The New Yorker called Mary Roach "the funniest science writer in the country," a strange accolade perhaps for someone best known for books on death and its aftermath. With this book, the author of Stiff and Spook finds a topic guaranteed to make us giggle: sex. Bonk leads us on a zestful romp through the scientific study of lust, ecstasy, and the co-mingling of genitalia. Roach shows that the apparently tireless work of sex researchers often skirts some very funny boundaries.
In her previous books, Stiff and a follow-up, Spook, Mary Roach set out to make creepy topics (cadavers, the afterlife) fun. In Bonk…she takes an entertaining topic and showcases its creepier side. And then she makes the creepy funny. Intended as much for amusement as for enlightenment, Bonk is Roach's foray into the world of sex research, mostly from Alfred Kinsey onward, but occasionally harking back to the ancient Greeks and medievals (equally unenlightened). Roach belongs to a particular strain of science writer; she's interested less in scientific subjects than in the ways scientists study their subjectsless, in this case, in sex per se than in the laboratory dissection of sex.
The New York Times
In keeping with her popular previous volumes Stiff and Spook, Bonk shows Mary Roach to be a meticulous researcher with a passion for the details most likely to make you queasy…Roach is funny and…as insurance against a dull cocktail party, Bonk can't be beat.
The Washington Post
Roach's glimpse into the inner workings of sex, be it the orgasm, erection or even the use of Viagra on animals, is a refreshing and fascinating study. Sandra Burr offers a straightforward, unfiltered reading that captures Roach's sense of humor perfectly. Taking the taboo out of the touchy subject matter and giving listeners an entertaining, unbiased look at sexual intercourse, Burr offers an everyday approach to the hot topic that will appeal to a wide ranging audience. Simultaneous release with the W.W. Norton hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 25). (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Roach (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers) has written an incredibly informative history of human sexual physiology, one about the "dirty old men" (and women)-researchers-who, despite societal taboos, have tried to understand the biology of sex. Narrator Sandra Burr's enjoyment of Roach's descriptions and wry comments is obvious (Burr both reads and directs for Brilliance), making this a pleasure to hear. While probably not a great choice for children, this program isn't pornographic, and librarians should not hesitate to put it on general library shelves. Recommended for all adult recreational audiobook collections. [Audio clip available through library. brillianceaudio.com; the Norton hc also received a starred review, LJ3/1/08.-Ed.]
School Library Journal
It takes one kind of skill to pack a book full of scientific information (physical, chemical, emotional) about human sex and sexuality research in the 20th century and to do it with care and thoughtfulness. And it takes another kind of talent to do it with wit, humor, and pure enjoyment. Roach's third book (after Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadaversand Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife) beautifully succeeds in both categories. Working from the early 1900s to the present, Roach carefully and systematically surveys sex research and its findings, examining what was scientific about these studies. She also investigates the sometimes bizarre equipment and conditions devised for the research. There are frequent references to past contributors such as Masters and Johnson and Alfred Kinsey and plenty of information from current contributors both in the United States as well as around the world. Readers will find that Roach's informative and witty footnotes skillfully anticipate questions the text will stimulate. Any side avenue Roach may appear to go down always loops back to her central topic, and she handles the nuances of discussing sex and sexuality very nicely-even when the discussion involves the author and her husband. Highly recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ12/07.]
Michael D. Cramer Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Wondering whether orgasms make sows more fertile? Turn to Roach for the answer. One of the funniest and most madcap of science writers, the author has approached sticky subjects to hilarious effect in her two previous books. Stiff (2003) looked at the many uses to which human cadavers have been put, while Spook (2005) told of science's attempts to understand the afterlife. Her latest is no less captivating or entertaining, as she flings wide the closed doors behind which the scientific study of coitus has traditionally been conducted. Roach details the careers of sex researchers Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Marie Bonaparte (Napoleon's great-grand-niece) and porn-star-turned-Ph.D. Annie Sprinkle, among others. Such researchers "to this day, endure ignorance, closed minds, righteousness, and prudery," she writes. "Their lives are not easy. But their cocktail parties are the best." Emulating her subjects' daring spirit, Roach displays a firm belief that there is no question too goofy to ask-or, barring that, to Google. What happens when you implant a monkey testicle in a man: Does he get more vital, or does he get an infection? She explores centuries of research into such questions as how penile implants work (a pump could be involved); whether surgically relocating the clitoris can lead to better sex (no); why the human penis is shaped as it is (to scoop out competitors' sperm); and what exactly is going on when it enters a vagina (shockingly, there is still much to learn). Apart from its considerable comic value, the book also emulates its predecessors by illustrating a precept of scientific research: The passion to know, in the face of censure and propriety, iswhat advances our understanding of the world. A lively, hilarious and informative look at science's dirty secrets. Agent: Jay Mandel/William Morris Agency
Wall Street Journal
“Roach is a fearless and witty reporter.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Roach ferrets out basic truths and endless absurd details amid mountains of dry science on her chosen subject. . . . It’s a wonderful read, sprinkled with facts you can quote to amaze your friends.”
New York Times Book Review
“[Mary Roach] is a bold, tenacious, and insatiable reporter. . . . A greatly satisfying romp.”
O: The Oprah Magazine
“Roll over, Kinsey. Mary Roach has done it again. Like Stiff, her improbable page-turner about cadavers, Bonk proves that full-bodied research can be riveting.”
The The Oprah Magazine O
“Roll over, Kinsey. Mary Roach has done it again.... Bonk proves that full-bodied research can be riveting.”
“I would read Mary Roach on the history of Quonset huts. But Mary Roach on sex? That's a godsend! This book is—if not better than the act itself—then a hilarious and entertaining alternative.”
“[An] account that is at once revealingalarmingly soand very very funny. She studs (forgive me) her journey with a multitude of knee-crossing bits of fact that will enliven bedtime conversation everywhere.”