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review 2017-06-26 18:16
Bonk / Mary Roach
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex - Mary Roach

The study of sexual physiology - what happens, and why, and how to make it happen better - has been a paying career or a diverting sideline for scientists as far-ranging as Leonardo da Vinci and James Watson. The research has taken place behind the closed doors of laboratories, brothels, MRI centers, pig farms, sex-toy R&D labs, and Alfred Kinsey's attic.

Mary Roach, "the funniest science writer in the country" (Burkhard Bilger of 'The New Yorker'), devoted the past two years to stepping behind those doors. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Why doesn't Viagra help women or, for that matter, pandas?

In 'Bonk', Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm, two of the most complex, delightful, and amazing scientific phenomena on earth, can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to slowly make the bedroom a more satisfying place.


Mary Roach, as usual, is drawn to the weird and the wonderful. I love her sense of humour about whatever her current obsession happens to be. A book about sex research could be dry and boring, but not with Ms. Roach at the helm.

Male readers may cringe at several of the chapters regarding surgery on the family jewels—it made me a little queasy. I am also amazed that she managed to drag her husband along to participate in research projects with her. He is obviously a guy with a sense of adventure!

Sex researchers, both animal and human, were good sports to show off their work in progress or discuss published results. As stated a couple of time in the book, publicity can sometimes be a hindrance to obtaining research money, so they were either very established researchers or willing to risk the exposure.

We’re all interested in the topic, but few of us have the time or inclination to track down these great stories! Thank you, Mary Roach, for being the obsessive researcher for us.

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text 2017-04-03 15:06
Spook / Mary Roach
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife - Mary Roach

What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that—the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my laptop?" In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.



”The debunkers are probably right, but they’re no fun to visit a graveyard with.”


With that one sentence, Mary Roach sums up my whole view of the survival of a soul.  She explores reincarnation stories, Victorian spiritualism, and ghost hunting.  She attends a workshop to develop her mediumship.  In general, she treads the odd pathways that I would if I had the freedom to do so, and she does it with her characteristic humour.


I think one of the key things, that gets several mentions in the book, is the role of loss and grief in starting people on the path looking for spiritual survival of death.  When my parents were killed in a car accident twenty years ago, I had dreams of them that were so realistic that I almost believed that I was communicating with them again.  The longing was so strong (and still often is so strong) that I truly wish that I could somehow reach out to them one more time.


One of my sisters twisted my arm until we visited a local clairvoyant, who I must say provided a very comforting experience.  But I left that session feeling like my emotional self (that wanted to believe desperately) and my intellectual self (that analyzed the session and decided that my sister & I provided most of the information) were definitely in dissonance.  It was an interesting experience and I don’t regret it, but I also don’t think I will ever repeat it.


Perhaps not as much fun as other Mary Roach books that I’ve read, but still an enjoyable way to spend some time.

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review 2016-11-07 16:49
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War - Mary Roach
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War - Mary Roach
  1. One morning you wake up and realize you just never thought that much about the stuff of war. Thankfully, Roach has gone before and asked the awkward questions. Yeah, new weapons and planes and ships have to be developed, I knew about those enormous contracts.. But also someone has to work out all the other stuff: what things do people really need to carry? what’s the best way to keep people alive? What makes a weapon ideal? Roach is out there following her curiousity to places I never considered, and arousing mine.

Library copy

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review 2016-07-13 04:23
More reasons to love dead people...wait, that came out wrong...
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Mary Roach

Okay, this book might weird some people out, but for those like me who are into science and biology and anatomy and the like, it's a very interesting read! 


Mary Roach explores the many different places human cadavers can find themselves once they've left the world of the living. Many of them I wasn't to surprised to hear about. Gross anatomy labs, crash test facilities, funeral homes, crematories, and even compost. Something I didn't know about before was beating-heart cadavers. These are people who have been declared brain dead (which is the official way to determine if someone is dead or not) but they are kept alive so their organs can be retrieved and given to people waiting on the organ donor list. 


What was really a learning experience for me was all the history Roach put into her novels regarding cadavers (be warned, it does get a bit bleak and rather gruesome at times). She covers things from graver robbers to pre-modern anatomy studies, studies exploring the location of ones soul, and even touches on the crucifixion.


Very much a book like no other, Mary Roach has written an accessible, insightful novel about a subject that, at some point in all our lives, will be important, and something we have to think about. If you're not too squeamish, have a general interest in science or are just looking for something unusual to read, I would recommend this book. 



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review 2016-06-17 03:25
Mary Roach: Stiff - The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Mary Roach

I was drawn to this book for a few reasons. Firstly, if I could do university all over again I would work to becoming a forensic anthropologist which is career that I find extremely fascinating. Secondly, my grandpa passed away in 2013 and he elected to donate his body to science and recently we just received information that he was ready for cremation. My grandpa used to joke about how the student was in for a interesting shock when they got to his lungs (he smoked several packs a day for almost his entire life) and his liver (he drank almost as much as he smoked). As my family and I will never fully know the adventure that my grandpa's body went on after he passed, I thought it might be interesting to know a possible path that he took.

Mary Roach takes readers on an strange adventure with what happens when someone donates their body to science. She takes reader through some history from how they have been procured to what the have been used for and the advancements that have been made because of work on them. The scientific aspects of the books are mixed in with Roach's own thoughts, feelings and whit. 

Each chapter takes on a different aspect in science that could benefit from the use of cadavers to work on; Plastic surgery to Crash Test Dummies Roach has deemed to explore a wide range for the use of cadavers (and it is by no need an extensive list, but she did choose some interesting ones that I never thought of). This book also touches on at times the use of animals in experiments and some that are pretty disturbing and what I would think would be straight out of a horror novel. For example attaching a decapitated puppy head to a live dog to determine if the flesh can be reanimated or survive. And I guess that brings me to my next point if you have a squeamish stomach this book will not be for you, as Roach does go in to a fair amount of detail at times.

This book has quite a bit of humour in it for the topic but you need to have a similar type of humour or not get offended easily in order to enjoy this book. Roach often gives her own personal observations or thoughts during the moment when researching or interviewing scientist about the "lives" of cadavers, and most of the time her thoughts could boarder on offensive to some people at the jokes or thoughts that just seem to pop in to her mind. I think that this is the part that people will either love or hate, however, this is what makes the book truly unique in voice instead of just stating scientific or history facts.

I liked learning about some of the curious lives that human cadavers can have now and in history and I am sure that there are many more adventures for them to have. Although Roach is not a medical professional (as you can tell from her personal comments) I think she did a great job in presenting the science as well as making it interesting. I would read another book by Roach and I seriously would consider donating my body to science even though I wouldn't want it to end up in some of the places the cadavers in this story did.


I don't have something too similar to this book, but these are some fiction reads that I think will be a good segway from this book.
http://j9books.blogspot.ca/2011/01/kathryn-fox-malicious-intent.html  http://j9books.blogspot.ca/2012/11/allen-wyler-dead-ringer.html  http://j9books.blogspot.ca/2014/02/jefferson-bass-carved-in-bone.html
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