Author: Mary Roach
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Summary: This was a slightly more depressing topic than Mary Roach’s previous books, but it delivered all the same great elements – fascinating facts, hilarious commentary, and delightful footnotes.
“Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier’s most challenging adversaries—panic, exhaustion, heat, noise—and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them” (source). And if you’ve read a book by Mary Roach, that’s probably all you need to know – maybe more than I needed to know. Mary Roach’s amazing ability to find the best fun facts and quirky stories, then present with great candor and humor are enough that I’d read on any topic she wants to write about.
Despite my willingness to follow Mary Roach wherever she wants to go, I did worry as I started this that I wouldn’t enjoy Mary Roach’s irreverent humor being applied to something as serious as war – dead bodies seem a far more appropriate topic than people dying. Fortunately, as soon as I started the intro and the story of the “chicken gun” (I’ll let you find out more for yourself!), I knew this was going to work for me. The author’s own description of herself in the intro as not someone who “shines a spotlight” on the big stories, but someone who “crawls around in the crannies with a flashlight” finding the fun facts perfectly captured what I love about her. Throughout, I appreciated her focusing largely on quirky stories, mostly talking about things other than weapons and mostly on technologies meant to save lives.
This book included all of the things I’ve loved about the author’s previous books. It was filled with fun facts and fascinating stories that I immediately wanted to share. There were also plenty of amusing footnotes for those of us who love these little asides. For those of you who don’t like them, I’m afraid I can’t tell you if there are likely to be enough to bother you. Even though this book bore all of Mary Roach’s signature elements and even though I loved it, it was a little bit darker than her previous books. At the end, is very clear that the author was highly affected by everything she learned about the injuries soldiers sustain and she leaves us asking the question of whether or not any war is worth the cost. I recognize that this is an important question to ask and that it’s probably appropriate that she approached it with some gravity, but I really do pick up her books for the flashlight view of quirky stories, not because I want a spotlight on the bigger issues. As is, I did enjoy this book for the reasons I’ve enjoyed the previous ones and I’d highly recommend it – just be aware that it is a more serious topic than most of her others.