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Book Review: Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. Mary Roach. New York: W.W. Norton & Company; 2016. 288 pages. ISBN 978-0-393-24544-8.   When 2016 annual meeting keynote speaker Deborah Blum spoke admiringly about her colleague Mary Roach’s upcoming book Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, it seemed only natural that this be the next selection for our Council of Science Editors Goodreads Book Club. In her previous best-selling books, Roach has used her unique approach to introduce readers to the unexpected and often wacky science of human cadavers, the afterlife, digestion, space exploration, and human sexuality. Her latest subject, military science and technology, could be considered ill-suited to Roach’s characteristic irreverence and witty asides. Perhaps recognizing this, she keeps her focus on the science of keeping soldiers safe, rather than the science of taking human lives more efficiently. As she puts it, “I’m interested in the parts no one makes movies about—not the killing, but the keeping alive.” To that end, Roach poses her trademark “dingbat questions” to audiologists, medical examiners, surgeons, entomologists, sleep researchers, and even fashion designers, all of whom work to address the “less considered adversaries” of war. As fans of her previous work know, Roach shines when examining the obscure or absurd or when shedding light on aspects of our world that most of us have never bothered to consider. Why are zippers problematic for snipers? Why are injuries to the heel of a soldier’s foot so life-altering and difficult to repair? Why do […]

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