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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 16/100: Packing for Mars - The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void - Mary Roach

I felt compelled to check this out after reading a favorable review of it on Booklikes, and because I've found myself newly fascinated with space in the last few years. I say "newly fascinated" because I think that almost everyone is fascinated with space to a certain extent, but I've noticed its pull becoming stronger for me.

Mary Roach brings her trademark curiosity and sense of humor to what is normally approached as an ultra-serious topic. Rather than examine the wonder, awe, and bravery inherent in space travel, she focuses her book on the mundane details, all the little annoyances of human existence that must somehow be imagined anew once gravity is out of the equation. (Think, going to the bathroom, motion sickness, eating, even sex.)

I listened to this book on audio, but if I had been reading it I would have been tempted to skip the chapter on motion sickness, which talked WAY too much about vomit and ruined my appetite for lunch that day. As if that weren't enough to sway me, the chapters on cleanliness (no ability to shower) and elimination (pulling poop out of your body with a plastic bag minus gravity to help it along) are enough to convince me that I could NEVER be cut out for aeronautics. It gives me a new respect for those who are so drawn to space that they are willing to put up with conditions that must surely be crazy-making.

This felt like something that might be good in my arsenal if I ever decide to tackle space travel in my writing, but it's very far removed from most of the space travel we see an read about in science fiction (which basically makes it look like being in space is akin to being on a cruise ship). If you're the type who tends to romanticize space travel, this book is just the antidote. However, Mary Roach still makes a worthwhile argument for continuing to explore space, and as long as there are still people out there willing to have their vomit sucked into their space suits and poop in plastic baggies, I'm also all for it!