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Blast Off with One Book One Marin Program

Science writer asks and answers some fascinating questions in three-month countywide book event.

In this year's One Book One Marin selection, author Mary Roach boldly goes where no science writer has gone before, posing all of the questions that you’re dying to answer but never thought to ask, such as:

Can you burp in space?

Is sex without gravity better?

What happens to your body if you go for weeks without bathing?

And, how exactly do you eat and drink up there?

The Marin County Free Library, along with City Public Libraries of Marin County and community partners Book Passage and Dominican University, has announced that the 2013 One Book One Marin choice is Roach's Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

The launch party to introduce the New York Times bestselling author from Oakland will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at Book Passage, at 51 Tamal Vista Blvd. in Corte Madera.

One Book programs take the idea of a localized book discussion club and expand it to cover a whole city or county.  Each year, cities across the United States select a book and encourage residents to read and discuss that book.

The goal of One Book One Marin is to build a stronger, enriched community through library utilization, community dialogue and the exploration of literature and culture.

A variety of community partners collaborate to bring the community interesting programming and events related to the book throughout a three-month period each year, from February through April. Anyone can participate, and all events are free and open to the public.

Gail Haar, Director of Marin County Library Services and Honorary Chair of One Book, One Marin, noted that this is the seventh year that the program will bring the greater Marin community together to discuss and enjoy programming in local libraries and at Book Passage and Dominican University.

"I think of One Book as face-to-face social media, allowing folks of many ages and interests and backgrounds to find common ground to meet old friends and to make new ones,” Haar said. 

Roach's book is fascinating. From getting tattoos to bungee jumping to eating maggoty cheese, humans undoubtedly do some strange things. But none of these activities comes close to the sheer weirdness of voluntarily ¾ eagerly, in fact ¾ confining oneself to a tiny room without a proper shower or toilet within a wasteland that lacks water, gravity, or oxygen for a month or even a year. Welcome to space.

Along the way, Roach gets to the bottom of urban myths, putting an end to the debate over whether it’s true that, as a vital research tool, space agencies pay ordinary people to lie in bed for months (yes), whether vomiting in your helmet leads to certain death (nope), and whether space travel makes astronauts taller (yep).

Roach introduces us to the final frontier ¾ not the grand triumphs and tragedies that you see on TV but all the stuff in between, such as the small comedies, the odd experiments and the everyday victories.

In a line of work where one of the most beautiful sights to behold is that of a sun-illumined flurry of flash-frozen urine droplets being ejected from a spacecraft, Roach aptly notes, “Space doesn’t just encompass the sublime and the ridiculous. It erases the line between.” 

After the One Book One Marin launch party on Jan. 30, most events take place at city and community libraries and are geared around themes of the novel. The program will conclude with a special event on April 18 at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall, featuring Roach and KQED host Michael Krasny in conversation.

This year's One Book One Marin program is funded by the Marin County Free Library, with support from Book Passage and Dominican University and community sponsors.

For more information, check www.onebookonemarin.org.

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