question of whether we’re alone.

Sarah Stewart Johnson, a planetary scientist, has spent her life thinking about this possibility and delves into both her and our obsession with the Red Planet in this beautifully written book. Part memoir, part historical account, and part scientific exploration, this book made me want to ditch a career in journalism and take up astrobiology. You’ll never look at Mars the same way again. 

By Sarah Stewart Johnson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Sirens of Mars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a new wave of interplanetary exploration unfolds, a talented young planetary scientist charts our centuries-old obsession with Mars.

'Beautifully written, emotive - a love letter to a planet' DERMOT O'LEARY, BBC Radio 2

Mars - bewilderingly empty, coated in red dust - is an unlikely place to pin our hopes of finding life elsewhere. And yet, right now multiple spacecraft are circling, sweeping over Terra Sabaea, Syrtis Major, the dunes of Elysium and Mare Sirenum - on the brink, perhaps, of a discovery that would inspire humankind as much as any in our history.

With poetic precision and grace,…

The Alternate Martians

By A. Bertram Chandler,

Book cover of The Alternate Martians

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

From the list on 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

Marc's book list on life on Mars as we’ll soon know it

Why did Marc love 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.

By A. Bertram Chandler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Alternate Martians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A space expedition to Mars find themselves in the worlds of H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Otis Adelbert Kline.