Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly is the source material for the Oscar-nominated movie of the same name. This non-fiction book follows the lives of several revolutionary black women who worked for NASA.

For this one, I was able to read the book before I saw the movie. The movie took some liberties for time and dramatic effect, but it was closer to the source material than I expected. The book gives so much more information than the movie is able to. The book goes in depth into the women’s entire lives, not just this small time in their lives.

The women discussed in this book are amazing. They did all the things that a lot of women do: they got married, had families, and tried to give their children a better future. But they also had jobs at NASA, where they performed the calculations that sent the first American astronauts into space. On top of all of that, they dealt with the inequality of racial prejudice and segregation.

This book wasn’t always the clearest. Several of the women have the same first name and it frequently switched from story to story. I almost wish I had watched the movie first, so I could have had a mental picture to help me keep track. But overall, I enjoyed this book and learning about these amazing women.

4/5

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War was my introduction to Mary Roach and her “Curious Science” books. I’d heard of Stiff, mainly because I worked in a used bookstore in Austin, TX. It took me a few chapters to get into this book, but I’m glad I did.

I listened to Grunt on CD in my car. Usually, CD audiobooks are read too slowly for me, but it was especially helpful with this book because it was a subject that I had no prior knowledge of.

My favorite section of this book was about how much science and research goes into clothing and fabric design. Roach follows scientists as they put fabric through intense tests to make sure that it will withstand the conditions it will be subjected to in the field. She also notes that the clothing must be stylish as well as comfortable, so that the soldiers will wear their gear willingly.

Overall, this book was cohesive and well researched. I liked that it didn’t feel didactic, especially about such a controversial topic. I’ve never had an interest in war as a topic, but this examination of the science that makes it possible was an excellent introduction to both the subject and Mary Roach’s books. I especially enjoyed listenint to this book and I’ll probably look for Stiff next.

4/5