Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “mary roach”

lefaquin’s #CBR4Review #26: Spook by Mary Roach

As my last book of the year, I read Spook. Verdict: eh. There were some really interesting parts, and I can see why a lot of people really enjoy reading Roach’s books. She writes about history and current events in a scientific but approachable manner, and it’s definitely easily digestible. Some of my favorite parts are her footnotes though, when she goes into really esoteric parts of the history, but most of the book was too focused on achieving the goals of each chapter for me to really enjoy it.

By far, the best part of the book was pictures like that – real ones of old victorian ladies pulling gauze out of various body parts. To check out the rest of the review, see my blog!

 

 

Alli’s #CBR4 Review #32: Bonk by Mary Roach

I remember hearing about Mary Roach and her book “Stiff” when it was featured on “Six Feet Under” and at the time I thought it would be an interesting read. Then when I was reading reviews on the CBR4 site I found out that Roach had written a book about the science of sex and I had to check it out for myself.

Bonk” is the humorous, unflinching, educational account of sexuality and the research that has gone into its study. Not for the squeamish, this book covers all the nitty gritty science behind the thing that got us all here.

Read the rest on my blog

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #48: Stiff by Mary Roach

I love Mary Roach and this book was fascinating, but I think it might have been just a little bit too morbid for me.

As I noted in my review of Bonk, Mary Roach is a curious lady. She seems to think it her life’s mission* to pick areas of interest and then dive into them in ways that most people either haven’t thought of, or have thought of but were too embarrassed to ask about. Stiff was her first book (before that she was a freelance writer, mostly doing humorous yet educational pieces for Reader’s Digest, Vogue, GQ, Discover, and The New York Times Magazine), but somehow I ended up reading the Mary Roach body of work backwards, and this is actually the last one I’ve read, even though it was first published. In case you care (you don’t), I like the ones about sex and space the best, but that’s probably because I like reading about sex and space. One of the great things about Roach’s writing is that it’s remarkably consistent, and her same curious and irreverent (but always respectful) manner can be applied to all manner of topics — you always know what you’ll be getting into when you pick up one of her books. And who the heck knows what she’s going to write about next.

*Either that, or she’s making a shit ton of money off of doing that exact thing over and over, so why not just keeping do it? Mary Roach’s publishers say, “More please!”

In Stiff, Roach examines the many things that happen to our bodies after we die, but her main avenue of inquiry is what happens to bodies people have “donated to science.” As you’ll find out if you read the book (or the next couple of sentences that I’m about to type), donating your body “to science” could mean any number of things. She writes about surgeons practicing techniques on severed heads, cadavers being preserved for eternity as art exhibits*, bodies being used as crash-test dummies to make cars safer for those of us who are still living, and the use of cadavers in weapons and ballistics research. There’s even a whole chapter about gravedigging, which was the main way that doctors/researchers obtained human remains to study way back in the day. One of the things Roach is careful to note is that when you donate your body to science, you have no choice over where you will end up. I might consider donating my body to science if I could guarantee I’d end up as a skeleton in a classroom, or as an exhibit at Bodyworlds, but there’s no way I’m getting my head chopped off so plastic surgeons can mess around with my face muscles. NO THANK YOU.

Even though it was really interesting, for most of the book I found myself slightly sick to my stomach, and kind of appalled at what physically happens to us after we die. The last chapter made me feel slightly better — Roach goes into detail about a Swedish (or was she Belgian? I can’t remember) scientist who is pioneering composting as a means of burial. If this is a thing ever I want it to happen to me (not as creepy as it sounds — they don’t just bury you and let you naturally turn into fertilizer — there’s this thing they do to halt the natural decaying process and then you just kind of gradually merge with the dirt without so much as making one little stink). I used to joke that I wanted to be encased in honey in a glass tomb and then lowered to the bottom of a very clear lake, but I think this composting thing might be a more realistic option. Instead of getting all moldy in a grave or burnt to a creepy crisp, I can grow my very own dead Ashley tree!

Anyways, check this Mary Roach shit out, ya’ll. Especially Packing for Mars, because there is a whole chapter about pooping in space!

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #44: Bonk by Mary Roach

Curiosity seems to be Mary Roach’s raison d’etre, and bless her heart for that.

In our culture, especially outside the hallowed halls of science and academia, sex is viewed as titillating and scandalous — not to be talked about, no matter the context. And while I’m not going to get political here — because I super hate it when people do that in inappropriate places — I think that’s a huge detriment to our culture, and to us as participants in that culture. So props to Mary Roach for writing this book, and for making it so dang readable.

Bonk chronicles Roach’s investigations into the long and interesting history of science and sex. Specifically it’s a funny and matter of fact history of people who — like Roach — were curious about sex and the way things worked, and decided to do something about it. The book is pretty large in scope, covering everything from Alfred Kinsey to bicycle dildo cameras. In a couple of memorable incidents, she even goes so far as to make herself (and her good-sprited husband) research subjects when it becomes clear that she won’t be able to witness experiments in any other way.

It’s been almost a month since I finished this book, so the details have largely slipped my mind, but what remains memorable (aside from a few details that I will make sure to pop out at inappropriate times disguised as small talk) is the way that Roach insists on asking the questions that everyone wants to know but are too embarrassed to ask.

This was my second Mary Roach book (finished Stiff a couple weeks later) after I read Packing For Mars last year, and although she definitely has a formula at this point, it’s a fun formula, and I’m in for whatever wacky avenue of inquiry she thinks up next.

Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #22 Bonk by Mary Roach

Bonk should’ve come with a soundtrack with such hits as “Afternoon Delight” by Starland Vocal Band,  “Fantasy” by Ludacris and”The Bad Touch” by The Bloodhound Gang.  Roach blends the scientific study of sex with her typical humorous irreverence.

Roach’s first book, and a good read at that, dealt with the study of death – specifically with cadavers.  Roach reminds me of that friend (everyone has a friend like this) that will never let a dare go.  While most of us would keep our curiosity to ourselves, lest we be labeled morbid weirdos, Roach goes right ahead and asks the the important questions about donating your body to science.  She does the same in Bonk, jumping into the work of sex science.

You’re guaranteed to learn something new from this book.  In fact, most of the time, you’ll be cocking your head to the side and going “huh” on a regular basis.  There’s many interesting sex factoids you can dazzle your friends with in here.  Like, the majority of the clitoris is actually internal.  Think of it like an iceburg next time you get your in the vicinity of one.  Or that Kinsey had a friend that said to him, “hey, you can sex studies in my attic, it won’t be weird at all!”  The great grand niece of Napolean was an early sexologist; her dissatisfaction with her love life lead her to study the female anatomy.  Also, a scientist once studied the effect of polyester on sexual arousal by putting rats in polyester pants.  No mention if disco music was also piped into the lab.

One bummer from the book, and it’s not really the book’s fault,  is that science really has no idea how the female sexuality works.  One issue is that female sexuality just isn’t as simple to measure as male is.  Another is that female sexuality wasn’t considered a main concern until recently, just in time for stricter review boards in the science field.  Kinsey wouldn’t be able to film his friends going at it in the attic and still be able to say it was all for science in this day and age.  Getting approval for any type of human testing is a chore, let alone approval for a couple to have sex in an MRI machine (although that did get to happen).  And let’s face it, people are still squeamish about talking about sex openly.  I even had reservations about writing this article.  I think the world would be a better place if we took some advice from Salt N Pepa.  Let’s talk about sex.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR IV Review #7: Bonk by Mary Roach

Despite what you may think from the title, this book is not porn. Bonk is a non-fiction book about the history and stigma of sex research. This book is about as non-sexy as you can get. This book made me so squeamish that I frequently had to turn it off and scream. I listened to this as an Audiobook, and a couple of times, I almost drove my car off the road.
Mary Roach is nothing if not detailed. This book is extensively researched. She writes about the research of Masters and Johnson and Alfred Kinsey in the 1950s. She writes about modern day sex researchers and even has sex with her husband in an MRI. There are chapters on male orgasm, female orgasm, masturbation, and anything else you can think of. The most disturbing section was about Victorian attitudes towards sexuality. Little boys had to wear a contraption at night that ensure that if they had a nocturnal erection, they would be in pain. Thankfully, we have come a long way since then.
This book was fascinating and educational, however this is not a book I would recommend for someone with a weak stomach. Some sections are fairly graphic and disturbing.
4/5 Stars.

Erin is Scrumtrulescent’s #CBR4 Review #01: Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

There are certain topics that manage to be endlessly fascinating to me, and as a result I find myself gravitating to certain, familiar areas of my local bookstores. If I am in the need of something new to read but not quite sure what that would be, wandering over to the science section usually gives me a few good ideas. This is where I stumbled onto this interesting looking read, and it did not disappoint.

Packing For Mars offers a look at pretty much anything you ever wanted to know about what it was and is like being astronaut. It is not only those lucky few who have been to space that she covers, however. She also spends a fair amount of time with a lot of people who have made it possible (not to mention easier and much less gross) for those astronauts to do what they do.  It turned out to be more than just interesting though; I was at times laughing out loud, dumbfounded, and – more than a few times – totally grossed out.

Roach, as is the case in all her other books as well, has researched this topic meticulously. She presents the basics – anti-gravity and early failures – but delves into places a lesser writer would make hard to get through. Among them: hygiene sacrifices, space cuisine, and the challenges of going to the bathroom in a place with no gravity. She presents this all with the perfect bit of humor and enthusiasm needed to make the writing seem effortless but in the end still leave you in awe of the subject matter.

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