An Amazon Best Book of June 2016: It takes a special kind of writer to make topics ranging from death to our gastrointestinal tract interesting (sometimes hilariously so), and pop science writer Mary Roach is always up to the task. In her latest book, Grunt, she explores how our soldiers combat their non-gun-wielding opponents–panic, heat exhaustion, the runs, and more. It will give you a new appreciation not only for our men and women in uniform (and by the way, one of the innumerable things you’ll learn is how and why they choose the fabric for those uniforms), but for the unsung scientist-soldiers tasked with coming up with ways to keep the “grunts” alive and well. If you are at all familiar with Roach’s oeuvre, you know her enthusiasm for her subjects is palpable and infectious. This latest offering is no exception.
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. Mary Roach dodges hostile fire with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team as part of a study on hearing loss and survivability in combat. She visits the fashion design studio of U.S. Army Natick Labs and learns why a zipper is a problem for a sniper. She visits a repurposed movie studio where amputee actors help prepare Marine Corps medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds. At Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, in east Africa, we learn how diarrhea can be a threat to national security. Roach samples caffeinated meat, sniffs an archival sample of a World War II stink bomb, and stays up all night with the crew tending the missiles on the nuclear submarine USS Tennessee. She answers questions not found in any other book on the military: Why is DARPA interested in ducks? How is a wedding gown like a bomb suit? Why are shrimp more dangerous to sailors than sharks? Take a tour of duty with Roach, and you’ll never see our nation’s defenders in the same way again.
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