On My Bookshelf

51usx+Atl+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Boys of ’67: Charlie Company’s War in Vietnam by Andrew Wiest (2014)
From Amazon.com: When the 160 men of Charlie Company (4th Battalion/47th Infantry/9th ID) were drafted by the US Army in May 1966, they were part of the wave of conscription that would swell the American military to 80,000 combat troops in theater by the height of the war in 1968. In the spring of 1966, the war was still popular and the draftees of Charlie Company saw their service as a rite of passage. But by December 1967, when the company rotated home, only 30 men were not casualties—and they were among the first vets of the war to be spit on and harassed by war protestors as they arrived back the U.S.

I’ve been reading a lot of Vietnam-related books lately because of a work project. I picked this one from the massive list of titles available because Amazon selected it as one of their favorites from 2014. It was very real and heartbreaking.

Wiest really did his research for this book, including interviews with veterans and their family members. It followed the men from receiving their draft notices to coming home and getting on with their lives in sometimes-excruciating detail. I’ve always had an interest in military history, so I’ve read many a battle narrative. I have never read anything as immersive as this however. It took me over a month to read simply because I could not emotionally handle more than a little at a time.

Highly recommended. Highly, highly recommended.

PFMcoverPacking for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach (2010)
From Amazon.com: 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 spacewalk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout from space? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As Mary Roach 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), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

This book came out in 2010, but is somehow also one of Amazon’s favorite books of 2014. That doesn’t matter to me though; you know my love of Mary Roach is deep and unconditional. That being said, this book wasn’t on my to-read list sooner as I’m not a huge fan of space. My mistake though. This book was very interesting. It focused on the ins-and-outs of the human side of space travel. Do you know the complex history of pooping in space? I do, now.

If you enjoy space travel, you will probably enjoy this book. If you like Mary Roach’s work – regardless of your feelings about space travel – you will probably also like this book. Recommended!

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