"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, July 7, 2023

Super Past Due Review: GRUNT

In January of 2022 I embarked on a personal challenge to correct a deficit in my blogging life -- to write reviews for books I read but never got around to reviewing on paper, or on screen, as it were. Click here if you want to learn more about the challenge to write super past due reviews and to check on my progress.

Back in March of 2017 I read Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans At War by Mary Roach as part of an all-county reads event. Roach was the keynoter at the event's culmination and my book club members and I were all in attendance to hear her speak. Later, when the club met for our proper meeting, we discussed Grunt and what we thought of Roach's presentation. As is often the case, my opinion of the book and the presentation was very different than many of the other women who attended with me. What I found fascinating many found gross.

In Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Roach takes a look at a whole cadre of topics related to warfare that one might not have thought about before. Taking a look at the contents page I am reminded of many of these odd/interesting/disgusting topics: what kind of material/fabric keeps soldiers warm/cool/fireproof; what really happens when a vehicle drives over bombs and on a related topic, what do we know about genital implants?; the conundrum of military noise; diarrhea as a threat to national security; how to sleep on a submarine; what we they've learn from the dead to keep others alive; and more.

Roach doesn't do her research from books, she does sight visits. She interviews soldiers to talk about what it is like to be in the midst of a battle when you have to go to the toilet. She tries on a pack of tools and implements soldiers have to carry on their backs (and attempts to stand up.) She goes inside the testing facility where the perfect fabric for warfare is being tested. She gets permission to go aboard a submarine and attempts to sleep. Many of the topics she addresses are taboo so she has a hard finding someone she can interview. Many of the topics are gross, diarrhea and penile implantations especially, but Roach approaches her subject with such wonder and enthusiasm it is hard not to feel that way, too. She also has an excellent sense of humor and many of her examples and anecdotes are laugh-out-loud funny. Her presentation at the all-country reads event was full of laughter and good cheer.

I found the whole book fascinating from start to finish and so did my husband, an Army veteran, who could relate to heavy packs and other inconveniences of military service. Some of the ladies in my book club just couldn't get past the frank discussion of diarrhea. I found the information on that topic useful in my nonmilitary life.  

The first book I read by Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, is one of the most memorable books I've ever read and I loved it. I totally grossed out my family with it, too, since I insisted on reading quotes out of it when ever I came upon some interesting (read gross) facts about the ways human cadavers are used for medical and safety research. Clearly books about gross stuff don't necessarily bother me.

My husband and I listened to another Roach audiobook: Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, which addresses our whole system from mouth to rectum and everything in between. talk about a lot of room for gross stories, but most were weirdly interesting, too. I did review that book, though my review is very short. Both my husband and I have recounted to each other info we gleaned from the book. Something about laughter's ability to help one remember things makes Roach's book fun to read and memorable at the same time.

I have two other Roach titles on my reading list, one I own so I hope to read to it very soon: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex and Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Rules. I highly recommend her writing if you enjoy reading nonfiction or just a well-written book on a topic you may know little about.

Grunt-- originally read in 2017, reviewed in 2023!


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