Original date of publication: 2008
My copy: 2008 (WW Norton)
Why I decided to read: saw Mary Roach speak at a conference
How I acquired my copy: Denver airport bookstore, October 2012
In Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Roach explored the topic of the human cadaver and how it’s used in science. In Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, she does pretty much the same thing, except with sex and sexuality. Roach wanders out into the fringes of scientific exploration in her books, into the areas that aren’t considered “typical,” and she writes her books with a liberal amount of humor. Roach traveled all over the world to witness—and even participate in—clinical trials involving sex. Every now and then she footnotes her writing with random stuff, including a note about who Millard Filmore’s running mate was (trick question!).
From start to finish, Bonk is an entertaining read—even if I did get a few odd looks as I was reading it in public. Sure, the subject matter can be uncomfortable at times, but even more so is the humor that the author sees in her subjects. She spares no one, from the artificial inseminators in Denmark to clinical trials on prostitutes in Egypt. In her introduction, she even pokes fun of herself and the avenues that her “obsession” sometimes take. “Last summer I was in a medical school library Xeroxing a journal article called ‘Vacuum Cleaner Use in Autoerotic Death’ when the paper jammed. I could not bring myself to ask the copy room attendant to help me, but quietly moved over to the adjacent machine and began again.” In both of the books of hers I’ve read, Roach seems to go off on random tangents, but it’s always an intriguing and entertaining ride.