An Ode to Mary Roach

I wanted to take a minute to blog about one of my favorite non-fiction authors: Mary Roach.

I’ve always had a boner for science and Ms. Roach, the author of Stiff, Spook, Bonk, and now Packing for Mars, had me at cadaver with her first book Stiff.  Stiff was the stuff of my dreams; a whole book dedicated to death: the morbid, the funny and the frank. Her next two books Spook and then Bonk – about the afterlife and sex, respectively – also had me from the get-go. Ms. Roach has the great ability to take science-related issues and concepts and make them amazingly easy to read about. I never have my whaaaaaaaa? face on when I’m reading about organ transplants or orgasms. 

Which leads me to the next best thing about Mary Roach: she’s funny. Not just a chuckle and a grin funny, but gut-busting, knee-slapping hilarious. I’ll lay in bed at night reading one of her books, all is quiet, husband watching TV, when suddenly I’ll end up screaming with laughter. The cats fly off the bed and my husband’s giving me a disturbed glare, making me feel a bit too Dahmer-esque laughing at a book with the tagline: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

Like I said, Mary Roach makes me giddy. And not just me.

My cousin and I, seeing a copy of her 2009 release Bonk at the Denver Museum of Natural Science, and having no idea she had a new book out, ended up hugging each other in sheer joy while jumping up and down squealing amid the book racks. Ten-year olds stared at us in shocked confusion as we wiped tears of joy from our eyes.

But I digress. Now, the real reason for this blog about Mary is that she has made me do something I never thought I’d do. Wait for it………..

Read about space travel. Sure, I love outer space – little green men, UFO’s, Fox Mulder, Crop Circles, all that jazz…but astronauts? And NASA? Really? I never was a Mommy-I-Want-To-Be-An-Astronaut kind of child.

And yet…the minute the book came out I blindly bought it.

In her latest, Packing for Mars,  it’s so much more than I would have thought. I’m only 40 pages into it, but already it’s a great trip. It deals  with the psychology, technology and personal aspects of space travel and all those involved in a deliciously humorous way. She makes me want to slap a space suit on and give a high-five to good ol’ Buzz Aldrin, maybe get high on moon dust or something.

If you haven’t, I urge all of you to go out and buy one of her books. Your brain and your funny bone will thank you.


As a side note, I personally stumbled upon Ms. Roach while she was about to film a TV segment a few years ago to promote Bonk. After realizing that it was in fact Mary Roach and working up the gall to approach her, I nerdily made my way over to her publiscist, getting strange looks like I was John Wilkes Booth making my move. Finally able to find my fangirl voice, I simply told her how much I loved her writings. She smiled, was kind and gracious to my babbling, and then after bidding goodbye I moved on. I cursed my ineptness of not carrying a book of hers on me at all times as I really wanted an autograph. The only book I had on me was The Carpetbaggers and I was a tad bit embarrassed to ask her to sign that…

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    September 20, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    What a wonderful rave! I remember that afternoon in the museum when we made a spectacle of ourselves in the gift shop… I ran out and bought that book the next week! I can never wait for Mary Roach’s books to be released in paperback!

    My favorite by far is definitely Stiff. I remember reading the chapter about plane crash victims while waiting for a flight at the Billings Airport. I kept looking around to be sure no one was peeking over my shoulder at my book, as they would surely think there was something wrong with me, reading about bodies and plane wreckage pre-flight.

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    September 20, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    She was a guest recently on Coast to Coast A.M. – my favourite radio programme. I enjoyed reading your post Julia and it made me smile because I know how much you love words and books. When you were a little girl, I read to you for almost the entire day and your poor Father would come home to dirty dishes, a messy house and no dinner. No regrets !! xx

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