W. W. Norton & Company
As I have mentioned many times in the past finding the right book to review is no easy task. In the past month I have read a number of mysteries, including David Baldacci’s latest, “The Hit.” But when I got through, though I enjoyed it, it just seemed too convoluted to try to write about. Another one that I really loved was “The Garden of Evening Mists” by Tan Twan Eng. It is a novel about a Chinese woman who was a prisoner of war in a Japanese war camp who wants to build a Japanese garden in memory of her sister who died while serving as a “comfort woman” in that same camp. It seems an unlikely story line but it was beautifully written and was an enthralling story. Again, this is a hard one to write a review of with so much happening, but I happily recommend it.
After all was said and done I decided to tell you about the most unusual one of all, Mary Roach’s “Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.” I have read every one of the author’s other books which include: “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers,” “Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife,” “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex,” and “Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.” I guess when you start out with the name “Roach” you feel you can go off the beaten path a bit when looking for subject matter to write about. If you have been a reader of my reviews you know by now that my taste can run a little out there to start with so such a list of compelling titles was just my cup of tea. I very much enjoy learning a bit here and there about any number of various things, dipping my toe in the water without feeling the need to swim the whole length of the pool and Roach’s books allow me to do that very thing. No wading through lengthy descriptions of scientific facts for her. She plucks out the juicy stuff and lays it on the page for you to devour. And she does it with great humor. She asks and answers all those questions about all kinds of icky stuff that you have thought about but were afraid to ask and then a whole bunch more that you had never even thought about. Almost every one of us has asked ourselves how the astronauts go to the bathroom in space. Read “Packing for Space” and you will find out how they do it. Just the titles of her books alone are enough to titillate the curious mind. In “Gulp” we are introduced to all the intricacies of our digestive tract. Why doesn’t our stomach itself get eaten up by its very own acids? How is it possible that some people can import cocaine by swallowingballoons full of it and why doesn’t it kill them, or does it sometimes do just that? If you left a hole in someone’s side so you could put stuff in their stomach and pull it back out again what would happen? Now don’t turn away in disgust. This is good stuff! Just the kind of thing a really curious 4th grader would ask that would leave us stuttering and stammering but the kind of question that they really would like the answer to. And admit it, there are areas in our lives where we are all 4th graders at heart and would love to learn the answers to all those “I wonder how…or why?” kind of questions we have always had or have newly popped into our heads. Wouldn’t it be great to find out those answers and get a good giggle out of the quest at the same time? Read any one of Mary Roach’s books and you will be wiser in ways that few are wise and have a good many great stories to tell at your next party when conversation lags. And you will know the real story of what killed Elvis!
I am sorry to say that this will be my last review. This is my 43rd review and I have enjoyed sharing my enjoyment of much that I have read with you. I have not even begun to tell you about the hundreds of other books that I have read to come up with those 43. Some were emotional, some life changing, some enthralling and engaging, some just made me giggle and there were a few that, I will have to admit, I put down before I finished them. There are too many really good books out there to read without wasting a single minute on something I am not grabbed by pretty quickly. Some people have been kind enough to share their favorites with me. I usually found that I could add them to my list of favorites too, but, occasionally they just didn’t reach me the way they had someone else. But that is why we have so many books out there to read. There is something wonderful for each of us. I admire each and every author who takes pen in hand and puts his or her thoughts on paper and has the courage to put it out to the public for admiration or condemnation, which ever it may bring. And I thank them for their efforts in bringing me the great joy of reading all that they have written. I hope they keep it up as I am constantly seeking the next great book. And just because I have stopped writing reviews does not mean that I will stop passing on all the great titles to others to enjoy along with me. As you know, much of my “Remarks” have been more like a Blog than a review, so thanks for letting me share my life with you for the past two years.