BiblioBitch: Packing for Mars

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a lecture given by Mary Roach. Many of you have probably read her books Bonk and Stiff, and thus you know she is a thorough researcher whose tastes run a bit on the weird side. As she put it, she likes to cover topics that combine “history, science, and some gross stuff.” The lecture I attended was on her latest book, Packing for Mars, and the subject matter definitely fits the bill. Pooping in space, anyone?

This video is the book trailer for Packing for Mars (hey, we’re in the digital age, folks—even books get trailers) and it dramatizes some of the research done on space travel during the 1960s. Basically, a bunch of college kids got paid a few bucks to see what happened when they sat in the same room for four weeks without showering. Gross. But interesting too, right? Who knew blasting off into space was so disgusting?

The 90-minute lecture left me with a few thoughts: First of all, I want to read this book because space research is totally bananas. Second, I never want to be an astronaut because the profession appears to be a combination of terrifying, revolting, and difficult (not qualities I look for in a career). Did you know that when you have dandruff in space, the flakes just float around in the air, creating what amounts to a giant snowglobe of dead skin? And did you know that pooping is really difficult in space because of the lack of gravity, and that sometimes you have to manually sever the, um, specimen from your body or else it will just sit there forever?

If you, like me, are equal parts grossed out and interested by that information, then Mary Roach has just the book for you.

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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4 Comments Have Been Posted

I love Mary Roach! The humor

I love Mary Roach! The humor combined with her research makes her books so hard to put down!

I love her work too. Can't

I love her work too. Can't wait to read this. <em>Stiff</em> helped me get over MANY fears I had regarding flying and donating my body to science. The book was oddly comforting. Unpacking what happens to bodies after death is one of those verboten topics and seems to only increase anxiety around the issue. Also, I had a lot of questions that I didn't know who I could ask (without seeming weird or morbid) and found 98% of the answers in <em>Stiff</em>.

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Mary Roach- the most interesting woman in world?

I am so glad Bitch has highlighted who've I called the most interesting non-fiction author in the world since I laid hands on stiff. Stiff was the book that helped me to convince my very catholic mother that donating my brain to science after death was ok (and my choice), even if it may damn my soul to eternal hell, or at least limbo. That is a very hard thing to do. It's also very hard to do battle in the non-fiction arena as a female unless you are writing fluff, or a biography, or a tell all. Roach does not- she's doing research, getting into the weird, the darn near sci-fi, and asking the questions the rest of us may think but do not dare ask. I give her kudos, respect, and my money each time she publishes.

Don't forget Spook!

One of my favorite non-fiction writers! I love her research approach to areas of science that don't seem to get a lot of mainstream attention. I haven't read the others (yet) but have heard her talk on both Stiff and Bonk. I'm off to my local library...

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