The Broken Compass Adventure Book Club emphasizes non-fiction books about people who seek out or find themselves in exciting, dangerous, and unusual outdoor experiences. The range of subjects includes mountaineering, hiking, cycling, boating, flying, exploration, and space.
The book club meets the second Monday of each month at 7:30 PM
New members are always welcome!
Books Inc. in Mountain View
301 Castro Street
September 2016 Selection: A few years ago, Mark Adams made a strange discovery: Far from alien conspiracy theories and other pop culture myths, everything we know about the legendary lost city of Atlantis comes from the work of one man, the Greek philosopher Plato. Stranger still: Adams learned there is an entire global sub-culture of amateur explorers who are still actively and obsessively searching for this sunken city, based entirely on Plato s detailed clues. What Adams didn t realize was that Atlantis is kind of like a virus and he d been exposed.
In"Meet Me in Atlantis," Adamsracks up frequent-flier miles tracking down these Atlantis obsessives, trying to determine why they believe it's possible to find the world's most famous lost city and whether any of their theories could prove or disprove its existence. The result is a classic quest that takes readers to fascinating locations to meet irresistible characters; and a deep, often humorous look at the human longing to rediscover a lost world.
August 2016 Selection: The instant "New York Times" bestseller and award-winning sensation, Helen Macdonald's story of adopting and raising one of nature's most vicious predators has soared into the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. Fierce and feral, her goshawk Mabel's temperament mirrors Helen's own state of grief after her father's death, and together raptor and human "discover the pain and beauty of being alive" ("People"). "H Is for Hawk" is a genre-defying debut from one of our most unique and transcendent voices.
July 2016 Seletcion: A dark, fantastical, multi-generational tale about a family whose patriarch is consumed by the hunt for the mythical, elusive sasquatch he encountered in his youth
Eli Roebuck was nine years old when his mother walked off into the woods with "Mr. Krantz," a large, strange, hairy man who may or may not be a sasquatch. What Eli knows for certain is that his mother went willingly, leaving her only son behind. For the rest of his life, Eli is obsessed with the hunt for the bizarre creature his mother chose over him, and we watch it affect every relationship he has in his long life--with his father, with both of his wives, his children, grandchildren, and colleagues. We follow all of the Roebuck family members, witnessing through each of them the painful, isolating effects of Eli's maniacal hunt, and find that each Roebuck is battling a monster of his or her own, sometimes literally. The magical world Shields has created is one of unicorns and lake monsters, ghosts and reincarnations, tricksters and hexes. At times charming, as when young Eli meets the eccentric, extraordinary Mr. Krantz, and downright horrifying at others.
June 2016 Selection: Finding and identifying a pirate ship is the hardest thing to do under the sea. But two men John Chatterton and John Mattera are willing to risk everything to find the "Golden Fleece, " the ship of the infamous pirate Joseph Bannister. At large during the Golden Age of Piracy in the seventeenth century, Bannister should have been immortalized in the lore of the sea his exploits more notorious than Blackbeard s, more daring than Kidd s. But his story, and his ship, have been lost to time.If Chatterton and Mattera succeed, they will make history it will be just the second time ever that a pirate ship has been discovered and positively identified. Soon, however, they realize that cutting-edge technology and a willingness to lose everything aren t enough to track down Bannister s ship. They must travel the globe in search of historic documents and accounts of the great pirate s exploits, face down dangerous rivals, battle the tides of nations and governments and experts. But it s only when they learn to think and act like pirates like Bannister that they become able to go where no pirate hunters have gone before.
Fast-paced and filled with suspense, fascinating characters, history, and adventure, "Pirate Hunters" is an unputdownable story that goes deep to discover truths and souls long believed lost.
May 2016 Selection: Only four men survived the plane crash. The pilot. A politician. A cop... and the criminal he was shackled to.
On an icy night in October 1984, a commuter plane carrying nine passengers crashed in the remote wilderness of northern Alberta, killing six people. Four survived: the rookie pilot, a prominent politician, a cop, and the criminal he was escorting to face charges. Despite the poor weather, Erik Vogel, the 24-year-old pilot, was under intense pressure to fly. Larry Shaben, the author's father and Canada's first Muslim Cabinet Minister, was commuting home after a busy week at the Alberta Legislature. Constable Scott Deschamps was escorting Paul Archambault, a drifter wanted on an outstanding warrant. Against regulations, Archambault's handcuffs were removed-a decision that would profoundly impact the men's survival.
As the men fight through the night to stay alive, the dividing lines of power, wealth, and status are erased, and each man is forced to confront the precious and limited nature of his existence.
January 2016 Selection: Twenty years ago, David Milarch, a northern Michigan nurseryman with a penchant for hard living, had a vision: angels came to tell him that the earth was in trouble. Its trees were dying, and without them, human life was in jeopardy. The solution, they told him, was to clone the champion trees of the world--the largest, the hardiest, the ones that had survived millennia and were most resilient to climate change--and create a kind of Noah's ark of tree genetics. Without knowing if the message had any basis in science, or why he'd been chosen for this task, Milarch began his mission of cloning the world's great trees. Many scientists and tree experts told him it couldn't be done, but, twenty years later, his team has successfully cloned some of the world's oldest trees--among them giant redwoods and sequoias. They have also grown seedlings from the oldest tree in the world, the bristlecone pine Methuselah.
November 2015 Pick:In the winter of 1952, New England was battered by the most brutal nor easter in years. As the weather wreaked havoc on land, the freezing Atlantic became a wind-whipped zone of peril, setting the stage for one of the most heroic rescue stories ever lived.
In the early hours of Monday, February 18, while the storm raged, two oil tankers, the "Pendleton "and the "Fort Mercer, "found themselves in the same horrifying predicament. Built with "dirty steel," and not prepared to withstand such ferocious seas, both tankers split in two, leaving the dozens of men on board utterly at the Atlantic s mercy. "The Finest Hours "is the gripping, true story of the valiant attempt to rescue the souls huddling inside the broken halves of the two ships.
The spellbinding tale is overflowing with breathtaking scenes, as boats capsize, bows and sterns crash into one another, and men hurl themselves into the raging sea in their terrifying battle for survival.
Not all of the eighty-four men caught at sea in the midst of that brutal storm survived, but considering the odds, it s a miracle and a testament to their bravery that any came home to tell their tales at all."
October 2015 Selection: In the spring of 1898, A. E. (Alexandria) Bartram--a spirited young woman with a love for botany--is invited to join a field study in Yellowstone National Park. The study's leader, a mild-mannered professor from Montana, assumes she is a man, and is less than pleased to discover the truth. Once the scientists overcome the shock of having a woman on their team, they forge ahead on a summer of adventure, forming an enlightening web of relationships as they move from Mammoth Hot Springs to a camp high in the backcountry. But as they make their way collecting amid Yellowstone's beauty the group is splintered by differing views on science, nature, and economics. In the tradition of A. S. Byatt's Angels and Insects and Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever, this delightful novel captures an ever-fascinating era and one woman's attempt to take charge of her life.
September 2015 Selection: On November 21, 1961, Michael C. Rockefeller, the twenty-three-year-old son of New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, vanished off the coast of southwest New Guinea when his boat capsized. He was on a collecting expedition for the Museum of Primitive Art, and his partner--who stayed with the boat and was later rescued--shared Michael's final words as he swam for help: "I think I can make it."
Despite exhaustive searches, no trace of Michael was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he'd made it to shore, where he was then killed and eaten by the local Asmat--a native tribe of warriors whose complex culture was built around sacred, reciprocal violence, headhunting, and ritual cannibalism. The Dutch government and the Rockefeller family vehemently denied the story, and Michael's death was officially ruled a drowning. But doubts lingered and sensational stories circulated, fueling speculation and intrigue for decades. Now, award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman reveals startling new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story.
Retracing Michael's steps, Hoffman traveled to the jungles of New Guinea, immersing himself in a world of former headhunters and cannibals, secret spirits and customs, and getting to know generations of Asmat. Through exhaustive archival research, he uncovered hundreds of pages of never-before-seen original documents and located witnesses willing to speak publicly for the first time in fifty years.
Savage Harvest is at once a mesmerizing whodunit and a fascinating portrait of the clash between two civilizations that resulted in the death of one of America's richest and most powerful scions.
July 2015 Selection: The ocean's depths contain wondrous biology and clues to unimagined human abilities, as intrepid researchers and athletes are now discovering.
June 2015 Selection: In February 1959, a group of nine experienced hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains died mysteriously on an elevation known as Dead Mountain. Eerie aspects of the incident-- unsettling and unexplained causes of death, a strange final photograph taken by one of the hikers, and signs of radioactivity--have led to decades of speculation over what really happened. This New York Times bestseller is a gripping work of literary nonfiction delves into the mystery through unprecedented access to the hikers' own journals and photographs, government case files, dozens of interviews, and the author's retracing of the hikers' fateful journey in the Russian winter. A fascinating portrait of the young hikers and a skillful interweaving of their story and the author's investigations, here for the first time is the real story of what happened that night on Dead Mountain.
May 2015 Selection: The popular "New Yorker "writer combines the style of Mary Roach with the on-the-ground food savvy of Anthony Bourdain.
Dana Goodyear's narrative debut is a highly entertaining, revelatory look into the raucous, strange, fascinatingly complex world of contemporary American food culture. At once an uproarious behind-the-scenes adventure and a serious attempt to understand the implications of an emergent new cuisine, it introduces a cast of compelling and unexpected characters--from Los Angeles Times critic Jonathan Gold, to a high-end Las Vegas purveyor of rare and exotic ingredients, to the traffickers and promoters of raw milk and other forbidden products, to the hottest chefs who rely on them--all of whom, along with today's diners, are changing the face of American eating.
Ultimately, Goodyear looks at what we eat, and tells us who we are. As she places all of this within a vivid historical and cultural framework, she shows how these gathering culinary trends may eventually shape the way all Americans dine. What emerges is a picture of America at a moment of transition, designing the future as it reimagines the past.
April 2015 Selection: Laurel Canyon in the '60s and early '70s was a magical place where musicians gathered to create much of the soundtrack to those times. The Doors, the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa, James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and more lived and jammed together here. But the scene had a dark side. Many didn't make it out alive, and many of those deaths remain shrouded in mystery. Far more integrated into the scene than most would like to admit was Charles Manson and his infamous Family. It also seems these colourful characters all coexisted alongside a covert military installation.
March 2015 Selection: The Riddle of the Labyrinth is the true story of the quest to solve one of the most mesmerizing linguistic riddles in history and of the three brilliant, obsessed, and ultimately doomed investigators whose combined work would eventually crack the code. An award-winning journalist trained as a linguist, Margalit Fox not only takes readers step-by-step through the forensic process involved in cracking an ancient secret code, she restores one of the primary investigators, Alice Kober, to her rightful place in what is one of the most remarkable intellectual detective stories of all time.
February 2015 Selection: In a new 10th anniversary edition: "The single most compelling, lucid, and lyrical contemporary account of the absurdity of U.S. border policy" (The Atlantic).
In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, the "Devil's Highway." Three years later, Luis Alberto Urrea wrote about what happened to them. The result was a national bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a "book of the year" in multiple newspapers, and a work proclaimed as a modern American classic.
January 2015 Selection: In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant and mother of eight children named Helga Estby was behind on taxes and the mortgage when she learned that a mysterious sponsor would pay $10,000 to a woman who walked across America.
Hoping to win the wager and save her family’s farm, Helga and her teenaged daughter Clara, armed with little more than a compass, red-pepper spray, a revolver, and Clara’s curling iron, set out on foot from Eastern Washington. Their route would pass through 14 states, but they were not allowed to carry more than five dollars each. As they visited Indian reservations, Western boomtowns, remote ranches and local civic leaders, they confronted snowstorms, hunger, thieves and mountain lions with equal aplomb.
Their treacherous and inspirational journey to New York challenged contemporary notions of femininity and captured the public imagination. But their trip had such devastating consequences that the Estby women's achievement was blanketed in silence until, nearly a century later, Linda Lawrence Hunt encountered their extraordinary story.
November 2014 Selection: The #1 "New York Times"-bestselling story about American Olympic triumph in Nazi Germany
For readers of "Unbroken," out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times--the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.
It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington's eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys' own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man's personal quest.
October 2014 Selection: For more than three decades, Louise Erdrich has enthralled readers with dazzling novels that paint an evocative portrait of Native American life.
In Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country, Erdrich takes us on an illuminating tour through the terrain her ancestors have inhabited for centuries: the lakes and islands of southern Ontario. Summoning to life the Ojibwe's sacred spirits and songs, their language and sorrows, she considers the many ways in which her tribe--whose name derives from the word ozhibii'ige, "to write"--have influenced her. Her journey links ancient stone paintings with a magical island where a bookish recluse built an extraordinary library, and she reveals how both have transformed her.
A blend of history, mythology, and memoir, Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country is an enchanting meditation on modern life, natural splendor, and the ancient spirituality and creativity of Erdrich's native homeland--a long, elemental tradition of storytelling that is in her blood.
September 2014 Selection: The first biography of the little-known real-life Tom Sawyer, told through a harrowing account of Sawyer's involvement in the hunt for a serial arsonist who terrorized mid-nineteenth century San Francisco.
When San Francisco "Daily Morning Call "reporter Mark Twain met Tom Sawyer in 1863, he was seeking a subject for his first novel. He learned that Sawyer was a volunteer firefighter, local hero, and a former "Torch Boy," racing ahead of hand-drawn fire engines at night carrying torches to light the way. When a mysterious serial arsonist known as "The Lightkeeper" was in the process of burning San Francisco to the ground, Sawyer played a key role in stopping him, helping to contain what is now considered the most disastrous and costly series of fires ever experienced by an American metropolis. By chronicling how Sawyer took it upon himself to investigate, expose, and stop the arsonist, "Black Fire" details Sawyer's remarkable life and illustrates why Twain would later feel compelled to name his iconic character after him when writing "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."
A vivid portrayal of the gritty, corrupt, and violent world of the Gold Rush-era West, "Black Fire" is the most vibrant and thorough account of Sawyer's relationship with Mark Twain, and of the devastating fires that baptized San Francisco.
July 2014 Selection: A gripping modern-day detective story about the scientific quest to understand the Oracle of Delphi Like "Walking the Bible," this fascinating book turns a modern eye on an enduring legend. The Oracle of Delphi was one of the most influential figures in ancient Greece. Human mistress of the god Apollo, she had the power to enter into ecstatic communion with him and deliver his prophesies to men. Thousands of years later, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist William J. Broad follows a crew of enterprising researchers as they sift through the evidence of history, geology, and archaeology to reveal--as far as science is able--the source of her visions.
May 2014 Selection: A new edition of a great, underappreciated classic of our time
Beryl Markham's "West with the Night "is a true classic, a book that deserves the same acclaim and readership as the work of her contemporaries Ernest Hemingway, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and Isak Dinesen.
If the first responsibility of a memoirist is to lead a life worth writing about, Markham succeeded beyond all measure. Born Beryl Clutterbuck in the middle of England, she and her father moved to Kenya when she was a girl, and she grew up with a zebra for a pet; horses for friends; baboons, lions, and gazelles for neighbors. She made money by scouting elephants from a tiny plane. And she would spend most of the rest of her life in East Africa as an adventurer, a racehorse trainer, and an aviatrix--she became the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to America, the first woman to fly solo east to west across the Atlantic. Hers was indisputably a life full of adventure and beauty.
And then there is the writing. When Hemingway read Markham's book, he wrote to his editor, Maxwell Perkins: "She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer . . . [She] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers . . . It is really a bloody wonderful book."
With a new introduction by Sara Wheeler--one of Markham's few legitimate literary heirs--"West with the Night "should once again take its place as one of the world's great adventure stories.
April 2014 Selection: "Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it."
After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson-bestsellingauthor of The Mother Tongue and Made in America-decided to returnto the United States. ("I had recently read," Bryson writes, "that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people needed me.") But before departing, he set out ona grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.
Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie's Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile."Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it."
After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson-bestselling author of, i>The Mother Tongue and Made in America-decided to return to the United States. ("I had recently read," Bryson writes, "that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people needed me.") But before departing, he set out on a grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.
Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie's Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile.
March 2014 Selection: The unexpected and moving story of an American journalist who works to uncover her family's long-buried Jewish ancestry in Spain.
Raised a Catholic in California, "New York Times "journalist Doreen Carvajal is shocked when she discovers that her background may actually be connected to "conversos "from Inquisition-era Spain: Jews who were forced to renounce their faith and convert to Christianity or face torture and death. With vivid childhood memories of Sunday sermons, catechism, and the rosary, Carvajal travels to the centuries-old Andalucian town of Arcos de la Frontera, to investigate her lineage and recover her family's original religious heritage.
In Arcos, Carvajal comes to realize that fear remains a legacy of the Inquisition along with the cryptic messages left by its victims. Back at her childhood home in California, she uncovers papers documenting a family of Carvajals who were burned at the stake in the 16th-century territory of Mexico. Could the author's family history be linked to the hidden history of Arcos? And could the unfortunate Carvajals have been her ancestors?
As she strives to find proof that her family had been forced to convert to Christianity six hundred years ago, Carvajal comes to understand that the past flows like a river through time--and that while the truth might be submerged, it is never truly lost.
February 2014 Selection: In the summer of 1916, Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, bored by society luncheons, charity work, and the effete men who courted them, left their families in Auburn, New York, to teach school in the wilds of northwestern Colorado. They lived with a family of homesteaders in the Elkhead Mountains and rode to school on horseback, often in blinding blizzards. Their students walked or skied, in tattered clothes and shoes tied together with string. The young cattle rancher who had lured them west, Ferry Carpenter, had promised them the adventure of a lifetime. He hadn't let on that they would be considered dazzling prospective brides for the locals.
Nearly a hundred years later, Dorothy Wickenden, the granddaughter of Dorothy Woodruff, found the teachers' buoyant letters home, which captured the voices of the pioneer women, the children, and other unforgettable people the women got to know. In reconstructing their journey, Wickenden has created an exhilarating saga about two intrepid women and the "settling up" of the West.
Janaury 2014 Selection: Now a major motion picture, "Kon-Tiki" is the record of Thor Heyerdahl's astonishing three-month voyage across the Pacific.
"Kon-Tiki" is the record of an astonishing adventure--a journey of 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean by raft. Intrigued by Polynesian folklore, biologist Thor Heyerdahl suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by an ancient race from thousands of miles to the east, led by a mythical hero, Kon-Tiki. He decided to prove his theory by duplicating the legendary voyage.
On April 28, 1947, Heyerdahl and five other adventurers sailed from Peru on a balsa log raft. After three months on the open sea, encountering raging storms, whales, and sharks, they sighted land--the Polynesian island of Puka Puka.
Translated into sixty-five languages, "Kon-Tiki" is a classic, inspiring tale of daring and courage--a magnificent saga of men against the sea.
This edition includes a foreword by the author and a unique visual essay of the voyage.
November 2013 Selection: After a close friend died of cancer, middle-aged, overweight, acrophobic newspaperman Tom Ryan decided to pay tribute to her in a most unorthodox manner. Ryan and his friend, miniature schnauzer Atticus M. Finch, would attempt to climb all forty-eight of New Hampshire's four thousand- foot peaks twice in one winter while raising money for charity. It was an adventure of a lifetime, leading them across hundreds of miles and deep into an enchanting but dangerous winter wonderland. At the heart of the amazing journey was the extraordinary relationship they shared, one that blurred the line between man and dog.
Following Atticus is an unforgettable true saga of adventure, friendship, and the unlikeliest of family, as one remarkable animal opens the eyes and heart of a tough-as-nails newspaperman to the world's beauty and its possibilities.
August 2013 Selection: Four travelers meet in Bolivia and set off into the heart of the Amazon rainforest, but what begins as a dream adventure quickly deteriorates into a dangerous nightmare, and after weeks of wandering in the dense undergrowth, the four backpackers split up into two groups. But when a terrible rafting accident separates him from his partner, Yossi is forced to survive for weeks alone against one of the wildest backdrops on the planet. Stranded without a knife, map, or survival training, he must improvise shelter and forage for wild fruit to survive. As his feet begin to rot during raging storms, as he loses all sense of direction, and as he begins to lose all hope, he wonders whether he will make it out of the jungle alive. Lost in the Jungle is the story of friendship and the teachings of nature, and a terrifying true account that you won't be able to put down.
July 2013 Selection: In June 2008 more than two thousand wildfires, all started by a single lightning storm, blazed across the state of California. Tassajara, the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in the United States, was at particular risk. Set deep in the Ventana wilderness north of Big Sur, the center is connected to the outside world by a single unpaved road. If fire entered the canyon, there would be no way out.
Disaster struck during the summer months, when Tassajara opens its doors to visitors, and the grounds fill with guests expecting a restful respite. Instead, the mountain air filled with smoke, and monks broke from regular meditation to conduct fire drills. All visitors were evacuated, and many Zen students followed. A small crew of residents and firefighters remained, preparing to defend Tassajara. But nothing could have prepared them for what came next. When a treacherous shift in weather conditions brought danger nearer still, firefighters made the flash decision to completely evacuate the monastery. As the firefighters and remaining residents caravanned out the long road to Tassajara, five monks turned back, risking their lives to save the monastery. "Fire Monks" is their story.
A gripping narrative as well as an insider's portrait of the Zen path, "Fire Monks "reveals what it means to meet an emergency with presence of mind. In tracking the four men and one woman who returned--all novices in fire but experts in readiness--we witness them take their unique experiences facing the fires in their own lives and apply that wisdom to the crisis at hand. Relying on their Zen training, the monks accomplished the seemingly impossible--greeting the fire not as an enemy to defeat, but as a friend to guide.
"Fire Monks" pivots on the kind of moment some seek and some run from, when life and death hang in simultaneous view. Drawing on the strength of community, the practice of paying attention, and the power of an open, flexible mind, the Tassajara monks were able to remain in the moment and act with startling speed and clarity. In studying an event marked by great danger and uncertainty, "Fire Monks" reveals the bravery that lives within every heart.
May 2013 Selection: 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 space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour? 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.