Packing for Mars -- The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach, Norton '10 paperback. $15.95, 334 pages, ASIN #0393339912. Bibliography, timeline, b&w images sprinkled through text.
Mary Roach is, simply put, one of a kind -- a writer who combines scientific knowledge with an outsized sense of humor, to create thoroughly enjoyable and informative reading. Here's a sample of Roach's writing, drawn from Packing for Mars:
"To the rocket scientist, you are a problem. You are the most irritating piece of machinery he or she will ever have to deal with. You and your fluctuating metabolism, your puny memory, your frame that comes in a million different configurations. You are unpredictable. You're inconstant. You take weeks to fix.
"The engineer must worry about the water and oxygen and food you'll need in space, about how much extra fuel it will take to launch your shrimp cocktail and irradiated beef tacos. A solar cell or a thruster nozzle is stable and undemanding. It does not excrete or panic or fall in love with the mission commander. It has no ego. Its structural elements don't start to break down without gravity, and it works just fine without sleep.
Author Mary Roach is the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; Spook: Science tackles the Afterlife; and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. She lives in Oakland, CA.
We Band of Angels -- The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan by Elizabeth M. Norman, Random House '13 paperback. $16, 333 pages, ASIN #0812984846. Index, bibliography, notes, two appendices, grouping of b&w images, other b&w images sprinkled through text.
From the back cover:
"In the fall of 1941, the Philippines was a gardenia-scented paradise for the American Army and Navy nurses stationed there. War was a distant rumor, like a routine of easy shifts and dinners under the stars. On December 8, all that changed, as Japanese bombs began raining down on American bases in Luzon, and this paradise became a fiery hell. Caught in the raging battle, the nurses set up field hospitals in the jungles of Bataan and the tunnels of Corregidor, where they tended to the most devastating injuries of war, and suffered the terrors of shells and shrapnel.
"But the worst was yet to come. After Bataan and Corregidor fell, the nurses were herded into internment camps, where they would endure three years of fear, brutality, and starvation. Once liberated, they returned to an America that at first celebrated them, but later refused to honor their leaders with the medals they clearly deserved. Here, in letters, diaries, and riveting firsthand accounts, is the story of what really hapapened during those dark days, woven together in a deeply affecting saga of women in war."
Elizabeth M. Norman, Ph.D., RN, is a professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. She is the author or co-author of two previous books.
Night Passages -- Philosophy, Literature, and Film by Elisabeth Bronfen, Columbia UP '13 paperback. $35, 452 pages, ASIN #0231147996. Index, bibliography, no notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
From the back cover:
"Elizabeth Bronfen investigates the nocturnal spaces in which extraordinary events unfold, and casts a critical eye into the darkness that enables the irrational exploration of desire, transformation, ecstacy, transgression, spiritual illumination, and moral choice. She begins with an analysis of classical myths depicting the creation of the world and then moves through night scenes in Shakespeare and Milton, Gothic novels and novellas, Hegel's romantic philosophy, and Freud's psychoanalysis.
"Bronfen also demonstrates how modern works of literature and film, particularly film noir, can convey that piece of night the modern subject carries within. From Mozart's 'Queen of the Night' to Virginia Woolf's oscillation between day and night, life and death, and chaos and aesthetic form, Bronfen renders something visible, conceivable and comprehensible from the dark realms of the unknown."
Author Elisabeth Bronfen teaches English and American studies at the University of Zurich and has written numerous previous books.