Ed's Grandpa Max, who lives on the hearth and who Mary thinks looks a bit like Tin Tin.
I think she's right . . . .
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Location:

Oakland, CA

Run Time:

32:44

Genre:

Nonfiction: Science, Humor

Website:

Raised:

Etna, New Hampshire

Youthful Influence:

Storytelling, library-visiting father. The Black Stallion, Harriet the Spy, Pippi Longstocking, and TinTin series. The Man Who Lost His Head by Claire Huchet Bishop and The Little Prince.

Favorite Authors:

Bill Bryson, Susan Orlean and more.

Creative Habit:

She comes up with an idea and then . . .Multitasks using her phone, laptop, reporter's notebook, tape recorder, and plain manila folders. She spends most of her time researching, visiting libraries and archives,"pestering people," and interviewing experts. She outlines for six to nine months, making new structures constantly. Then it gels.

That led her to doing PR writing for the San Francisco Zoo, which led to freelance. . . and presto, nearly 20 years after graduation, led to a NY Times bestselling first book, Stiff.

Mary is the author of six books on scientific topics, and is at work on her seventh. She has also edited, blurbed, written forewords, and written for such publications as Reader's Digest, Salon, GQ, Vogue, National Geographic, Discover, Outside and the New York Times Magazine for 15 years. And speaking of numbers, she is our 42nd interview–the same number as Jackie Robinson. And she hit it outta the park.


Her mother and father worked at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, although her father was 65 and retired when she was born. She spent her childhood visiting the library with her father, and visiting her neighborhood exploring just how things worked. She and a friend even had notebooks to record their experiments.

Although she enjoyed science and the outdoors from an early age she wasn't a science major, which was a kind of blessing for the rest of us. Instead she studied psychology, which meant that she graduated in the middle of a recession with few marketable skills.

Mary Roach laughs a lot. She makes me laugh a lot. But she also informs me about things I wouldn't ask about, but find very interesting. What DOES happen when we swallow food? Die? Have sex? She is not a scientist, but is one of America's leading science writers. She is logical, careful and thorough in her research, yet her writing is accessible and funny. She is as determined to excite curiosity and elicit surprise as she is to fight ignorance and superstition. She takes us into outer space, into 'the marriage bed,' into and out of the grave and galloping down our own gullets. For this and other stories she has traveled to such places as Antarctica and the Horn of Africa. She says that writing (esp. nonfiction) is "only as good as the research," so she travels, having visited every single continent more than once.

Mary Roach: Popular Science

I'm just giving people permission to be curious.”

Books
Book of Peguins –
circa 1966 (unpublished)
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – 2003
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife – 2005
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex – 2008
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void – 2010
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal – 2013
My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places – 2013


Editor
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011 – 2011

Awards & Honors:

"The Bamboo Solution," won American Engineering Societies' Engineering Journalism Award in the General Interest Magazine category – 1996

Stiff was a pick for Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers," Entertainment Weekly's "Best Books of 2003" and Borders Original Voices. It won the
Amazon.com Editor's Choice Award and the Elle Reader's Prize – 2003

Spook won the Elle Reader's Prize and a New York Times Notable Books – 2005

Bonk was the New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, and one of The Boston Globe's Top 5 Science Books – 2008

Packing for Mars was selected for "One City One Book: San Francisco Reads" – 2011

Harvard Secular Society's Rushdie Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Cultural Humanism – 2012

Special Citation in Scientific Inquiry, Maximum Fun – 2012

Note: Almost all of Mary Roach's books have been best-sellers


Fridge art.
Remind you of anything? A bookcover perhaps?

We looked through the house and settled on the cool back deck as the place for the interview.

The bookcase in Mary and Ed's study. You might be able to make out "At Night We Walk in Circles" by Daniel Alarcón and "Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed" by Carl Zimmer with a forward by Mary Roach

Mary and her work have been described as: intelligent . . . nosy . . . zealous . . . exotic . . .

Curious flowers growing Chez Roach. Tubular petals, berries, flowers that produce another stem and flower from the center--many times-making flower towers.

gleeful . . . irreverent . . . adventurous . . . fun . . . skeptical . . . energetic . . . accessible

Yup. This is Ed's house too! Mary's husband, artist Ed Rachles, does Mary's great website. If you want to have some fun, run your cursor over Mary's book covers on her site. There is also a lovely scampering cockroach on the home page.


Part of a 12-panel cartoon labeled "Snacks of the Great Scribblers" by illustrator Wendy MacNaughton. Mary managed to score three of the panels to hang in her dining room because she loves the 'absurdity of snacking among the great writers.'


Ah yes. A traffic jam on our way out of San Francisco. We were a teensy bit late, but Mary was unperturbed, having just pulled up on her bike from a stint at her office.

Max's photo lives on the hearth, but a Maltese Falcon lives on the mantle.

One of Mary's personas perhaps? A quirky, bare knuckled truth-teller? Likely.

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