Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 (cbriii) #1 "Packing for Mars" by Mary Roach

Now that it's almost November, it's probably about time I started on my 3rd edition of Cannonball Read reviews. My reading has dropped off drastically, and I'm barely scraping enough time together to get these reviews done now. Five months of the year has been taken up with fire academy. I read almost nothing but firefighting and hazardous materials books, and it was exhausting. I've also found that working full time sucks up your available free time like it's supposed to be your life's passion. But now that I am a bona fide volunteer firefighter, and recently become single, I'm finding more time to catch up on my reading and reviews. Since I read some of these books about, say, nine months ago, I am now discovering how much easier it is to write reviews right after reading the book. Thus, these first couple of reviews may be a little short because I can barely remember reading the books.

Mary Roach is one of those people whose lives I admire. She seems to have found success at a profession where she can follow her own curiosities and whims, learn about them to an extent not always possible without the "press" label, and then write an entertaining book about those subjects. She's gone from sex to death to the afterlife, and I've enjoyed all of them--although Spook was probably my least favorite. In Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (2010), Roach was able to experience weightlessness in the "vomit comet" airplane--something I've always wanted to experience.

Roach has an obvious interest in the often harrowing and adventurous life of astronauts and she delves into all of the aspects of that profession that most people don't think about or ignore. Not only does she describe how astronauts are chosen around the world--with some fascinating differences between the Americans and the Japanese, but she also explores all of the messy but necessary human functions and how they are managed in space (including eating, drinking, sex, and going to the bathroom). Roach also discusses what would be required for a trip to Mars, some of the experiments on animals and people before we made it into space, and other fascinating little bits of information that I cannot remember off the top of my head.

I found this book easy to read and a fascinating look at astronauts from a slightly different perspective. I am a fan of Mary Roach's irreverence and focus on the unusual, and I plan to read about whatever subject catches her interest for her next book.

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