Packing for Mars

Still shirking my plan to write something about The Mythical Man-Month, I want to get out a few quick thoughts on Packing for Mars.  First and foremost, it makes me sad that I will, very likely, never make it to space.  I got hit with that gut-wrenching realization about two-thirds of the way through the book.  Granted, I’ve intellectually known this since I was maybe 10, but something here made it resonate on a more guttural level.  I mourn for the six-year-old astronaut-to-be inside of me.

Anyway, the book focuses on the human aspects of the space program, which is an interesting topic on its own, but Mary Roach takes it so much further.  Her style is this amazingly blend of formal research and conversational tone, and I just love the way her writing sounds.  Note that I am intentionally using sounds instead of reads in that last sentence because I believe it is a more fitting description.

The topics covered deal with a wide range of human-related concerns, from comfort to clothing to food to sleeping to … I’ll say bathroom usage.  Every one of them is interesting and meticulously researched, but a large portion of the fun is all of the other things that she uncovers in the research.  I’d estimate at least half the pages in the book have one or more footnotes, and they are such beautiful sidetracks.  It’s information that’s never likely to be useful outside of bar trivia, but it’s rarely anything short of fascinating.

Packing for Mars makes me want to read everything Mary Roach has ever written or will ever write.  Before I even finished it, I had picked up Bonk.  If she decides to write a seven book series dealing with the differences between aluminum and plastic rain gutters, I will buy every one and somehow, they will all be awesome.

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