The Martian, by Andy Weir. Science Fiction. Hardback, 369 pages. Stand-alone.
The cover blurb actually does tell the plot pretty well: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces the crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars' surface, completely alone...
His challenges range from food to communication to equipment failures.
The science part of the fiction was pretty good for a layman like me to read. Most of the story is told through Mark's journal entries, so we get to read his thought process to get to each biological/engineering discovery without drowning in technical details. There are plenty of humanizing commentaries to go along with it, as Mark is a Cubs fan and apparently his (now absent commander) had a thing for 70's entertainment. I also, unfortunately, appreciate the author's perspective on both American media and American politics. The amount of seat-of-the-pants engineering and accompanying ratio of success to failures along the way seems, at the same time, both unreal and totally believable.
I recommend this book to fans of the Apollo 13 movie. I could totally see young Tom Hanks playing Mark. I also think it is mandatory reading for the gent who goes by "Houston" in my family's nicknames.Books read in 2014