BOOK REVIEW: ‘My Planet’ : Mary Roach’s Sense of Humor Connects with Me

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

 Once upon a time, I could get my fix of Mary Roach’s humor columns at dentist or doctor appointments. Lately, the Readers Digests that featured this humorous science writer extraordinaire are rare indeed in  office waiting rooms whereTexas Monthly, Golf Digest, Good Housekeeping and Southern Living predominate.

BOOK REVIEW: 'My Planet' : Mary Roach's  Sense of Humor Connects with MeIf you want your dose of Mary Roach humor, you’re in luck, because a collection of her RD columns are  available in a brand new paperback called “My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places” (Readers Digest, 160 pages, $14.99, available from amazon.com and other sites) that you can slip in a pocket or purse for your medical visits.

She writes about everyday life in Oakland, CA, where she and her husband Ed Rachies, a graphic designer and illustrator,  live and beg to differ on just about everything. He’s a dog person, she’s a cat person.  So they don’t have either a cat or dog, although the neighbor’s cat sneaks in their alarm-wired house (a good thing in Oakland!) He’s a collector (Mary uses the hateful term pack rat, which reminds me of my collecting tendencies); she likes to throw things away.

She writes about the dubious joys of family vacations, reminding me of a fabulous movie from the 1950s starring Jimmy Stewart and the gorgeous Maureen O’Hara called “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” that I saw one insomniac night on Turner Classic Movies.

Ed, like me, collects vinyl records, even though his turntable is inoperative, Mary writes. My records are playable since I bought not one BUT TWO functional record players at the same thrift shop where I snagged the LPs. Most of my photos are made with my digital cameras  (I have a good selection of them) but I still love my mechanical  film cameras — Leicas, Nikons, Contax, Rolleis — and have way more than I’ll ever need. Ed would understand! I’m thinking of opening a camera store, or horrors, selling a few to specialist firms in Arizona and Georgia that cater to camera nuts.

Since I’ve finished reading “My Planet,”  I’ve stacked it on the rarely used Omega C760 photo enlarger that occupies too much space in our downstairs half-bath. That makes it an official John Book. Mary, don’t get offended: that’s the highest compliment I can pay any book. It shares pride of place with Hemmings Motor News, American Rifleman and other treasured johnny reading matter.

 About the author

Mary Roach, 54,  is an American author, specializing in popular science. She currently resides in Oakland, California. To date, she has published four books: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003), Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (2005) (published in some markets as Six Feet Over: Adventures in the Afterlife), Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (2008) and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (2010). Roach was raised in Etna, New Hampshire. She received abachelor’s degree in psychology from Wesleyan University in 1981. After college, Roach moved to San Francisco, California, and spent a few years working as a freelance copy editor. She worked as a columnist, and also worked in public relations for a brief time. Her writing career began while working part-time at the San Francisco Zoological Society, producing press releases on topics such as elephant wart surgery. On her days off from the SFZS, she wrote freelance articles for the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Sunday Magazine.

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