- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (June 7, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393245446
- ISBN-13: 978-0393245448
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (478 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War 1st Edition
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An Amazon Best Book of June 2016: It takes a special kind of writer to make topics ranging from death to our gastrointestinal tract interesting (sometimes hilariously so), and pop science writer Mary Roach is always up to the task. In her latest book, Grunt, she explores how our soldiers combat their non-gun-wielding opponents--panic, heat exhaustion, the runs, and more. It will give you a new appreciation not only for our men and women in uniform (and by the way, one of the innumerable things you’ll learn is how and why they choose the fabric for those uniforms), but for the unsung scientist-soldiers tasked with coming up with ways to keep the “grunts” alive and well. If you are at all familiar with Roach’s oeuvre, you know her enthusiasm for her subjects is palpable and infectious. This latest offering is no exception. --Erin Kodicek, The Amazon Book Review
From School Library Journal
Roach does it again. Amid all the debates about the military-industrial complex in our country, its impact on medicine, invention, and other scientific pursuits is often overlooked. Roach interviews those in science-related military careers, employing her cockeyed sense of humor and awing readers with what she uncovers. (http://ow.ly/PN4C305MyAa)—Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library
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Top Customer Reviews
Military science under the microscope
Now, in Grunt, her latest book, Roach has turned her attention to military science, specifically the science-based efforts by the U.S. defense establishment to clothe, train, armor, and heal our soldiers, sailors, and airmen and protect them from every manner of wound and loss of function. Unfamiliar and uncomfortable topics such as battlefield hearing loss, shark repellent, bird strikes on airplanes, diarrhea, and penis implantation figure in the story. (The only major topic she avoids is PTSD, because, she writes, “it has had so much [coverage], and so much of it is so very good.”) Roach tells her tale with brutal honesty — and leavens it with an abundance of humor. Some passages are laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe what’s wrong with Mary Roach is that her sense of humor is so much better developed than it is in the rest of us. In any case, I love what she writes.
Unless you are remarkably knowledgeable about the U.S. military, you’re likely to learn a great deal about how it actually works by reading Grunt.
*** Consider, for example, the years-long investigation carried out by the Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) team of the United States Air Force. You’ll learn why shooting chickens out of a sixty-foot “chicken gun” at 400 miles per hour to test their impact on aircraft in flight was eventually deemed unsuitable. The scientists shifted to turkey vultures. As Roach informs us, “Though implicated in only 1 percent of Air Force birdstrikes, the weighty raptors are, by one accounting, responsible for 40 percent of the damage.” Serious people actually spent years figuring all this out!
*** You’ll learn why the Army’s clothing designers crafted custom-designed tops for snipers, with pockets on the sleeves for easy access, a zipper on the side instead of the front, and no buttons, so that when lying on the ground or crawling across it their buttons won’t catch or the zipper make noise that might give away their position. (FYI, “US government button specifications run to twenty-two pages. This fact on its own yields a sense of what it is like to design garments for the Army.”) Can you imagine any army, anywhere else in the world, that would go to such lengths to outfit its troops?
“In a place like Afghanistan,” Roach writes, “sweat keeps more people alive than corpsmen do.” The explanation (in Chapter 7) is fascinating.
You get the point. Military science can be fun — at least, reading about it can.
About the author
Mary Roach has written eight books of science journalism. Her work has garnered several awards and been shortlisted for many more. Her books have been bestsellers from the start, beginning with her first effort, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.
She's at her best the further away she is from the battlefield and in the socially-awkward schtick she pulls off so well, such as cornering a SF soldier in a chow hall about diarrhea. She creates herself as an endearing dork, and, honestly, I love it, because her curious dorkitude is something her fans relate to, almost personally.
The only critique I have of this book is it's too short. There's SO much to be said about sleep, and so many other topics to think and write about (nothing on the airborne?!) that it felt a bit thin, though I'm sure it's not. I rather suspect it's a matter of who would allow her access and for what.
If you already like her work, this is another solid addition to your reading list. It might be a good intro to new readers who are interested in the topic (loosely, military science), though I'm not sure that some of the chapters would make it a big seller with families of soldiers and sailors. For me, a veteran, I kept quietly laughing at the examples of military bureaucratic bulls***--so very little of which has changed since I was in!
The submarine base in Groton, CT, caught my attention as well. The 'Wet Trainer' enables submariners the ability to increase their knowledge of how to save the 'ship'. Fascinating to learn that old methods such as a pine plug cone could be effective in an extreme leak. Also, the USS Tang (1944) and the USS Squalus (1939) incidents were well detailed. I remember the USS Thresher in 1963 but was not familiar with the first two incidents.
The author has interspersed healthy doses of humor in this book. One thing that made me laugh out loud was the chapter on combat medic training. The author found some file drawers labeled 'spleens', 'aortas' and other body parts. She was on her way to the bathroom and when she saw 'head' it was a moment of interest! Another chuckle for me was in the discussion of the contents of the MRE packets. The USN has baby wipes in their packs for toilet purposes and the USMC uses a piece of their tee shirt! Think that none of us could disagree with that statement!
There are so many facts that relate to the manner in which the military is forced to operate that it makes one shake their head. And, sometimes in disbelief at the specifications that the military uses in production of an item.
The chapter that covered safety also brought back memories of my days in the USN on the end of many runways. In the morning our first duty at 0800 was FOD (Foreign Object Damage) walk down. In formation, we walked looking for any object that could cause damage to the engine of an aircraft. And, yes bird strikes were not common but I remember several aircraft engines being damaged by them during my 20 + years.
Of particular interest to the warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are the two chapters devoted to genital transplants and injuries below the belt. The author states that there are '300 genito-urological injuries for 18,000 limb amputees'. Finally, some progress is being made in this area for the men affected by this type of injury.
Lots of unknown facts concerning the manner in which the 'powers to be' make decisions on important military items.
Most highly recommended.