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Required Reading: Mary Roach

After reporting on the publishing experiments popping up around San Francisco, we asked the city’s writers what they’re reading these days, and they were happy to share. Look for Required Reading every Tuesday.

Mary Roach admits that she has little time to curl up with a good novel these days. The Packing for Mars author is in the middle of writing her next title, so she's devoting her reading time to stacks of research material for the new book. But like a good wordsmith, she's already planning what she'll be reading once her own book's put to bed.

Podcast: "I have no time for reading, regrettably. But I do listen to 99% Invisible, a series of short podcasts on design, by one of my favorite NPR producers, Roman Mars. The series is about things you'd never imagine designers have, like toothbrushes and flags and spaceship interiors. Roman did the first radio interview I had as an author, and it remains one of the best.  I'll listen to anything he records."

Travel Diary: "A Week at the Airport, by Alain de Botton is at the top of my reading list. Why? Because it's written by the poet laureate of Heathrow Airport. Or writer-in-residence, I guess it is. Britain has this delightful tradition of electing poet laureates and writers for distinctly unpoetic ventures, like supermarket chains. I keep waiting for the tradition to spread to the States and for Big Lots to call me."

Memoir: "On a good day, fully caffeinated and light of heart, my best writing approaches Bill Bryson's worst. I read his books and am inspired to be
funnier, sharper, more committed to my research.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is ostensibly a childhood memoir, but it's also about America in the '50s. To me, it's a perfect book."