The nice thing about reading popular books a few years after they're published (and after the movie adaptation comes out) is that there's no hold on the libarry copy and you can read it right away! I'd heard good things about The Martian by Andy Weir from both science fiction and non-science fiction fans. When it popped up as a recommendation on Overdrive (an app to download ebooks from your local public library) I checked it out, and really enjoyed it.
The book is essentially a stranded-on-a-desert-island survival story, but with a lot more science. Mark Watney is an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars when he and his crewmates are forced to evacuate their mission early due to a dangerous sandstorm. Mark is assumed dead -- which is how he gets left behind -- but it turns out he survives the storm very much alive. Mark is a great character -- likable and believable, like someone you'd want to hang out with back home. So it's easy to get invested in what's happening. It really felt almost like reading a memoir of what happened to a real person. The secondary characters filled their roles well -- real people who were worrying and working to get Mark home.
You can tell that the author is a scientist -- or at least a big fan of science and space travel. There's a lot of science as Mark explains in his log what he's doing and how he's doing it, and lots of insights into rockets and astrophysics and all the things necessary to space travel. While there are a few times where I -- who doesn't know a whole lot about science or physics or math -- got a little lost in the numbers, it didn't hinder my enjoyment. Occasionally I just kind of skimmed over those parts, reading enough to get the gist of what was going on. But for someone who really digs science, I'm pretty sure they would find some of the more detailed explanations a nice addition to the story. And i do think it lent a lot of realism to the story, grounding it in reality and making it seem -- like I mentioned above -- like it could be based on a true story.
Bottom line: great read, and I'm ready to see the film adaptation