What Mama Reads: Grunt: The Science of Humans at War

Admittedly, I’ve been fascinated by author and science writer Mary Roach for awhile. Well, when an author writes non-fiction books titled Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, it’s hard not to take notice. I actually started Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, but, honestly, I got a little yucked-out.

I’m not willing to read a book or see a movie that has the potential to give me nightmares (with the exception of the horror flick, The Grudge, which I only saw to score a high school boyfriend. Check and check. However, I could still easily have nightmares if I think about it too long. Shudder).

GruntWhen I found myself (alone!) at our public library a few weeks ago, I browsed through the adult sections and came across Mary Roach’s Grunt. To be honest, with a writer like Roach, “Grunt” could’ve gone in a few different directions. Curious, I pulled it off the shelf and read, “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. OK, that sounds like something I could handle.”

Roach pulls together blunt, straight-forward facts–especially scientific terminology and procedure–with a humor and casual attention that make her books fairly easy to read, even for those of us whose last science class was more than a decade ago. She also has unbelievable access to the behind-the-scenes of military research labs and personnel.

Grunt’s comments on how the military handles everything from clothing and noise to diarrhea as a threat to national security, maggots, and shark repellent. I will put a disclaimer that this isn’t a book for kids. There are two chapters–“Below the Belt” and “It Could Get Weird”–that discuss the aftermath of soldiers being severely injured, well, below the belt, as well as the potential of genital transplants. Frankly, they were fascinating chapters (and included zero photos!), so I didn’t find them too explicit. Sad, rough stuff for those men, though.

Side Note: I’m planning on buying this book for my father-in-law for Father’s Day. I’m also planning on putting a sticky note on those chapters with a disclaimer so he knows his favorite (read: only) daughter-in-law wasn’t entirely comfortable reading those chapters. Lest he worry. Also, no one tell him about his present!

And so, from someone who typically avoids non-fiction at all costs (See: me whining through Mama’s 2018 Reading Challenge both February and March), I’d recommend this one. Grunt made me wonder about the immense beast that backs the U.S. military. Yes, I’m certain this includes a fortune lost to the excess that is scientific research, but so much good has surfaced from this insight as well. I loved reading the candid interactions between Roach and the straight-laced military men and women. She did a wonderful job incorporating hilarious footnotes and informative quips. Also, if I happen to live through a nightmare or two of what those military personnel endure for us? So be it. I only read about it; they go through far worse.

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