03. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

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03. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

Post  twunny on Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:00 pm

The author loves to delve into obscured corners of science. Her first book, "Stiff", was about science and cadavers. Her second, "Spook", was about science and the afterlife. I have not read "Spook". But the two I have read break down like this: Mary Roach gets curious about something. She gets whatever permission is required to explore that curiosity. She checks out books and articles from her local library that raise librarians' eyebrows. She Googles everything related to anything about the topic. She sends out e-mails to experts, people related to experts, test subjects, and people who have the same name as people she's trying to track down. (She e-mailed a man about a patent for a sex device. He politely replied along the lines of "No, not me. But it sounds fascinating.")

I did not like "Bonk" as much as "Stiff". It was a little stuffier. The author's humor was still there. But instead of breaking the tension or being comic relief amidst grisly details, it was a bit more sophomoric. Still funny, but not as structured. Which applies to the book overall, actually. In "Stiff", she segued masterfully from one topic to the next. That made the book flow well and made it hard to put down. "Bonk" attempted those transitions most of the time, but did not nail them. It jumped around quite a bit more. It was more difficult to read, and not as interesting.

However, Roach is still terrific. Although this was not as good as her previous book, it was still engaging enough to pull me in and forget that I should be embarrassed to be reading words like "penis" and "vagina" on the subway. Which, in the end, is an accomplishment. One of the merits of this book, and of Roach's work at large, is that it un-obscures the topics of her curiosity. Once again, she asks the questions that no one else would be able to (or candid enough to) ask. There's a nobility to her work. She gets to the bottom of things in a playful, admirable way.

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