“Grunt” would make for a good late-summer read

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By: Cody Boteler, Editor-in-Chief

First, a disclaimer: this is my first ever professional book review. I’m not even sure I’d use the word “professional” to describe it.

See—it goes like this. I edit and publish a newspaper, and I like books. So, I thought, y’know, why not try out book reviewing?

Mary Roach’s “Grunt” is the first book I decided to review. I’ve read a few of her books before and I was really, really excited for this one to come out. Nonfiction is kind of my jam, what with the whole journalism thing.

When I started reading “Grunt,” it didn’t take me long to realize that, just like her earlier books I had loved (like “Bonk,” “Gulp,” and “Packing for Mars,”) I was in for a great time.

On page 16, Roach lays out some full disclosure. She’s not an investigative journalist. Instead:

“I am not, by trade or character, a spotlight operator. I’m the goober with a flashlight, stumbling into nooks and crannies, not looking for anything specific but knowing when I’ve found it.”

That’s exactly what I love about Roach’s books. She’s not going to show us some massive conspiracy and dramatically alter the way society functions.

Instead, she gets us to think. And, I like to think, that if enough people get thinking, eventually, maybe, society will function differently.

With her writing, Roach has a unique way to draw people in and get them thinking about science and the scientific process—and I’m in the camp that believes a more science-literate society is a better society.

Any time I read her books, I feel like I’m in the room with Roach as she explains what’s going on. When she talks about the “Big Scary Laser” that’s activated with a push of “a giant read button,” it doesn’t feel like words on a page. It feels like sitting in someone’s lab with Roach—and then listening to hear as she notices and starts to understand what’s happening around her.

As someone who’s considering science journalism as a possible future career, Roach is—cheesy as it’s going to sound—downright inspiring. I hope to one day be able to take a look at a subject as focused and as interested as she’s looked at war, sex, dying, eating and space.

And, as ever, “Grunt” was handled well. The only thing about the writing I wish were different were the number of footnotes. Maybe I’m imagining it, but it seemed like, this time through, we got few delightful little side comments from our author at the bottom of the page.

My only other problem with the book—it’s not paperback, so it doesn’t match the rest of my collection.

The best parts of this book are when Roach pulls no punches and fully immerses herself. Combat situations (even simulated) make for some great reading.

“Grunt,” by Mary Roach ticks off a lot of boxes—it’s funny, it’s science, it’s informative, it’s nerdy and, of course, it’s got that macho, all-about-war side, too.

If you’re looking for a book to get through, enjoy yourself and have something interesting to talk about when classes start again, “Grunt” might just be the right choice.

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