Author: Mary Roach

Publisher: Reader's Digest
ISBN: 978-1-62145-071-9

While reading New York Times bestselling author Mary Roach's hilarious essays contained in her My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places a chilling thought crept into my head. I actually believed that Roach was a ghost or perhaps that “fly on the wall” living in my home and witnessing many of my daily experiences as well as those of my wife. Roach is also the author of Stiff, Spook, Bonk and Packing for Mars and is considered to be one of the funniest science writers of all time.

My Planet's compilation of sixty-two essays shows a different side of Roach and as pointed out in the Introduction to the book by the Editors of Reader's Digest, “ What you can expect from Roach is a curious curation and condensation of life's little mishaps- all of which are filigreed with her humor.” These essays were originally published within the pages of the Reader's Digest as a column by the same name.

The themes are wide and varied and deal with such familiar topics as calling customer care where you are told your call is important to us, though not as important as it is to you. How about the husband who puts off fixing things who can be described as “Mr Fix-It Later.” These men purchase all kinds of materials and tools to fix something and yet never get around to doing the job. Then there is the maddening frequent flier rewards that we never seem to be able to cash in and are forced to use up the points for something useless.

One experience that I am sure most of us have fallen prey to is looking up the Internet for a disease we think we have contacted. In the case of Roach she informs us about a shooting pain she felt on the side of her neck. Searching the Web she found five possible matches, the first three were for a condition called Arnold-Chiari Malformation. As she explains, the symptom list for this disease consisted of three pages and she noticed that seventy-one symptoms matched her pain. Consequently, she concluded that she definitely had the condition. Furthermore, she tells us that a good hypochondriac can make a diagnosis on the basis of one matching symptom.

Several of Roach's essays concern her daily experiences with her husband such as the one entitled “Can You Hear Me Now?” According to her, there is a special form of hearing loss that afflicts couples and it is not a case of old aged or even middle-aged, just married for awhile. In her case, she tells us that her husband's condition is most noticeable when he is reading the newspaper over breakfast. She will point out something to him and her husband will keep looking at his paper for three or four seconds and then will reply, “What did you say?” Does this sound familiar? How about fights couples have when one decides to read in bed with a light on while the other is struggling to fall asleep? Attempting to solve the problem, Roach purchased for her husband earplugs and a mask that she told him made him look like Antonio Banderas in Zorro. However, as she confesses, this was a lie as he looked like Arlene Francis of the old TV show, What's My Line.

There is much here to amuse anyone, regardless if you have a sense of humor or not. Roach has once again proven herself to be fine writer as she skillfully weaves farce, social satire, and sometimes slapstick into a laugh-out-loud humorous quilt of literary entertainment. 

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