Andy Weir. The Martian.
Del Rey. 2014
The third Mars mission has had to evacuate and return home because of
a dangerously strong storm.
Due to a freak accident, Mark Watney is left for dead.
But he’s not dead.
And now he’s alone on Mars,
without enough food, air, or energy to last the many months
it would take rescue to arrive.
Not that he can call for help.
Nevertheless, he is an engineer…
Watney is competent and resourceful,
and he does have resources to be resourceful with:
all the equipment the crew left behind when they abandoned Mars.
Mars keeps throwing problems at him,
and he keeps figuring out solutions,
knowing that the first problem he can't solve will kill him for sure.
What makes this fun is all the engineering
(although I’m sure it’s much harder than shown here);
the little acid comments Watney keeps making
about the entertainment choices of his departed crewmates;
and the potatoes.
I am surprised that Watney didn’t realise that Earth would be able to see that he was still alive,
but much of the rest of it rings sufficiently true to make this a thrilling
adventure across the Red Planet.
Susan Cain. Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.
Most of the Western world, and certainly the USA,
is organised not only expecting but requiring everyone to be an extrovert.
This is very tough on the large minority of the population who are actually introverts.
Why are scientists and other thinkers required to go out
and “sell” themselves and their ideas,
whereas salespeople are not similarly required to reflect and ponder?
Rather than advocating some form of “cure” for this minority,
Susan Cain (a self-acknowledged introvert) sets out how these
quiet ones can provide a positive benefit
(because actually thinking about things is beneficial!)
and how they can better organise parts of their work and social life
to cope with being surrounded by their extrovert peers.
There’s lots of good stuff here, from the history of how the world became
extrovert-focussed and so dismissive of introverts,
the myth of leaders needing to be extroverts,
how to nurture introvert (and extrovert) children,
how introversion and shyness are not the same thing,
why introverts make better long term investors,
and much more.
If you prefer to recharge your mental batteries alone rather than at a party,
or have a partner, friend or colleague who does,
you should read this book.