This is not a poetry book, even though it’s still April. But I’ve been enjoying it so much, I just had to talk about it.
Mary Roach has written some fascinating books. Want to know about death? Try Stiff. Want to know about the afterlife? Spook. (Maybe some of you who were part of The Unexplained might want to read that one.) Want to know about life in space? She has tips on Packing for Mars.
But today’s book is about what happens when you eat. It’s called Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal. If you’ve even wondered about the process of eating, this is the book for you. Things I’ve learned so far:
- The average human produces 2-3 pints of saliva a day.
- There was a guy who, as a result of being accidentally shot, lived the rest of his life with part of his stomach exposed. The doctor who treated him used this strange feature to do all sorts of experiments about digestion and stomach acid.
- Mexican dogs prefer spicier kibble than American dogs.
- It takes about 30 hours for food to pass through our bodies…the same amount of time it takes to travel by Amtrak from Seattle to Los Angeles.
- April 27th was National Hairball Awareness Day…and I failed to do something special for Skitty, my cat.
I’m only at the beginning of Chapter 6.
One of the things I love about Roach’s books is that she totally enjoys the research and the things she’s writing about. That means that her books are really fun to read. She makes everything interesting. And she’s wickedly funny.
If you want to learn something odd and laugh a lot while learning, pick up one of her books. We have all of the books mentioned in this post. I promise you’ll enjoy them.
Two really fun books about looking at things in a slightly different way.
Let’s start with Steal Like and Artist. This is a fun book about how to use art and the world around you to inspire your creative side. The premise is that all art comes from other art. We’re not talking plagiarism here, but rather inspiration. Learn about your favorite people, write fan letters (maybe during Lunch Letters?), surround yourself with art, create what you like, share with people. In essence, just do it! It’s a quick book with a lot of interesting and practical ideas.
Think Like a Freak is an interesting look at economics and what economics actually encompasses. The authors previously wrote a book called Freakonomics, and host a podcast by the same name (one of my favorites, you should totally listen sometime) . This is a book that encourages you to embrace the phrase, “I don’t know” and to quit, because sometimes to succeed, you need to quit. It’s an engaging look at how to think differently and why that can be a good thing for the world around us.
Both of these books are on the Outstanding Books for the College Bound list. Just sayin’.
Spring break is creeping up on us, so I know many of you are working on putting your spring break reading lists together. Today I have two books about everyone’s favorite Disney dog and former planet. (Although, just to be clear, the planet is named for the Roman god of the Underworld and not the Disney dog.)
Anyway, when I was growing up we memorized the order of the planets with, “My very earnest mother just sent us nine pickles.” As of 2005, the pickles were gone and mother sent nine…I don’t know what. Pluto was official demoted to “dwarf planet” and our solar system was reduced to just 8 planets. These two books tell the story of Pluto’s fall from the big leagues.
Some people credit (blame?) American Museum of Natural History astrophysicist and pop icon Neil DeGrasse Tyson for Pluto’s demise. In his book The Pluto Files (also available on mp3 disc) he talks about a decision they made at the museum to group the planets together by type, which led to Pluto’s isolation and to a remark from a little kid, overheard by a New York Times reporter that became a headline. The book explores why people, particularly Americans, were so upset with Pluto’s change in status. Bonus for the book…he includes pictures of the hate mail he got from 2nd graders.
In How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, astronomer Mike Brown recounts his discovery of a 10th planet, Eris, which was just a bit bigger than Pluto. However, his discovery started the scientific debate that led to Pluto’s reclassification and the category of “dwarf planet.” I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet (and if no one checks it out, it may be on my spring break reading list), but the blurb on the back also promises hate mail from school children!
Brown’s book is also included on the 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound list.