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Book Review: Packing for Mars

Friday, January 28, 2011

Last night I finished reading a book on the space program, not realizing that today was the 25th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy. Packing for Mars is not about Challenger specifically, but rather NASA's continuing efforts to put (and keep) humans in space. In many ways it's a celebration of everything the Challenger astronauts lived and died for, so I figured today was a good day to tell you about it.



First and foremost, this isn't some dry and somber science book. The author, Mary Roach, is HILARIOUS. I could just stop there, but you know I won't.

If you get the Reader's Digest you may be familiar with Roach's humor columns from the past few years. Those two page articles hardly allowed her real skill to shine, though. In Packing for Mars, it is her copious footnotes, asides, and wryly irreverent observations that will have you busting a gut - all while learning things like how exactly an astronaut poops in space. (In fact, it was the chapter on waste elimination that had me startling John awake with my laughter.)

Mary takes her research seriously, though, and I was fascinated by her detailed history of the trials and triumphs mankind has faced in its pursuit of the stars. She traveled around the world to interview cosmonauts and astronauts alike, flew parabolas in a jet to experience zero G, had a "go" with the official NASA potty 'cam, and drank her own treated urine, all to give earth-bound laypersons like you and me a glimpse at what real life star trekkers go through each day.

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I used to have this vague impression of astronauts floating around in one big zero G party up there, eating freeze-dried ice cream, playing chess with HAL, taking Star Trek style sonic showers - the works. Roach took away that glamorous image, and replaced it with a nitty-gritty every-day heroism that, frankly, inspires far more respect (and often sympathy).

Growing up here in Central Florida, I've often taken Cape Canaveral and the space program for granted. I was in my second-grade classroom when Challenger broke apart in midair, but if I'd been allowed those few steps outside I could have seen it with my naked eyes. I remember the TV coverage, and the shock, and the special memorial song a teacher wrote and sang a few weeks later at a school assembly. One line in the chorus - the only line I remember, in fact - asked, "Can we face the challenge?" Twenty five years later, and I can still hear her singing that question. With so much else clamoring for our attention in the world today, it's kind of gratifying to know that some brave men and women the world over are still doing just that - and even more gratifying that someone as smart as Mary Roach is out there to explain it all to us.


So guys, what are you reading? Tell me in the comments!

Posted by Jen at 7:51 PM Labels: ,

154 comments:

  1. You must read Roach's other books - particularly Stiff and Spook. I laughed at those even more than at Packing for Mars.

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  2. I loved this book! It was fascinating and hilarious. Unfortunately, I read it on an e-reader and all the footnotes were relegated to a separate chapter at the end of the book so it wasn't quite as awesome as it could have been in hard copy!

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  3. I am currently reading My Third Husband Will be a Dog. However, I have read Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. It was equally as funny and researched...and gave me a whole new view of what happens to the remains of a person after death (if they aren't just buried or cremated)

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  4. Oh wow! I absolutely love Mary Roach from reading her other book Stiff, all about the sciences of cadavers. It was fascinating stuff to say the least. Which, by the way, donating your body to science, can wind up with your head on a table with plastic surgeons in training practicing their eye lifts and lip injections, etc, on your decapitated cranium.
    Looking forward to checking out this one Thanks.

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  5. Thanks for the review! I'm definitely adding that to my 'to read' list.

    After reading the entire Harry Potter series (a little late to the game, I know) and the first in the Sookie Stackhouse series, I needed to refresh my brain with something I KNEW I would love.
    Stephen King!
    So I'm finally reading 'Under the Dome'.
    I am barely 1/4 of the way into it and I'm already hooked. Of course I've never read a Stephen King book that I didn't like, so I'm not surprised.

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  6. Some good ones that I've read recently are Matched by Allie Condie
    and Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Matched is about a futuristic society and reminded me of the book The Giver (another really good one!). Graceling is more of a fantasy story about superpowers...I liked it a lot! Oh another good one is Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. Its the first in a trilogy....really awesome!

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  7. I'm definitely putting this on my list!

    My book club just got finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (about a not-Jewish girl growing up in WWII Germany, beautifully narrated by Death) and The Help by Kathryn Stockett (told from 3 perspectives about black maids/nannies and their white employers in 1960s Mississippi). They were both fantastic!

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  8. If you liked that book, you should read "How I killed Pluto and why it had it coming" by Mike Brown.

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  9. Jen, I highly recommend any of Mary Roach's other books. "Bonk" is just hysterical; "Stiff" & "Spook" are both fascinating. Be sure not to miss a single footnote! I read a lot of non-fiction, and I will read anything she writes.

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  10. I just started reading "My Life as a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud" by Kevin Clash.

    I was tearing up during the first chapter at lunch today...so good!

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  11. Thanks for the review; this one's on my "to read" list on goodreads.com.

    I just finished my first steampunk novel, a young adult story, Scourge by David H. Burton. Bonus: Only 99 cents on Kindle!

    ...And I immediately started Locked Rooms by Laurie King. I love this series; it's Sherlock Holmes as seen through a young girl's eyes.

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  12. if you haven't yet, please read "bonk", "stiff" and "spook", all by mary roach exploring the science of sex, cadaver research and the afterlife respectively. they are all as entertaining and difficult to put down as "packing for mars." love, love, love mary roach.

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  13. Well? How DOES an astronaut poop in space?

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  14. I just loaded Great Expectations onto my phone's Kindle app, but your review makes me want to pick up this book too. I've always been interested in the space program. My Mom is living down near Titusville so I've been fortunate enough to get to go to the space center but it was years ago and I'd love to go again someday.
    AngieN24

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  15. Based on your recommendation, (and a love of Roach's wit) I hopped on Amazon & bought the book. You should also read her book Stiff, I enjoyed it a lot.
    Been a long time follower of yours starting with CW,but EPBOT is my favorite. :-)

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  16. I just read Bold Spirit by Linda Hunt, a fascinating tale of Helga Etsby, a woman who walked across America in 1896 in an attempt to win $10,000 to save her families farm. She was an amazing woman.

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  17. I've been gorging on Sharon Lee as well as the books written with her husband Steve Miller. Highly recommend!!!!1!eleventy!

    Anti-rec? Trio of Sorcery by Mercedes Lackey. I'm still nauseated by the level of fail she managed to create. The first story of the trio of stories in that book may be the most dehumanizing story I have ever read. It certainly wasn't something that I would have expected from her.

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  18. Just finished "The Lost, Searching for Six of Six Million", which was very good, but not nearly as much fun as "Packing for Mars".

    My favorite Mary Roach book is "Bonk".

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  19. Ooh, right now I've got a good one. It's called Time and Again, by Jack Finney. It's a sci-fi/historical fiction novel about a secret government program that trains people to travel back in time. And then the 2 guys in charge start arguing about whether changing the past is a good thing or a bad thing...really interesting.

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  20. You were in 1st grade in 1986!!!!! Ok, officially feeling old now. I was a senior in HS.

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  21. I'm currently in the middle of Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden, about growing up a Vanderbilt. It's LOL funny.

    I'll have to add Mary Roach to my wish list...

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  22. I recently read Incarceron by Catherine Fisher- it's a YA novel about trying to escape from a prison that's alive.

    If you haven't read them already, the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins is AMAZING. It's set in a dystopian world where the children are forced to take part in the "Hunger Games", a competition in which the winner is the last child left alive. It's incredibly tragic at points but it's written in a way that makes you really connect with the characters to share their griefs and triumphs. (Very addicting.)

    Matched by Allie Condie was very good too. What happens when the government has complete control over every aspect of your life, and do you dare resist it?

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  23. I have added this book to my Kindle wish list (although I may have to get a hard copy for the footnotes). Her other books are absolutely hilarious, as well as informative! If you haven't read Stiff or Spook I recommend you do!
    =)
    Right now I'm reading the Otherworld Series by Kelley Armstrong and next on my list: Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy.

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  24. I am not currently reading it, but I have just placed my pre-order for the new Jasper Fforde book, and I am really excited about it.

    I Loved all of his other books and he now ranks beside Terry Pratchett as one of my favourite authoress. He writes sci fi/fantasy and his books are perfect for geeky people, particularly ones who love books. I would seriously recommend them to anyone!

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  25. I completely agree with EJR - read Stiff. Great book!

    As for me... I'm reading The Dark Tower series from Stephen King (on the 7th book). I have owned the first 4 books for years, but couldn't get past the first one (still did NOT like it), but I have loved the rest of the series.

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  26. So many good suggestions! Currently I am reading Terry Pratchett's Making Money (if you've never read one of Pratchett's Discworld books and you love Douglas Adams/British wit, then start with his book Small Gods and you'll know whether or not he's your cup of tea).

    Up next is a book called Among Others by Jo Walton. I've read a couple of rave reviews about it and it sounds like a wonderful fantasy for book lovers.

    And after that? Now it's Packing for Mars :)

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  27. On book number 8 in 6 days. :) My Kindle (named Dragon!) and I are inseparable. I just finished the "Soul Screamers" series by Rachel Vincent. Definitely a must read series, about 6 books, 7 if you read the "Reaper," which is a free book on Kindle. They are currently being compared to the "Twilight" saga.. yeah.. lame I know, but they are all about the Netherworld and its 'other' creatures. VERY VERY amazing books. :)

    I work in a library, what can I say. I love books.

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  28. @anony - Oops, you made me do the math again: I was actually in 2nd grade. Sorry. :D

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  29. Currently reading Kristin Lavransdattir, an epic Norwegian historical novel. It is a lot more exciting than it sounds!

    I've read Bonk and Stiff and find Mary Roach hilarious - she certainly has a knack for footnotes! - and informative.

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  30. It's kind of weird that you review Mary Roach in your first review. I discovered your blog and her about the same time, and have interrupted my husband's reading on a regular basis to relate something funny I read here or in one of Roach's books. You are both very engaging.

    Roach asks the questions that all of us want to ask, and the amazing thing is, she gets people to answer! One of my favorite footnotes in Packing for Mars was the one noting that NASA only labeled the urine hoses (which attach to the penis, of course) as size Large or Xtra Large - this was to prevent leaks because no astronaut would choose small, even if he needed it.

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  31. Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal about how we can use video games to make the world a better place.

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  32. 2nd grade? My first child was in 2nd grade! Egad, I'm old!

    Currently reading all the Sherlock Holmes books (on my Nook) and loving them. Also rereading the Dresden files, which you absolutely MUST read if you have a geeky bone in your body. And I second (third, fourth, whatever at this point) the notion that you must ready Ms. Roach's other books; they're great!

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  33. I am reading the Mysterious Benedict Society books (by Trenton Lee Stewart) even though they are supposed to be for kids (I'm 26) I love them. There is an addicting and thrilling quality about them that kept me up till almost 2 the first time I read them. They are superb and I highly recommend them!

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  34. I found this funny because I am reading Mary Roach's other book Bonk: The strange coupling of science and sex and she is really funny. This one is good. I love that she sometimes tackles the Taboo, like with Spook and Stiff. But for everyone read Bonk! I love so far.

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  35. "Stiff" is definitely the best. Her use of footnotes is legendary.

    Last book I read was Rick Riordan's "The Red Pyramid." I love YA fiction.

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  36. I love Mary Roach. I read Stiff a year or two ago, and just finished Spook earlier this month. Both are fantastic.

    Right now I'm reading The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster by Bobby Henderson, and listening to Don't Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis. My to-be-read pile is a little out of control at the moment, mostly because I keep agreeing to review books for people, meaning I never make any headway on the existing pile. Heh.

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  37. Yay! I LOVED this book, and I love that you loved it, too! But Bonk is my favorite Mary Roach book, hands down. She is gifted. Hilariously gifted.

    I'm in the middle of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. It's enjoyable, although I think it was a kind of over-hyped. It's not obsess-over good, at least not for me. Because I'm waiting to borrow the third book, I took a break and am reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Schaffer and Annie Barrows. It's beautiful.

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  38. Sounds like a great one! I'll have to add it to my GoodReads list. I've never read anything by her, so I'm looking forward to it.

    My two book clubs both happened to choose nonfiction this month, so I just finished '1776' and 'Three Cups of Tea.' Both were phenomenal. 'Three Cups' should be mandatory reading for everyone. (I know, totally late to the bandwagon on that one...)

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  39. I just read Water for Elephants, which is a really good book. I am also about half way through with all of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

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  40. The book I finished yesterday was Stiff by Mary Roach. Really. I loved it! I also think I might have to donate my body to science - I could use a facelift...

    The book before that was Hungry Rats by Conner Coyne. It is a self-published first time author and he writes about a serial killer and a young girl from a dysfunctional family who may be the only one that can stop him. It is a Gothic noir novel written in second person. One of the weirdest books I've read in a long time, but so very worthwhile in the end.

    Also love anything by Brian Jacques (I want to go to a Redwall feast).

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  41. I'm reading the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (start with His Majesty's Dragon). It's the best series I have ever read. It's kind of proto-steampunk, and it has DRAGONS, that do CALCULUS in their HEADS, all set in an alternate universe in the Napoleonic Wars.

    The day of the Challenger Disaster I was home sick. My parents thought that it was better that I stayed home, anyway, because we had cable, so I could watch the shuttle take off. I remember calling, "Mom, was that supposed to happen?" and her shocked silence as she came into the room. I was in second grade, too.

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  42. I agree with EJR--Spook and Stiff were HILARIOUS. Stiff by far was one of the best books I've ever read. She also wrote one called Bonk that I haven't read yet.

    (Spook - the science of the afterlife; Stiff - what happens to our bodies after we die; Bonk - the science of sex)

    I didn't know about this one, so I'll pick it up! Thanks!

    I was in 4th grade when the Challenger exploded. We had been following the fact that a teacher was going on the flight since we were all kids. We had no idea what was going on and our teacher brought in a TV and hooked it up to the cable line. We were able to watch the aftermath (I'm in AZ, so the explosion had happened like four hours before we'd even gotten out of bed). It was horrifying and so sad.

    I am a huge Stephen King fan, so kudos to everyone reading SK! EvilKitteh, I couldn't get past the third DT book...I have a long ways to go. So I know how you feel. Da-da-chock? Those damn lobster things REALLY scared me.

    Anyway, I am currently reading The Immortal Life if Henrietta Lacks. It is incredible. It's about the HeLa cells, which came from the cervical cancer of Henrietta Lacks (who was black), and they are the only cells that have survived outside of a human body for more than a few days. In fact, Henrietta herself died in 1951 and her cells are still alive today. It's an amazing story about her, her family, and the cells themselves.

    Since it's a hard book to read before I go to bed, I am also re-reading Phantom by Susan Kay. Written in 1991, the book is her take on the life of the Phantom of the Opera, from when he was born to his death. It is amazing and I love it. I have already read it like a billion times.

    Thanks for the cool post, Jen! I'll pick up that book this weekend!

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  43. I'm reading Eon by Greg Bear. It's a sci-fi novel with some space-time continuum, quantum mechanic, end of the world stuff. Despite the physics and mathematics involved, it really isn't hard to read; it doesn't require any knowledge of the aforementioned subjects. I REALLY like it, and there's a sequel and a prequel, too.

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  44. I just finished "How I Killed Pluto, And Why It Had It Coming", by Mike Brown, and it was amazing! So I also must suggest that one...because, yes, Pluto did have it coming...

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  45. I have to say, I LOVE Mary Roach. Her books are all amazing, and Packing for Mars was no exception. You MUST read the others. Especially Spook and Bonk. Amazing stuff.

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  46. I'm currently reading "The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic." It profiles 10 former patients of the now-defunct Willard Psychiatric Center in Upstate New York through the suitcases that they brought to the asylum with them. It's at the same time thought-provoking and heart-wrenching portrait of psychiatric care in 20th century America.

    And not nearly as stuffy and dry as I feared it would be.

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  47. During the school year most of my reading is YA or children's (books for me wait until summer and holidays). I've recently read the Hunger Game trilogy. Currently reading The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. Yes, Disney Geeks, Mary Poppins wrote a few children's books.:-)
    I see several titles posted here that I'm putting on my list (Stiff sounds especially good)!

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  48. I will have to add that to my nook wish list. (As well as all her other books, apparently!)

    I just finished a trilogy by Nancy Turner (These Is My Words, Sarah's Quilt, & Star Garden). They're a fictional diary about a young girl dealing with life and love in the Arizona frontier at the end of the 1800's.

    These books sounded nothing like the type of books I like but they were amazing!

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  49. I'll have to be another that adds Stiff to your must read book list. I am currently reading a book called Blue Boy that is about an Indian ten year old who likes to wear his mom's makeup and has a stash of Strawberry Shortcake dolls while living in Cinncinati in 1992 and thinking he is becoming the Indian god Krishna

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  50. Hey Jen,
    I was in 3rd grade when the challenger exploded, and as you know was also living in Orlando at the time. Out class room had actually joined a few others outside to watch the launch and did see it first hand. It was particularly devastating and something I will never forget.

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  51. I am currently re-reading the entire Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. If you are into any kind of sci-fi/fantasy, this is a great story. The research is remarkable and it has its fun moments too. I can never join a library - you have to give the books back.. I need to go electronic, simply because of a lack of storage space. Any recomendations on which e-book is best?

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  52. Thanks, Jen, for introducting me to a new author!

    I will have to pick up a hard copy of the book so I don't miss the fun footnotes! :)

    I just finished a *wonderful* book called The Centurion's Wife (free for kindle that's set just after the crucifixion of Christ told by the point of view of Pontius Pilate's "niece". It was a wonderful book and not hit you over the head religious.

    One of my other most favorite authors is Christopher Moore. He is off-the-hook hilarious! (his language is also a little salty, so beware!)

    My introduction to his writing was called Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. One of his other, more recent books was Fool a retelling of "King Lear". Again, hilarious!!

    Thanks again, can't wait to broaden my horizons!

    @Allie, I read the Sarah Agnes Prine books, too. They are great, and based on the authors ancestress' diary. :)

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  53. OH. MY. I forgot Terry Pratchett!

    Thanks to those who mentioned him! He is one of the best SFF writers. I love, love, love his Discworld series. My favorite character ever is the Luggage.

    I have an eclectic reading appetite, and am really looking forward to reading some of the goodies listed here!

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  54. I haven't read any of Roach's books, but I did enjoy her interview on NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" last fall.

    Currently reading Running The Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian. It's interesting so far.

    Love, love, love the Discworld books. I'm also another vote for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - the best book I read last year. Carl Hiaasen is another favorite, especially Lucky You. Hilarious satire of Florida life.

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  55. I'm reading the same book right now! I love all of her books, especially "Stiff." Absolutely hilarious:)

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  56. I can't wait to get into Mary Roach, her style sounds right up my alley.

    I am currently on book 3 of "The Dark Tower" series by Stephen King (did-a-chum?). Loved "The Hunger Games" and I am also a huge fan of Christopher Moore, who will have a new book out soon. "Lamb" is my favorite of the ones I have read by him (so far).

    I am also late to the Harry Potter party and am slowly working my way through that series.

    Yay for books! :)

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  57. First time commenting but I had to chime in on the Mary Roach love.

    I've actually met her, she lives near me and she came to my bookclub. I was in fangirl raptures! I am happy to report that she was as intelligent, open minded, gracious, funny and down to earth as you might expect from her books. We met with her while she was neck-deep in the research for Packing for Mars and her boundless curiosity and enthusiasm were palpable. She really works hard to present the human side of science, which I find very appealing (I'm a research scientist).

    If you love steampunk, you should read Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. Vampires and Werewolves in corsets and kilts. Very funny stuff.

    I would also like to second the recommendations for the Naomi Novik Temeraire series Steampunk Napoleonic dragons! Thrilling aerial dragon battles! What's not to love? And like some of the other posters, I also really enjoyed the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. A nice break from the typical syrupy heroine.

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  58. Stiff is EXCELLENT, Boink is informative but less funny (but still funny), Spook I cared less for, but still way awesome, and Packing for Mars felt much more back in the Stiff vibe, so A++

    Just my take on the other Roach books c:

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  59. I'm currently reading Up Til Now, William Shatner's Biography. It's a really good read!! My poor husband is tired of hearing me talk about him tho as I'm reading.
    I saw some other commenters mention the Pratchett's books and Discworld series, they are AWESOME!!

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  60. Just coming off a year-long Florida Weirdness binge (got hooked with Dave Barry's book, then the entire outputs of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey). Oh, and lots of Neal Asher.

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  61. I'm so glad to see that you reviewed this book - I just received it as a gift for Christmas. It sounds like I'll have to give her other books a try, too.

    I'm currently trying to reread the Harry Potter series (but I keep getting interrupted by my children) and recently read The Hunger Games trilogy. I love Jasper Fforde - his books are so clever - and am enjoying The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger - steampunk with vampires and werewolves.

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  62. If you liked "Packing For Mars," I highly (HIGHLY) recommend Roach's "Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex " and "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers." The latter is one of my favorite books of all time.

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  63. *sigh* I've never read any of her books, I always go straight to the Mystery section for "Cat Who" books, and the Scifi section for everything else. Currently reading anything I can get my hot little hands on...But eagerly awaiting the next book in the Anita Blake series, by Laurell K. Hamilton. NOT young adult friendly!
    BTW... wv...
    hents: what we give each other when we suggest book titles. (:

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  64. I just finished re-reading Good Omens by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman. It's so funny. I'm also reading a trade paperback of Deadpool I got for Christmas. Deadpool is very awesome.

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  65. Jen,
    So glad to hear you've read and enjoyed Packing for Mars. I am a huge Mary Roach fan and through reading that one I took her advice and also read Mike Mullane's Riding Rockets. It's definitely an entertaining narrative.

    other fun reading Gail Carriger a whole kinda steampunky series!

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  66. I'm reading a book by Sheri Homan called "The Dress Lodger." It's about a 15-year-old prostitute in 1830 who is helping a Doctor find bodies for dissection during a cholera epidemic. It sounds gross, but it's fascinating and the narrative structure is one of the most unique I've come across.

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  67. I'm about to start Mountain of Balck Glass, the thirdbook in Tad William's Otherland series. Really great stuff! By the way, I was in 5th grade when Challenger exploded. I remember we had been on a field trip that day, and when we got back to class they were playing it on the classroom TV.

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  68. You should definitely read "Bonk" by Mary Roach. I think it was her best.

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  69. Sounds like I need to do some book shopping this weekend!

    I absolutely LOVE and have to recommend anything by Augusten Burroughs, because he has the most hilariously matter-of-fact style of writing, and his stories from his childhood are absolutely insane.

    I'm currently reading "Mirror Mirror" by Gregory Maguire after reading all three in the Wicked Years series, which I enjoyed immensely. Mirror Mirror seems to have a lot going for it, and I'm not very far in yet!

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  70. I knew I fit in here! I've read so many books that other posters have mentioned, that now I'll read the few listed that I haven't read, cuz I'm sure I'll enjoy them! Mary Roach is a hoot, that's for sure. I've been on a huge Dave Barry kick lately, rereading all the books of his that I have.
    My dad works for NASA, and we recently got to tour Johnson Space Center, and yes, we got to sit on the training toilet. There's a camera down there! I did NOT like the footage of my (jean-clad) bottom filling the screen in front of me, and cannot imagine it being nakey. But the astronauts have to actually/literally go on camera! With techs watching to make sure they are positioning themselves correctly. That is not something you want floating around in zero g, heh. My boys sure had fun with it, tho. ;-)

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  71. I just finished At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. Love his stuff! Very witty and informative. I'm excited to check out Roach. Thanks for the review!

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  72. I'm reading The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold at the moment. It's quite a shocking start but so far worth pushing through.

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  73. I'm always late for all the cool series. I'm on the fifth book in the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. I'm becoming frustrated with the stories because their so bloody tragic but I need to finish, I'm determined to finish.

    Though, I may sneak a couple of Roach's books in on the side. :) Thanks for the rec.

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  74. I have all of her books. Her observations are funny, trenchant and true!

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  75. I remember the Challenger tragedy - like you, I was in a classroom watching, only I was in first grade. I just BARELY remember it, but I do remember, and it's one of the few things from when I was that little that has stuck with me.

    I haven't read it yet, but next on my list is Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning. I read the rest of her "Fever" books when I was laid up from a car accident last spring and I've been waiting anxiously to read the fifth one ever since! Unfortunately, someone at the library beat me to it. :D

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  76. What am I reading right now? Oh my, well I'm re-reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, LOTR: The Two Towers, and a fabulous Mary Russell book O Jerusalem (if you haven't ever read any of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, you really should, they are fabulous.) I also just read One Hundred Percent Lunar Boy which was like a fantastic, less violent Clockwork Orange. Oh and I just got into the Discworld series...I read a LOT.

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  77. My 13 yr old daughter has me reading the Mortal Instruments series right now, City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass. We also enjoyed the Hunger Games. YA reading is so much better than it was when I was her age! I think I am headed to the book store to pick up Packing for Mars. I love reading Mary Roach in Readers Digest!

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  78. I feel really ancient--my daughter was a HS junior in Jan 1986, and I was one of the older mothers.

    Anyway, I second the recommendations of Mary Roach's books. In fact, I have read almost all of the books commenters are reading and enjoyed most of them (sorry, Stephen King just keeps me awake for weeks after reading one.) I have been reading the Steampunk-y series The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger (Soulless, Heartless,Changless) and can hardly wait for #4 to come out this summer. Am half-way through The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwelland ready to start Katherine the Queen, the Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VII by Linda Porter.

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  79. Just finished two Michelle Sagara books, "Cast in Silence" and "Cast in Chaos", about a young "cop" in a fantasy world that has dragons (the Emperor is a dragon), Barani (still haven't figured out their genesis, but they're humanoid), Leontines (evolved from lions, of course), telepaths, a wiged humanoid race, a reptilian race, and, of course, a minority-from-some-other-alternate-reality - human beings. Fascinating world-building. Now enjoying, as a change of pace, an advance copy of "Welcome to Last Chance" by Hope Ramsay, due out in March. Jane is on the run from her ex's bloodthirsty bookies/bad guys when she lands in Last Chance, SC; there she meets the Rhodes family - Clay, Stoney, and (I'm sure he's there someplace) Dusty. Good, fun romance!

    Merry at Annie's Book Stop

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  80. Best post ever. I read on the bus every day and always love a good reading list.
    Just finished Coppermine by Keith Ross Leckie. It's about the far north in Canada in 1917, and follows a policeman's journey to solve a murder case when the murderers (Inuit in northern Canada) didn't even realize they were part of a bigger country. Based on a true story, and the trial caught the attention of the world. Great descriptions of survival in the extreme cold. If you read it in Florida's summer I think you may even cool off a bit.

    Marcy

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  81. I am currently re-reading Wicked and Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire, in preparation for FINALLY getting to read the third book, A Lion Among Men...if you haven't read these yet, do it! Totally engrossing reimagining on the world of Oz, including politics, religion and magic--very cool. Dying to see Wicked on Broadway!

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  82. Thanks for the review, this is going straight on my 'to read' list now! I've had a thing about space and exploration since reading Bill Bryson's 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' followed by seeing Brian Cox's series on the Solar System last year. If anyone is in the UK, I suspect they were geeking out over the recent live stragazing programmes on the BBC - great stuff and very funny :)
    Ah I'm reading the 3rd of Stephen Kings' The Dark Tower series, 'The Waste Lands'.

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  83. I loved her book Stiff! The crazy things that happen when you donate your body to science can be ridiculously insane. I'll have to look for this book as I like space and fancy myself a Trekkie.

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  84. It has been a busy month so I'm not reading anything right now (except for Epbot and Cake Wrecks). But I have read Roach's "Stiff' and was utterly floored! I love humorous books about everyday subjects. You MUST read "Suburban Safari" by Hannah Holmes and "Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird" by Andrew Blechman.

    And I'm taking note of quite a few of the suggestions posted!

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  85. Oh and absolutely anything by Bill Bryson!

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  86. If you liked this one, you HAVE to read Stiff -- she was wonderful. Currently I'm re-reading Issac Asimov's books. I read them when I was in high school, and get even more out of them now at 25.

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  87. Another vote for Hunger Games! They are pretty good although I didn't love the third book as much as the other two.

    I also have to recommend another YA book called Crank. It's written entirely in freeverse poems (don't let that spook you though) and it's about a girl who is addicted to meth.It is REALLY well done. Sad but worth the read.

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  88. Hearing you reading something so meaningful and educating, it makes me a little embarrassed to say I've been reading the Temeraire series...as awesome as talking British dragons fighting Napoleon might be, it's not quite as honorable sounding. xD

    Working at a bookshop and being tantalized by new summaries every day, for every book I finish it feels like I add five more to the list. Looks like Mary's will have to be added as well...!

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  89. I'm actually reading another Mary Roach book "Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife". I don't like it as much as "Stiff" but it's still interesting.

    I also just finished "Promise Not to Tell" but it's a murder mystery/thriller and I get the feeling you're not so into those :-)

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  90. After I left my comment yesterday, I remembered that I had a Borders gift card so I ordered Bonk and Spook. I had bought Stiff for my Mom a few yrs back and meant to read the others, but completely forgot. So thanks for bringing her back on my radar!!

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  91. OMG, some readers after my own heart!

    You've heard it easily 50 times, but I'll say it too--Stiff is hysterical. And YES to MR and the footnotes. I laughed till I cried reading that book.

    To the SK readers who are working on the Dark Tower series: The first book is slow. It really starts to pick up pace and rock at about book three, and book five is my favorite. Stick with it! "Go...there are other worlds than these!"

    I'm currently working on "Where Men Win Glory" by John Krakauer. It's about Pat Tillman and the cover up surrounding his death. If you can get passed the football, it's a good read. Also reading "The Lost Dogs," by Jim Gorant, about the pit bulls that were rescued in the Michael Vick case. After those comes "Moonlight Mile." LOVE Dennis Lehane.

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  92. My most recent "You gotta read this!" book was Lamb, by Christopher Moore.

    Subtitle, 'The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Friend'.

    It's hilarious, and clever, and it examines what it would really be like to be the best friend of a kid who knows he's the Messiah, from age 6 till.. well, it's like Titanic. You already know how it ends, but you read it anyway.

    I laughed myself stupid the entire time, and finished up wishing I could recommend it to my mom, who recently finished her Master's in Theology, but thinking she'd find it too irreverent. I was surprised to find in the afterword that Moore himself expected to be lambasted for it, but it's actually being used in some seminary classes! He did a great job actually doing research for the book; it's not written to poke fun at religion, but to imagine what those two and a half decades must have been like.

    I can't recommend it enough.

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  93. I'm reading Cooking for Geeks which is the greatest book for a wanna-be-chef scientist! Tonight I used the Mallaird reaction to make a burger casserole.
    Rosalind
    Girls Are Geeks

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  94. Victoria - Jasper Fforde has a new book coming out? Off to Amazon I go! I LOVED all the Tuesday Next books (have read them twice so far); the political debate story line was a classic.

    I've been going back in time & reading Margaret Atwood. Also Off the Grid as my latest nonfiction book.

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  95. I actually just finished Packing for Mars as well...ahh, footnotes. Hilarious, yes.
    I'm rereading Harry Potter now :), the good old standbys.

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  96. This sounds interesting! I'll be adding that to my ever-expanding library list. :)

    Two awesome books I just finished -

    'The Replacement' - by Brenna Yovanoff. It's a bit dark and creepy, and I'd love to see Tim Burton do something with it. :)

    'American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee' - by Karen Abbott. All about Gypsy, vaudeville, and burlesque.

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  97. I am currently reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I highly, highly, highly recommend it. It's like Harry Potter on drugs. Really great book. Did I mention it's good?

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  98. I have to throw another recommendation in there after seeing so many Terry Pratchet fans: Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight. They're the Tiffany Aching subseries (mainly YA, but awesome all the same).

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  99. Loved "Packing for Mars".

    My shabby reading secret is true crime...

    I recommend "The Murder Room" - very good, thou the beginning is slow.

    mocking

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  100. I will have to add this book to my list! As have it, I was in my 2nd grade reading class (has to be irony in there about commenting on a blog post, by someone else in the 2nd grade at the time, that is about a book...) when we found out that the Challenger had exploded.

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  101. tiny purple elephantJanuary 29, 2011 at 11:34 PM

    just started a next generation book, discovered a friend had a stash of them all these years and i never knew... cant recall name but the captain and counsellor are on the cover

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  102. tiny purple elephantJanuary 29, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    Did someone mention the Hunger Games trilogy. Good stuff had me thinking for days. Read the first in the series, Hunger Games black cover, but don't read the back of the book, I thought it gave away too much of the story.
    Met the author and she was incredibly friendly and kind.

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  103. I saw another comment about Jasper Fforde, and I cannot recommend his books highly enough. They are hilarious and slightly skewed, and absolutely WONDERFUL. Start with the Thursday Next series, and then read Shades of Grey. So good!

    Also, just finished The Help, a popular book club read. I quite liked it.

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  104. I didn't read this post for almost 2 days. Coincidently, I've been reading How I Killed Pluto, and Why it Had it Coming, by Mike Brown. Very good read. It's kept my attention more than any of the fiction I've been reading or have read for the past month. I've also been reading Stuff: Cumpulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. Another non-fic that's pretty interesting. As far as fiction goes, I've started Incendiary, by Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee, and the Young Adult (read: Teen) series The Immortal Instruments, City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare. I like to read, just a bit. I also recently finished reading Beastly, another teen book, that's kind of a twist on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. And if you're into that, I recommend reading the book Ash by Malinda Lo. It's a Cinderella story, which, yes, has been done, but Ash is not interested in any Prince. My favorite bit was the fact that her interest in girls is not the focus, but a sideline, so when you read it, you feel like, oh, she's singled out because of circumstance, not because she's into girls. I guess it felt like it's a big deal, because it's not a big deal, which thrilled me. The point is, working in a bookstore has given me too much to read, but it's cool, because I get to read a lot.

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  105. Currently reading Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander. It's witty and funny, and as I read it, I can't help but think, "It's true, I do like that!"

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  106. i totally agree with the other mary roach fans out there and encourage you to read her previous books. stiff will probably always be my favorite, since it was the first book of hers i read after being a regular reader of her RD articles. i admit i'm ashamed i didn't even know about this new book, but it just goes to prove that reading your blog is entertaining *and* productive (despite what my husband might say about my blog reading!).
    i also recommend water for elephants, cheaper by the dozen and marley and me if you haven't read them already.
    *sigh* so many good books...so little time!

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  107. It looks like you have no shortage of suggestions, but I'll add my voice to those recommending anything by Bill Bryson for humorous non-fiction. His travel stories make me laugh so hard I cry and lose bladder control! :-)

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  108. I just finished reading "The Right Stuff" by Tom Wolfe. It's about the birth of the space program & what it means to have 'the right stuff'. It was an interesting read.

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  109. I'm currently reading Naked Heat by Richard Castle (yeah...totally picture Nathan Fillion writing the book and him in it as Rook...have loved him since Firefly!)

    After that I will be diving back into the Deep Space 9 relaunch books that my co-worker and I are reading. He reads slower than me, so I stop every so often to let him catch up and then pass me. Then I catch up and we can talk about them. :D Yeah, we're *that* nerdy!

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  110. Thanks for the review! I'll definitely be putting that on my "To Read List." I'm currently reading Chainfire by Terry Brooks. I love love love the Sword of Truth Series (this is book #9)! I highly recommend this to anyone who loves fantasy. Next on my list is Water for Elephants and then a book called Eels by James Prosek (I'm a grad student researching American eels so it's only appropriate!). I absolutely love reading so you should definitely do more reviews!

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  111. The Mary Roach book has been on my "to read" list for a while but it hasn't shown up in the library yet--too popular! :)

    I agree with Kathpoti who recommended the book about Henrietta Lacks; it was excellent! I couldn't put it down.
    I just finished Nicholas Carr's "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains" which was quite interesting and makes me want to invite him over for dinner. My husband has been reading "Bad Science" by Ben Goldacre, and he keeps reading sections aloud to me. Can't wait to read it myself.

    As far as fiction, I've been indulging in some old British mysteries! (Old as in 1940s and earlier.) LOVE 'em!

    So many good recommendations from readers--thanks!

    And I was also in school when the Challenger disaster happened--except I was TEACHING. Apparently, I'm the Ancient Crone of this blog. :)

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  112. I was in my third year of working as a prison case manager when Challenger met disaster. I guess that puts me toward the ancient end of the reader spectrum, as well. LOL

    I am currently reading "Late, Late at Night", the memoir of Rick Springfield. I have always had a thing for him and my sis gave me his book for my birthday. I want to read "Unwind" next (YA fiction). All 3 of my sisters are school librarians, so I get lots of excellent suggestions.

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  113. Sounds like a book I might pick up. Not to be harping on about what you should read, but I just finished it, and found it a decent read: Half-made World. It is the fifth book I've finished on my wife's Kindle. It is a mixture of fantasy, the old west, and steampunk that reminded me of you! Jimh.

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  114. I just finished reading The Time Traveller's Wife which I loved, even though it made me terribly sad. I've been happily re-reading my Harry Potter books, and just started on Order of the Phoenix today, so I'm galloping through.

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  115. 2nd grade! OMG now I feel old. I was at work.

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  116. I'm reading "Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts. It's about a former heroin addict and convicted felon who escapes prison and flees to India. From his first step off the plane to how he makes a living in the country, the book is absolutely fascinating.

    It's long (900+ pages), but I haven't hit a dull spot yet.

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  117. well now I'm reading this.

    Amazon Prime, engage!

    (I am seriously fascinated by space-related stuff. good find!)

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  118. I will echo Wolverine Girl's suggestion of The Time Traveler's Wife.
    One of my all-time favorite reads since childhood (if you want a lovely, charming one-day read) try The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
    I'll also recommend the fantastic biography of my favorite artist, Frida Kahlo. Hayden Herrera does a magnificent job of weaving the traumatic and inspiring moments of Kahlo's life through her paintings to give a timely account of this prolific painter's life in a really not-boring way.
    Because of you I'm organizing a book club and just joined goodreads and put the app on my phone. So there.

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  119. I've actually got this book waiting in a to-read pile. It came in at the library on Friday. I loved her others (especially Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers) and am a Central Florida girl too so I thought it would be good.

    If you haven't tried Gail Carriger's Soulless, which is book 1 of her Parasol Protectorate series, yet you should. It's steampunk, werewolves and vampires. I liked it so much I'm on my second reading in 2 days.

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  120. I am reading The Dark Matter Series by Philip Pullman. I am on the 2nd one - The Subtle Knife. The first in the series is The Golden Compass. I never saw the movie, but the books are good....

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  121. I can't wait to read this book now! I mostly buy my books from the clearance shelf at Half Price Books (I know, I'm cheap, but $1 for a good book is SUCH a great deal!) Anyway, I lucked out and found "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown for $1 and I really liked it. It's interesting in a National-Treasure-way. :) So then I read "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons" and I like them too! It's neat how he weaves actual history and events into a fictional story.

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  122. I definitely want to read that, but right now I'm reading "The Mother Tongue" by Bill Bryson. It's a funny look at why the English language has taken over the world.

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  123. Sounds like a good read! I might have to check for it at the library.

    I'm currently reading Lord of the Rings for the first time. I know, I know, I'm a bad geek.

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  124. Mary Roach's books are amazing! If you like the odd, humorous non-fiction, you should also check out Assassination Vacation (Sarah Vowell). I just finished The Disappearing Spoon (Sam Kean), and The Female Brain/The Male Brain (both by Louann Brizendine). Also, any book by Malcolm Gladwell, Sloane Crossley, Chuck Klosterman, and Laurie Notaro.

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  125. Wow, so many great book recommendations! I'm so excited to get reading! I heard an interview with Roach about this book on NPR and really enjoyed their discussion, but forgot about looking up the book until this post. So, thanks for reminding me!

    I must add my voice to the praise of Time Traveller's Wife. And for those of you that liked it, I strongly recommend the author's 2nd book, Her Fearful Symmetry. Great read.

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  126. I wish I was reading a cool book like that right now. Unfortunately, I am in college, in the midst of reading The Wasteland by TS Eliot. It's for class, but I really like it, the poem is short but packed with references to other texts and authors. For another class I am reading Yvain (The knight with the lion) by Chretian de Troyes. It is a medieval romance tale like King Arthur.

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  127. I finished-but got my teacher to read- the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It's a fantastic read, and i'm having trouble finding some fan girls to obsess with! It's about a dystopian society where one boy and one girl from each of 12 districts are sent to battle to the death. Sounds a little wierd, I know, but I strongly, strongly, urge you to read this book!

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  128. I work for a library, and I TOTALLY just catalogued this book today! I love coincidence. I just might read it now that I 1)know about it, 2)know where it is, and 3)know somebody who says it's worth reading!

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  129. soooooooooooo want to read it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  130. I LOVED Roach's "Stiff!" It was just as you describe this book--funny and at the same time incredibly informative. I'll have to look at this one too!

    It's a kids' series, but right now I'm really enjoying the Pals in Peril series, which begins with "Whales on Stilts!" They're well-written, easy reads, and the premise is crazy and hilarious.

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  131. I'm currently reading "Decision Points" by GWB. I must say, I didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I have. It's certainly opened my eyes to what was behind each of the decisions he's made. While I can't say that I agreed with every decision he made, given the situations that he was placed in and the background he has as well as the information he was given, I can't say that I would have made different choices in every one I've disagreed with. It's really fascinating, and I highly recommend it.

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  132. I watched the WESH "Challenger:25 years later" special; very moving. I never knew so many facts of the day till watching the show; like the astronauts still being alive after the shuttle fell apart.
    **Central Florida dweller, here.**

    Current, a Gregory Maguire reader. Love the added story to much told tales.

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  133. I am a big fantasy reader, and here are the books I have been reading lately:

    Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series (werewolves, vamps, pixies, fairies, demons, and witches, oh my)

    Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series (about a lady mechanic who happens to be able to shapeshift into a coyote, and her relationship with the other supernatural creatures in her area)

    Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series (wizarding in a mostly real world)

    The above are not kid friendly, by the way, but good reads.

    I also love the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. They are set in Egypt in the 1900's. The main character is an independent woman who decides to go off and dig at the pyramid sites, and the mysteries she just can't seem to keep out of. The author has a degree in Egyptology, and the books are well researched and fun to read.

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  134. The Dragon Queen & The Raven Warrior by Alice Borchardt...
    a writer who, in my opinion, was much better than her more famous sister, Anne Rice.

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  135. Thanks for all of the recommendations - I couldn't write them down fast enough!

    I agree that Suzanne Collins, Christopher Moore and Lev Grossman are geniuses - as well as Mary Roach!

    The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson is one of my new faves and would probably be enjoyed by most of the posters, since it seems we all have the same tastes!

    My new favorite comic has to be Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory - check it out, very funny and full of surprises!

    Thanks for the AWESOME blog, Jen! I am a HUGE fan.

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  136. I've been reading "High Tech Heretic" by Clifford Stoll and highly recommend it. The author digs deeply in to the troubling, cavalier, and often aimless practice of computerizing the classroom. Along similar lines, I urge everyone to read the whitepaper Tech Tonic: Towards a New Literacy of Technology from the Alliance for Childhood to explore this troubling issue further.

    And I've just begun Amanda Ripley's "The Unthinkable - Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why." A little dry at first, but still interesting.

    I've got Charles C. Mann's "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus" on the backburner. It'll seriously rattle your notions about native American Indians. But while it is definitely a very intriguing book, it's also dense and information-packed read.

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  137. My comment isn't about the book because, although I'm sure it's wonderful, what really got me today is the link to the photos from the Depression - they are fantastic! I'm going to see about getting some as prints if it's possible, just very very beautiful and awe inspiring. Thanks!

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  138. I have to say the only non-fiction I read is "Entertainment Weekly" and it's veracity could be argued.

    I am a reader of romance novels. There, I admit it. I am currently trapped by ice in a hotel room and my current companions are books by Laura Lee Guhrke and Julia Quinn. And I buy the books so everyone can see what what I'm reading (I don't hide them on an e-book).
    I also love the YA novels that my boys are reading, especially those by Rick Riordan (totally addicting!).
    The Mary Roach books do sound like fun, though. I'll have to check them out. :-)

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  139. I'm re-reading Karen Marie Moning's "Fever" books; I can't remember enough of the details to dive into book 5, which just came out. Just finished Ken Follett's "Fall of Giants," which was wonderful, and thinking about re-reading "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." We're reading it to my son, and my husband read a lot to him while I was busy, so of course I have to go back and read the whole thing. For the bazillionth time.

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  140. More love for Mary Roach's work from me - I've enjoyed all four of her books so far and will be on the watch for her next one! [I see some mentions of Sarah Vowell; her work's great as well. Both of them do funny/informative with some nicely twisted edges...]

    At the moment I'm reading Carol Drinkwater's The Olive Farm, a memoir about her attempts to acquire and settle down in an abandoned olive farm in France with her new lover. Very enjoyable so far.

    For those who enjoy offbeat non-fiction/memoir combinations, I recommend the work of Bill Hayes; his books Sleep Demons (about insomnia), Five Quarts (about blood), and The Anatomist (about Gray's Anatomy - the anatomy text, not the TV series {wry grin}) are wonderful blends of science, history, personal experience, and (VERY personal) memoirs.

    And for some fiction, I recommend Steve Kluger's Last Days of Summer, a charming, funny epistolary novel about a lonely, wise-cracking kid who strikes up a friendship with a Major League ball player in the late 1930's.

    Oh, and to get even more offbeat: I recently discovered a manga series called Oishinbo, which is a food-themed graphic novel series. Some of the individual stories come off like episodes of "Iron Chef", while others feature ways in which food and drink can unite families, break down barriers between people, or otherwise cure what ails you...

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  141. i just put packing for mars on reserve in the library! i am reading a few books right now, mainly the 10th wheel of time novel, and i just finished an andrew vachss novel, shella. SUPER dark, but if you like him then you'll like it.

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  142. I'm on a massive Tamora Pierce kick- young adult, fantasy novels with girl heroes! I've read about 5 of them out of, I believe roughly 30, in the last month or so and they are amazing!

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  143. Mr. Timothy. A take on what Tiny Tim's adult life was like at age 23. This is not A Christmas Carol story to be read to the children!

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  144. I am currently reading Angels & Demons by Dan Brown. Next on my list...the Harry Potter books. I didn't read them when they first came out and now I have a goal to read all of them before the movie Deathly Hallows Part 2 is out in theaters.

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  145. I am currently reading (actually re-reading) THREE books. At the same time. This is actually unusual for me as I'm usually reading 5 plus. (My current personal record is 16 books in 14 days. And they weren't small books.........). I'm rereading as these are books I've managed to replace from the QLD floods. I lost all of my books and everything else I own so as soon as I rebought these, I had to read them.

    One of these books is The Princess Bride. It is seriously as good, if not better than the movie. It is so incredibly enjoyable, and funny, and dramatic etc etc. Soooo good.

    The second is called Phantom by Susan Kay and it is the story of Erik (the phantom from the musical and book Phantom of the Opera). It follows him from birth through to death and is possibly my most favourite book of all time. It is incredibly well-written and the pain you feel for poor Erik is so tangible. I ADORE it.

    The third is Sarek, my favourite Star Trek book. It's the story of Spock's father and you get all kinds of lovely insights into how Spock's parents met, how Spock was born, their relationship with each other etc etc. I read this book quite often so it was the first book I bought after the floods.

    Now, to try and replace my babylon 5 script books and novels. *sigh*

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  146. As the niece of a former member of mission control and an astronaut from the early shuttle program, I really enjoyed seeing this on here. My uncle passed away in August reading and hearing about his life really increased my interest in the space program and my appreciation for everyone involved.

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  147. readers after my own heart! I waited a few days, got out a pen and notebook -- two pages later, I have my book list for the year! Thank you for having such amazing followers Jen!

    My favorite book right now is "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. I'm also currently reading "The Immortal Life of Hennrietta Lacks". It's very interesting.

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  148. I just finished rereading my favorite book for the sixth time. It's The Name of the Wind by Pat Rothfuss, and it's amazing. The sequel (part two of the Kingkiller Chronicle, which will be a trilogy) comes out March 1, and I'm ridiculously excited. I somehow get the feeling you might be vaguely interested in fantasy... you should read it. It's fantastic :D

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  149. Hi. I've just finished Bill Bryson's Home. Like all of his other books, it's a wonderful slightly (only) structured romp through history and science using the rooms of his house as a starting point. Highly Recommend it.

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  150. Stiff is an amazing book. I read it at the suggestion of my anatomy teacher. It really gives you a different perspective of the corpses, especially the ones you're dealing with in class.

    I must pick up Packing for Mars, soon.

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  151. My top 4:
    The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur By Daoud Hari “You cannot be a human being and remain unmoved.” So starts the second paragraph in this book and sums up this book in a nutshell. During the last presidential race, America was polled on who they’d pick for a partner on a road trip. Daoud Hari is my choice, hands down. In a single book, he smartly sums up the politics of genocide, gives you a bumpy eyewitness ride through the horrors of Darfur, and gives you his desert island book list. Warning: He’ll make you want a camel. Read it and be the smartest one in the room.
    Causing a Scene: Extraordinary Pranks in Ordinary Places with Improv Everywhere: Charlie Todd, Alex Scordelis You will attract stares, not for your cakewreck t-shirt, but for laughing out loud at sweet victimless pranks that build community ties. Get lost with Todd at a ballgame, try out for the summer Olympic synchronized swim team in a park fountain and play Where’s Waldo in Target.
    Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith Ann Lamott Remember the famous Simpsons episode where Homer asks "I wonder why stories of degradation and humiliation make you more popular?" "I dunno. They just do." Moe replies. Don't be put off by the title, Ann LaMott’s collected stories of true-life humiliation and human frailty is your summer must read. (you'll need tissues) You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll attend "Dance Class", and be rescued by "Ski Patrol". It's a book, a hug and a firm pat on the back when you need it.
    Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney's Humor Category by Dave Eggers Even if you’re a walking ad for Short Attention Span Theater, you can get through McSweeney’s Humor collection. Short humor stories interspersed with hilarious lists “Not-good titles for romantic films,” “Actual academic journals which could be Broadway shows if they had exclamation points added!” and “Bad names for professional wrestlers.” Warning, this book generates sudden, uncontrollable, snorting laugher.
    Happy reading!

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  152. I'm from Central Florida :) And I was about the same age when it happened. It's amazing how that moment is etched in the minds of our generation. That and the Berlin wall.

    Great post!

    This looks quite good and I love the cover.

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  153. Very late to the party, I know..sorry.

    So many good recommendations on this thread I knew I had to come back and take another look when I had time! I've read many of them and second the recommendations for Mary Roach, Bill Bryson, Three Cups of Tea, The Help, Jack Finney's Time and Again, anything by Christopher Moore, and everything by Brian Jacques (sadly, no more new Redwall books)....and the Harry Potter & Hunger Games books.

    Just started reading Patrica Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles & the first one was a lot of fun - Cimorene is a princess who doesn't like any of the traditional princess things...so she runs off to voluntarily become the princess of the dragon Kazul.

    I also love George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series even if it's a long wait between books.

    If you can find Michael de Larrabeiti's Borrible books set in London, you might like them - Borribles aren't quite kids - they were once, but now they're something a bit wilder....and thinking of the Borribles leads me to China Mieville's Un Lun Dun which is simply amazing.

    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is available as a free download from the author's website: Scott Westerfeld (haven't actually read him yet) calls it "a rousing tale of techno-geek rebellion" and I found it fascinating if not exactly reassuring.

    Jen, this one is probably a bit too gory for you, but some of your other readers might enjoy Mira Grant's Feed which is about a team of bloggers covering a presidential campaign in a world where zombies are a fact of life - excellent and I'll be looking for the next book in the series.

    Can you tell I'm a total book nut? Ask me about BookCrossing - we read & share books worldwide.

    Oh, and I was a sophomore in college in 1986. So I'm at least medium ancient. :s

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  154. I very much enjoyed Stiff. Granted, it's a little gory, but it's very informative. I read it in the seventh grade and recently bought a copy (I'm in grad school now, to give you a time reference!) all for myself. I love her writing, so I'll take your endorsement and head over to the local library!

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