Tag: Mary Roach

My Hot and Sticky Blog Re-evaluation

Posted July 7, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in My Essays, Writing / 2 Comments

It is often a good thing to re-evaluate your life, your goals and if you are a blogger like me, your blog. I have been thinking about this for a while and decided it is time to refocus. You may have noticed that I have not been as active on my blog as I would like. I had this goal to write something about everything I read, plus I wanted to do more than literature. However due to motivation, work and other plans, I have not achieved much at all on here. I would say I have about twenty books to review but is it really worth the effort? Maybe, but does this achieve what I want to achieve.

For the longest time I wanted to be a writer, I never was sure what I would write but it was something that was always in the back of my mind. When I started reading and blogging, that desire slowly faded, to the point where I convinced myself that I was not a writer. This became a problem, as I would always dismiss myself and any ideas that I might have. The ideas kept swimming around in my mind; I was just not doing anything with them.

It took me a long time to change my thinking, I am a writer. I may not be a writer of fiction but I love blogging and that is a form of writing. It is a skill I want to build and improve. I want to write more engaging posts and the only way to do that is to practice. My blog is a collection of my thoughts and writing and I can see improvement happening. I am happy to be write about literature instead of writing literature. I am happy in my own writing universe but I still feel the need to push the boundaries.

I started a BookTube channel as a way to develop my skills at communicating and ultimately become a better writer. I got addicted to the community and my writing started to suffer. I need to find the balance. The channel Stripped Cover Lit proposed a #HotAndSticky novel writing challenge. Similar to NaNoWriMo but instead, you have a more manageable 488 words a day over the course of a few months (June till September). I decided to join in as a way to push myself further and see if I can in fact write fiction.

story ideaI think 488 words a day is a good way to start developing a writing habit again and try something new. My first novel idea was to write a hard-boiled detective novel with a female protagonist. I wanted to explore the pulp crime genre but I also wanted to explore the idea of how women are treated in a male dominated job and even go into sexual manipulation and abuse. I had a great plot lined up but it was not working on the page. I do not know if I have the ability to write plot heavy stories, I tend to rush through the story arc.

I quickly put this idea on the backburner and decided to try something different. This idea was to explore a grumpy bookseller as he reflects on life and attempts to find a connection with someone, in a world he does not understand. I hoped that trying a transgressive story would work for me. I want to try developing a character and seeing how the idea progressed from there.

I did not have much luck here although I did found some fragments that I enjoyed, I just felt like a failure. Reflecting on this, I asked myself what type of writer I wanted to be and a few names popped into my mind. Mary Roach for her entertaining and educational style and Anne Fadiman for the way she wrote about books. Both authors are witty and knowledgeable; two things I admire greatly about their writing. I have come to the conclusion that if I want to write like this, I need to change the focus on my blog.

I still think reviewing is an essential skill to develop and I will continue to work on that. I have to stop reviewing every book I read and start practicing essay writing. I would love to write about my journey into literature in different essays, and develop that skill. But I also want to develop a more educational approach. A busy work and life schedule means I cannot achieve everything I want to achieve right now, but I need to work towards my goals. I would like to say ‘expect less reviews and more essays’ but this is a work in progress and I am not sure what the future will hold.

You can expect changes, but I feel like I am still trying to develop the skills I want, I think in order to do that, and I will need to try. I am a little unsure how to best write an essay but this is the place to experiment; Knowledge Lost houses a lot of my writing and blogging from when I first started. Most of it is embarrassing but it is a not so subtle reminder on how much I have improved.

I have some ideas planned and to begin with, this may be very focused on literature and my reading journey, I hope in time I will be writing about an array of topics. I hope this is enough to reinvigorate my passion for blogging and writing. Giving me the freedom to explore without the reminder of how many book reviews I am behind. I hope you will continue with me on this journey and if you have a topic you would like me to write about, I would love to know it.


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

Posted December 19, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin DoughtyTitle: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory (Goodreads)
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Narrator: Caitlin Doughty
Published: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014
Pages: 272
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Caitlin Doughty started her career working in a crematory. She quickly discovered a common issue that seems to be a major issue in Western society. People are generally unprepared for death, not knowing loved ones wishes and not willing to have conversations regarding the topic. Doughty often refers to this as an anxiety towards death or even a death phobia. In an effort to educate people in death, she started a web series called “Ask a Mortician” allowing people to ask her anything regarding about death and the death industry.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory is an extension of Caitlin Doughty mission. Written as part memoir, part micro-history, this book explores the history and current state of the funeral industry. From the age of eight, Doughty had been exposed to death after witnessing a horrible accident that ended in the death of a small child. From that point she realised people were not willing to talk about death, as if they were scared of this inevitability.

Working at the crematory, she also discovered the lack of ritual towards death in Western society. To her she felt like people would rather criticise the funeral industry for their prices. Like paying to view the body of the recently deceased, a process that involves many processes to make the person look like they are resting peacefully. Price has been a big issue with people; it even is at the point where you can order a cremation over the internet and have the body picked up from the morgue and the ashes delivered without even having to deal with anyone.

The idea of the book is to educate people around the death industry, covering topics like the cremation process, the history of embalming, and even going as far as criticising some of the actions that are being used. Caitlin Doughty believes people should have an understanding of what is going on and have a conversation with their loved ones on the topic. With understanding and acceptance of death, we will be better prepared and should promote a healthier grieving or mourning process.

I had planned to read this book for non-fiction November, but then my mother-in-law died. I was not sure if I would be able to handle reading this but had committed to a buddy read of this book with Steph from Time to read! I was surprised how much comfort this book brought me, I felt better knowing about the processes and what happens in a funeral home. I think Smoke Gets in Your Eyes came at the perfect time for me and I was fascinated by the history and everything else within the book.

It is important to have a better understanding about what happens after death, and I am not just talking about the concept of an afterlife. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is the type of book that I think everyone needs to read and then tell your loved ones what you want when you die. I am curious to know more on the topic, I might pick up Stiff by Mary Roach or even Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek to learn more. One of the things I love about non-fiction is the chance to learn so much about a wide variety of topics.


Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

Posted November 17, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 6 Comments

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary RoachTitle: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (Goodreads)
Author: Mary Roach
Narrator: Sandra Burr
Published: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008
Pages: 319
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Bonk is a look into the history and study of sexual physiology. Mary Roach takes an interesting and humorous look into the world of sex research, exploring the weird methods used and the evolution of the field of study. Mary Roach has a unique style that has turned her into a household name. From a book about cadavers (Stiff), to more recently a look into the digestive track (Gulp).

This is my first Mary Roach book and I was immediately drawn to her writing style. I have never read her before, but I have heard so many good things. It was a toss-up between starting with Bonk or Stiff, but I am happy to finally have a chance to experience her writing. The blend of humour while teaching about science makes her an author I need to read more from. She has a style that I have always been interested in adopting for my blog; a balance between teaching and entertaining. Sadly my blog has been nothing but book reviews lately but I hope this will change in the near future.

I remember reading Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us by Jesse Bering a few years ago and found it completely fascinating. I wanted to learn more about the research side of sex but never read anything since then. While Perv looks at the psychological study of sex, Bonk focuses more on the physiological. There are so many topics to cover on the topic, so my biggest problem with Bonk is the fact that it was a very ‘broad-strokes’ approach to the topic. Although this is a good starting point to understand the science.

I was a little horrified with all the setbacks that happened in the study of sex. Whether they are religious or cultural reasons, there has been a lot of times research falls years behind just to save face. This topic alone would be an interesting one to explore, not just about sex but research in general. I am sure there are many times where science suffers due to public opinion. I wonder if there is a book that covers this topic (if you know of one let me know).

I am glad to have finally read Mary Roach and Bonk, I have discovered a new favourite author and a topic I need to learn more about. The more non-fiction I read, the more I wonder why I had an aversion towards it for so long. It was a non-fiction book that got me into reading and I am pretty much a non-fiction writer. I have so much to learn and I plan to learn more; hopefully this will reflect on my blog in the future. If you have an interest in reading about the research of sex both physiologically and psychologically, I recommend both Bonk and Perv.