Mary Roach

Spring Author Series: Mary Roach

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
  • Library Hall

Spend an evening at the library with author Mary Roach. This community talk is free.

Library Hall's doors open at  5:30 p.m. for this event.

|About the author
Mary Roach grew up in a small house in Etna, New Hampshire. She graduated from Wesleyan in 1981, and then moved out to San Francisco. She spent a few years working as a freelance copy editor before landing a half-time PR job at the SF Zoo. During that time she wrote freelance articles for the local newspaper's Sunday magazine. These days, the New York Times bestselling author of five nonfiction books focuses mostly on writing about science. She proclaims, “Flawed as it is, science remains the most solid god I’ve got. And so I’ve decided to turn to it, to see what it had to say on the topic of life after death. Because I know what religion says, and it perplexes me. It doesn’t deliver a single, coherent, scientifically sensible or provable scenario… Science seemed the better bet.”

Her first book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, was an offshoot of a column she wrote for Her other books include Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. She was the editor of Best American Science Writing 2011. Her new book is Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.

The Washington Post calls Roach "America's funniest science writer." Though she mostly focuses on writing books, she writes the occasional magazine piece. These have run in Outside, National Geographic, New Scientist, Wired and The New York Times Magazine, as well as many others. A 1995 article of hers called "How to Win at Germ Warfare" was a National Magazine Award Finalist, and in 1996, her article on earthquake-proof bamboo houses took the Engineering Journalism Award in the general interest magazine category. Mary Roach also reviews books for The New York Times.

For more about Roach, read her much more entertaining personal statement on her web site.Photo by Chris Hardy Photography

Mary Roach's Reading List

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal


The alimentary canal — the much-maligned tube from mouth to rear — is as taboo, in its way, as the cadavers in Stiff, and as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars. In Gulp we meet the scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks — or has the courage — to ask. How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Why doesn't the stomach digest itself? Can wine tasters really tell a $10 bottle from a $100 bottle? Why is crunchy food so appealing? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? We go on location to a pet food taste-test lab, a fecal transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal. Like all of Roach's books, Gulp is as much about human beings as it is about human bodies. “It's as gross as one might expect, but it's also enthralling. ... Roach's approach is grounded in science, but the virtuosic author delights in giving readers a thrill,” says Publisher’s Weekly. AVAILABLE IN APRIL.



Packing for Mars


Mary Roach explores the irresistibly strange universe of space travel and life without gravity. Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can't walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As the author discovers, it's possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA's new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), she takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.



Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex


Roach shows how and why sexual arousal and orgasm can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to make the bedroom a more satisfying place.











Spook : Science Tackles the Afterlife


Mary Roach trains her considerable wit and curiosity on the human soul. What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that ”the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top? In an attempt to find out, Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.

Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers


Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers-some willingly, some unwittingly-have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.



About the Spring Author Series at BWML
Bud Werner Memorial Library presents a series of free author talks throughout spring 2013. We proudly welcome  Jim Davidson (March 18), Cheryl Strayed (April 11)Chris Bohjalian (April 17), Mary Roach (April 30) and Kent Haruf (May 15) to the library, and the Steamboat Springs community. Each of these diverse award-winning authors will speak about their literary works and their writing processes during a talk in Library Hall. Each talk will be followed by a Q&A and an opportunity to have authors sign copies of  their books.

Books will be for sale on-site at the event courtesy of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.

THANK YOU to Bear Claw Condominiums/BREO Inc. for their generous support of this program!

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