Mary Roach: Live & Online-Only

Jen Siska

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Literary Arts

Mary Roach: Live & Online-Only

Past Event: Sunday, May 9, 2021


Although this event has passed, you can still purchase a digital pass to view it through May 16 at 7:30 p.m. (PDT). The event will be available to watch until 12:01 a.m. on May 17.

“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post), the ever-curious and darkly irresistible Mary Roach is the author of books like Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, books that are about human beings as much as they are about the human body. Her forthcoming book is about the often fraught encounters between animals and people.

This event will be live and online only, with moderator Deborah Blum. Please note: this event begins at 6:00 p.m. (PDT).

All Literary Arts Series, Create Your Own Series, and Super SAL subscribers (except Student/25 & Under and complimentary subscriptions) receive Roach’s forthcoming book.

Roach grew up in a small house in Etna, New Hampshire—she has said her neighbors taught her how to drive a Skidoo and shoot a rifle, though she never made much use of these skills. She graduated from Wesleyan in 1981, and drove out to San Francisco with some friends, where she a few years working as a freelance copy editor before landing a half-time PR job at the SF Zoo. Her office was in a trailer next to Gorilla World. On the days when she wasn’t taking calls about elephant wart removal surgery or denying rumors that the cheetahs had been sucked dry by fleas, she wrote freelance articles for the local newspaper’s Sunday magazine.

In 1986, she sold a humor piece about the IRS to the San Francisco Chronicle. That piece led to a number of humorous, first-person essays and feature articles for such publications as VogueGQThe New York Times MagazineDiscover MagazineNational GeographicOutside Magazine, and Wired. She has also written articles for and tech-gadget reviews for

Although Roach writes primarily about science, she never intended to make it her career. Roach stated in an interview with, when asked what exactly got her hooked on writing about science, “To be honest, it turned out that science stories were always, consistently, the most interesting stories I was assigned to cover. I didn’t plan it like this, and I don’t have a formal background in science, or any education in science journalism. Actually, I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology.”

Roach mostly writes books these days, but she still writes the occasional magazine piece. These have run in Outside, National Geographic, New Scientist, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine. A 1995 article of hers called “How to Win at Germ Warfare” was a National Magazine Award Finalist, and in 1996, her article on earthquake-proof bamboo houses took the Engineering Journalism Award in the general interest magazine category, for which she says she was “let’s be honest, the only entrant.”

Roach is the best-selling author of the previous books Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the VoidBonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and SexSpook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

Deborah Blum, our moderator for the evening, is a Pulitzer-prizewinning American science journalist, columnist, and author of six books, including the 2018 New York Times Notable Book, The Poison Squad, and the New York Times bestseller, The Poisoner’s Handbook (2010).  Her other books include Ghost Hunters (2010), Love at Goon Park (2006), Sex on the Brain (1997) and The Monkey Wars (1994).  She has written for publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Scientific American, Discover, and Wired. She is a former president of the National Association of Science Writers, was a member of the governing board of the World Federation of Science Writers, and currently serves on the board of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Blum is co-editor of the book A Field Guide for Science Writers, and in 2015, she was selected as the fourth director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT, where she is founding publisher of the award-winning digital science magazine, Undark. She lives in a late 19th century house in Boston with her husband, son, and a very spoiled Labrador.

Event Details

Know Before You Go

Can't find your tickets? Need access to the digital event?

Most tickets have been emailed for Roach’s event, so be sure to check your inbox for an email from Call us at 206-621-2230 x10 if you can’t find them.

Your e-tickets, which come attached in a PDF with your ticket order confirmation email as well, will contain your digital access password. Return to the event page the night of the event at and enter the password where prompted. The program begins at 6:00 p.m. (PDT) and will be available for viewing for a week after the event.

SAL will also send an email the day of the event, containing the same information. If you have opted out of receiving SAL emails, you will miss this important information—please email us at and we will assist you.

Have a question for the speaker?

Ticket holders, want to ask Mary Roach a question during the Q&A? Send your questions to—they might be asked on stage!


Literary Arts Series and Create-Your-Own Series subscribers receive a copy of Mary Roach’s new book that will be published and shipped in the fall, Note: Student/25 & Under and complimentary subscriptions do not receive a book.

Our partner bookstore for the evening, University Book Store, has copies of Roach’s work available for purchase on their website.


Closed Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where captioning displays the words that are spoken or sung at the bottom of the video. Captioning is available for all online events; click the “CC” button to view captions during the event.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals at online events. To make a request for ASL interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10, or select Sign Language Interpretation from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will reach out to you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services for online events, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at, or Monday-Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at 206.621.2230×10. For more accessibility information, please head to


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