A Playlist for The Martian’s Mark Watney

Ground control to Major Tom…

Mark Watney, protagonist of Andy Weir’s novel The Martian, is one fun and feisty astronaut. He may be stranded on a foreign planet, but he has a great attitude about it and is full of creative ideas on how to overcome his (seemingly impossible) predicament. If anyone is worthy of a playlist, it’s this guy. 


“Life on Mars” – David Bowie

Well, duh. There are a lot of Bowie tunes we could’ve picked, because that iconic musician sure loves to write songs about being in space (who knows, maybe we snuck in another one of his further down). But this one is especially appropriate for obvious reasons.


“Rocket Man” – Elton John

There are more songs about lonely astronauts than you might expect, but this is one of the classics. It’s alternates from understated to soaring and emotional as Elton reminds us of the stretches of time an astronaut spends alone, and the inhospitable environments they must endure:   

“Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it's cold as Hell”

“Hot Potatoes” – The Kinks

In order to survive on Mars long enough to be rescued, Mark must farm potatoes. Eventually, he eats little else, for weeks on end. That’s so many potatoes, there’s no doubt it’s the last food in the world he’ll want to eat when he makes it back to Earth. Toward the end of this song, The Kinks share Mark’s disdain for spuds:

“Don't give me no more potatoes,
Boiled, French fried, any old way you wanna decide.”


“Under The Milky Way” – The Church

“And it's something quite peculiarA haunting song of going off course and finding your way. This is one Watney plays when he’s feeling particularly wistful or introspective.

Something shimmering and white
Leads you here despite your destination
Under the Milky Way tonight”


“Major Tom (Coming Home)” – Peter Schilling

Unofficially a companion song to Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (both featuring a protagonist with the same name) this one is set to an infectious new wave beat and the cover art alone speaks volumes. But the song itself, about an astronaut in a space accident eager to return home, is one Watney can more than relate to:

“Far beneath the ship
The world is mourning
They don't realize
He's alive”


“I Float Alone” – Julee Cruise

Aside from life-threatening and scary, being alone on another planet is lonely. While Mark maintains an upbeat attitude, we’ve got to let the guy wallow once in a while. This song is for his moodier moments of solitude on Mars.

“Trying to hold the memory face
You seem to have vanished without a trace
And in this darkness, this empty space
I float alone”

<ALT>VARIOUS...Mandatory Credit: Photo by Beverley Goodway / Rex Features ( 66814b ) KATE BUSH VARIOUS

“Hello Earth” – Kate Bush

Another haunting tune, this one begins with sampled sounds of a space shuttle crew communicating and an opening verse that offers a perspective of watching our planet from the outside:

“Hello, Earth.
Hello, Earth.
With just one hand held up high
I can blot you out,
Out of sight.”


“Fight to Survive” – Stan Bush

Mark Watney isn’t going to spend a lot of time moping, so he needs a song that will get him pumped as he farms, fixes his space gear, and does whatever else he needs to in order to stay alive on the red planet. This is one that keeps his energy up:

“My body’s ready, my hearts on fire
Im gonna push it over the wire
Perfect timing, tight as a drum, final battle's already won”


“Don’t Leave Me This Way” – Thelma Houston

Come on, knowing Commander Lewis left Mark Watney nothing but disco to listen to on Mars, as much as it drove him crazy, we had to include at least one disco song. Especially considering this one’s painfully relevant opening lines:

“Don't leave me this way
I can't survive, I can't stay alive”


“Space Oddity” – David Bowie

Yes, it’s Bowie again, but how could we resist including the ultimate song about being lost in space? We couldn’t. Because long before we were rooting for Mark Watney to make it home safely, we followed the plight of another lost astronaut: Major Tom.

“Though I'm past
one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go”

Full Spotify playlist is below. And follow Quirk Books on Spotify for more Literary Playlists! 


Margarita Montimore

Margarita Montimore

Margarita writes upmarket fiction and is represented by Victoria Skurnick at Levine Greenberg Rostan. She also transcribes and pokes fun at her old journal entries at The Diary Project. When not wrangling her ever-growing book and movie collections or feeding squirrels and chipmunks, she dreams of the day time machines are built so that she can return to the 1980s. Follow her on Twitter at @damiella.