I didn't mean to do it, but my last 3 reads have all been nonfiction...and now that I've realized it, I'm pining for more! Send me all your latest nonfiction recommendations, if you please. In the meantime, here's some snapshots of what I've been reading lately:
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach
W.W. Norton, 2016
received from the publisher for an honest review
If you didn't see my review of Mary Roach's Packing for Mars a few months back, let me tell you that she specializes in hilarious, science-based nonfiction. She generally chooses unconventional topics (the particulars of space travel, the science of human cadavers, etc), researches the minutiae behind them, and peppers her findings with off-color humor. Now that is MY brand of nonfiction.
In Roach's latest release, the topic is war, but not in the way it's covered via politics or military strategy. Instead, she's delved into the oft-not-discussed ways that our military uses science to provide for our soldiers at home and overseas. For example: what happens when a Navy SEAL really, really has to poop during a mission? (I'm dead serious. She actually ASKED A NAVY SEAL THAT.) How are military hospitals providing for soldiers that lose not just limbs, but also their genitals, during combat? How do submariners in the Navy prepare for undersea conditions? (Nice shout outs to my hometown of Groton, CT (Submarine Capital of the World, say heyyy) in that section!) These are the questions that you didn't even know you had, but now you want them answered.
Overall I enjoyed this one, because Roach's humor was on point (as expected), and the research was interesting. However, as a whole the book did not click with me quite as well as Packing for Mars did. I felt like the chapters were a bit disjointed from each other, which disrupted the flow between topics. Plus, I found it harder to laugh at her humor on this particular subject. Giggling over space toilets is one thing, but finding the humor in genital reconstruction for wounded soldiers was a bit tougher. Perhaps my humor has it's limits? I never thought I'd see the day...
Anyway, this is worth the read for followers of Mary Roach, and I think anyone connected to the military would find it intriguing. It's not my favorite of hers, but I'm still interested in reading her other work.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
borrowed from the good ol' public library
The latest read for my MOMS Club Book Club! This is Cheryl Strayed's memoir of when, after dealing with her mother's sudden death, her own divorce, as well as a descent into drug addiction, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail runs from Mexico to Canada via California, Oregon, and Washington. Strayed tackled the trail with no previous backpacking experience, in the hopes that she would find something to allow her to get her life back on track.
There is a ton of hype about this book (especially since the release of the Reese Witherspoon movie), but I understand why. This is a very moving memoir, and Strayed is startlingly honest about her childhood, her failed marriage, and her ups and downs on the trail. I found many of her experiences to be inspiring, even in her weakest moments. The interesting cast of characters that she encounters during her trek will (mostly) raise your faith in humanity. Plus, it's excellent hiking inspiration for the outdoorsy readers--I already told my husband that we must put the PCT on our bucket list!
Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon by Ed Caesar
Simon & Schuster, 2015
borrowed from the good ol' public library
Love me a good running read these days! In Two Hours, Ed Caesar discusses exactly what it would take for a professional marathoner to eventually break the coveted 2:00 mark. The current world record is 2:02:57, and while 2 minutes and 57 seconds doesn't sound like a long time to most, to elite marathoners it is an enormous divide. Caesar looks into the science behind it--there are researchers who have done a variety of tests in order to estimate what they believe to be the absolute limit for how quickly a human can run 26.2 miles. But alongside that, he follows the marathon pursuits of Geoffrey Mutai, an elite Kenyan runner who has his sights set on both a world record and the 2:00 wall. This combination of scientific and personal perspectives on the upper limits of marathoning made for a fascinating book.
One of my favorite tidbits from this book is the discussion of how modern day road races do not provide favorable conditions for runners to get the fastest marathon time possible. Many are hilly, provide very little shade, and don't allow the runners to employ pacers (non-racing runners who are hired to pace them at exactly what they need to hit a certain finish time--one racer will sometimes use a few different pacers throughout a race, if it is allowed). Plus, they are weather dependent--you could be in the best shape of your life, but if you wake up and have to run your marathon on a sunny 80 degree day, the chances of a good time are nil. This is just one of many fun discussions that got my brain turning in this book. Two Hours is a quick read, and excellent brain food for anyone with running interests!
What are your current reads? Any new nonfiction on the docket for you lately? What's the best memoir you've read lately?