LJ Talks to Science Writer Mary Roach

In Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Mary Roach examines the science of human sexuality. LJ caught up with Roach ahead of the publication of her new book, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law.

Mary Roach is the author of several books of popular science, including Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, which is featured in LJ’s March 2021 collection development article “Science for Non-Scientists: Essential Titles in Popular Science.” LJ caught up with Roach ahead of the publication of her latest book, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, out in September from Norton.

Library Journal: How do you make science writing fun?
Mary Roach: My favorite part about writing science is reporting science. I get to step into worlds that I would never otherwise see. I also choose my topics carefully. The fun factor is important, not just for me, but for readers. I try to find scenes that will be fun for readers to visit through me.

LJ: What was the inspiration behind your upcoming book, Fuzz?
MR: I came across a book from the early 20th century about the criminal prosecution of animals in 17th-century Europe. There would be situations where, if a caterpillar was eating all the crops, a lawyer would be assigned to represent the caterpillar. That led to the question: What do we do now, in terms of a legal system for animals? Now, we look to science. I discovered the world of human–wildlife conflict. I stumbled onto it, like many of the things I do.

LJ: Which animal was the most intriuging?
MR: The jaywalking chapter was so interesting; the albatross are more “jay-flying.” There is a nesting colony on Midway Island, which also housed a naval base; the military were concerned about albatross taking out a plane. They tried everything from relandscaping the island to moving the birds to different islands, but the albatross kept coming back. In the end, the albatross are still there, and the military is gone.

LJ: Favorite covers from all your books?
MR: I like the cover of Fuzz and also Grunt. My titles are one word and sometimes don’t intuitively tell people what the book is about, so I rely on the visuals of the cover. Also, “fuzz” is a little bit of an older term, and I wasn’t sure if people would get it right away; the badge element was a clean concept. And animals are fuzzy, so it’s a clever play on two things.

LJ: What are you reading?
MR: I just finished a book that came out a while ago, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I also enjoyed The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch by Daniel Kraus. I’m sometimes reading books that I’m blurbing or reviewing, so it’s fun to pick up a book and just be so open to it. I also recently watched a Norwegian crime series, Beforeigners—it’s hard to describe, but it’s really good.

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