On My Bookshelf

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roachspook

From Amazon.com:If author Mary Roach was a college professor, she’d have a zero drop-out rate. That’s because when Roach tackles a subject. . . she charges forth with such zeal, humor, and ingenuity that her students (er, readers) feel like they’re witnessing the most interesting thing on Earth. Who the heck would skip that? As Roach informs us in her introduction, “This is a book for people who would like very much to believe in a soul and in an afterlife for it to hang around in, but who have trouble accepting these things on faith. It’s a giggly, random, utterly earthbound assault on our most ponderous unanswered question.” Talk about truth in advertising.

Great. Mary Roach is probably one of my favorite authors of the moment. I love nonfiction and I love humor – Spook links those two together perfectly. From mediums to the weight of your soul, this book explains the intersection of science and the afterlife over the years. Roach explains what we have studied, believed, etc. An excellent read.

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

From Publishers Weekly via Amazon.com: Roach is not like other science writers. She doesn’t write about genes or black holes or Schrödinger’s cat. Instead, she ventures out to the fringes of science, where the oddballs ponder how cadavers decay and whether you can weigh a person’s soul. Now she explores the sexiest subject of all: sex, and such questions as, what is an orgasm? How is it possible for paraplegics to have them? What does woman want, and can a man give it to her if her clitoris is too far from her vagina? At times the narrative feels insubstantial and digressive (how much do you need to know about inseminating sows?), but Roach’s ever-present eye and ear for the absurd and her loopy sense of humor make her a delectable guide through this unesteemed scientific outback. The payoff comes with subjects like female orgasm (yes, it’s complicated), and characters like Ahmed Shafik, who defies Cairo’s religious repressiveness to conduct his sex research.

Are you sensing a theme? I loved Stiff and Spook, so why not move on to Bonk? As Roach explains (on page 14), “This book is a tribute to the men and women who dared. Who, to this day, endure ignorance, closed minds, righteousness, and prudery. Their lives are not easy. But their cocktail parties are the best.”

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