In April of 2003, he snuck into Iraq to cover the war for Wired and later that year became a contributing editor for the magazine.
In 2005, Random House published his first book, The Underdog - a recounting of Davis' armwrestling, bullfighting, sumo, sauna and backward running adventures.
Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
At the beginning of the summer, I started reading The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. It's slow but fascinating, largely because it reveals what a fundamentally creative pursuit science is. These guys would come up with an idea about what a molecule looks like and build a machine from scratch to test that idea. I just find that really exciting - it makes me want to come up with some ideas about how the universe works and build a giant machine in my backyard. I don't think I'd be able to get any uranium at this point but that's just the type of practical hurdles these guys jumped every day. Looking out my window now, I see piles of dog shit, a rake and a couple of rat traps. I'm sure that's the beginning of something.Visit Joshua Davis' website.
Unfortunately, as I started packing for our Caribbean vacation, my wife off-handedly said that a 1000-page book on atomic science would make me look like a complete dork on the beach. She mentioned something about French romeos wandering the shores in speedos and did I really want to spend all my time huddled under the beach umbrella on my own personal geek-a-pollza trip?
It was a dirty, sly ploy because her ultimate goal wasn't to make me jealous - she just didn't want to find herself stuck with the carry-on containing a book that big.
She also knew that I have a habit of bringing a whole stack of books with me whenever I travel. The problem is that I never know exactly what I'll be in the mood to read when I get where I'm going. So much depends of the weather, the size of the hotel room and other intangibles. If the room is small and the weather oppressively muggy, I need something light and distracting like Steve Martin's memoir Born Standing Up. If the room is big, the view wonderful and the air-conditioning effective, I can handle something more adventurous like Ryszard Kapuscinski's description of the Iranian revolution in Shah of Shahs.
I loaded those books into the bag but hesitated with The Making of the Atomic Bomb. My wife walked by the door dangling one of my old speedos and I decided to leave the big book behind. Still, I announced that, in retribution for her total underhandedness, I was going to the bookstore to buy MORE BOOKS which I reserved the right to bring on vacation to make up for the loss.
At the bookstore, Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander caught my eye in the window; it was wedged in amongst pirate books. I guess O’Brian’s tale of 18th century British naval warfare was close enough. I had recently written about a group of guys who save sinking ships for a living and a good naval yarn seemed like just the thing for me. It was light enough to mollify my wife, manly enough to read in the midst of the tanned, speedo-clad lotharios, and, last but not least, it was something I was actually interested in reading.
I burned through it and am now a total addict. I’ve read the first 4 out of the 21 book series and when I finish a book, I go to great lengths to buy the next one immediately. If I was smart and listened to my wife, I would order them all and have them standing by. But I guess I’m not that smart. I like feeling the burning need to go out and buy then next book. Yesterday, I even scheduled a business meeting at a Borders just so I could be sure and have the fifth book by nightfall.
Despite the logistics and scheduling problems I’m creating by insisting on urgent trips to bookstores, my wife is happy. I know exactly what I’ll be reading for the next year - the 16 remaining books in the series. It means I don’t have to bring more than one or two books with me when we travel. Plus, they’re lightweight paperbacks. The marriage is in a good place.