Mary Roach

So far as Mary Roach is concerned, there is no such thing as TMI. In her prior, compact bestsellers Stiff and Bonk, she’s burrowed into the queasy particulars of death and sex, making them ridiculously readable in the process. She’s got a short, breezy style cultivated in magazine land; and her chapters are perfectly apportioned like a good New York Times Magazine feature—you learn something, you laugh, and you gain a precious, weird little kibble of trivia to relay at the office water cooler. (Do you know how many orgasms a gerbil can have in one day…?) Sure to be a success for all those same reasons, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (Norton, $25.95) is like an irreverent younger sister to The Right Stuff. Enough of the NASA heroics, says Roach, let’s hear about the astronauts’ shit and piss and sex lives in the zero-gravity realm. Whether or not we should spend the money to send a manned mission 400 million miles to Mars, then back, isn’t really her concern. At what point the human brain emulsifies after ejecting into a supersonic shockwave—well, she wants to tell you all about it. Though space voyagers who eventually take the two-year trip to Mars might be advised to pack Proust instead. BRIAN MILLER

Wed., Aug. 18, 7 p.m., 2010

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