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Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (edition 2006)

by Mary Roach

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Member:jsetla
Title:Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
Authors:Mary Roach
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2006), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 311 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

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Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
Roach gives us another fascinating read with her trademark snarky voice, the topic this time asking whether there is life after death and is there a scientific way of proving it. We follow her to a school for mediums, exploring the tools that, through history, have purported to call/record/tape or otherwise prove that spirits of the dead walk this earth. She even witnesses an operation to insert a pacemaker where the patient's heart was temporarily stopped. She reports on efforts to weigh dying people to prove that the soul has weight and really exists and studies which decide when a soul would actually implant in a person.

This is relaxed nonfiction, totally fun to read with laugh-out-loud moments. ( )
  mamzel | Feb 9, 2016 |
Unlike the subject matter of her other books, such as "Stiff" and "Gulp", this foray into the afterlife does not lend itself to hard evidence but more to opinion and interpretation of research. I do have the feeling that Roach started the book as a non-believer and nothing much happened in her year of investigation to change her mind. As usual she fills her chapters with the odd experiments, unusual research techniques and earnest scientists. Much of the book serves to show how charlatans throughout history have preyed upon vulnerable people who want to believe that there is certainly a life after death. I do think, at times, Roach wanders completely off topic and, truthfully, my mind wandered several times while reading. I'm still a Mary Roach fan but this is definitely not my favorite.
( )
  Ellen_R | Jan 15, 2016 |
I wish I had Mary Roach's nerve - to go talk to experts and exasperate them with silly questions so she can write these light-hearted books on what the rest of us are afraid to ask about. Now it's about whether there is life after death and the stories of the people who have tried to research it "scientifically."
For me, there wasn't enough science. The chapter on seances and ectoplasm was more about freak shows than death or science. How much stuff can you jam up your vagina and pull out later with your toes? All very evocative and interesting, but I don't think it was furthering the investigation. The only science in that is in the debunking. And I'd read about that woman who birthed bunnies (and parts of bunnies) before (Perhaps in that paperback my sister had that had been retitled and remarketed as The Shocking History of Drugs) as well as the man who tried to weigh people at the moment of death (was that in her book, Stiff?).
I may have enjoyed her other books a bit better, but her writing is still pretty entertaining.
  marfita | Jan 8, 2016 |
As engaging and interesting as any of Roach's books. I liked it slightly less well than Stiff, probably because I've never given a second thought to the possibility that the soul exists, whereas the body is undeniable and, to me, undeniably fascinating. (I've been horrifying my family by suggesting that I might want to donate my body to anti-landmine armor research post-mortem ever since I read Stiff, but I would settle for organ donation and a green burial.)

Particularly fun were the chapters on early 20th-century spiritualism, with their extremely gross (typically Roach) descriptions of ectoplasm. ( )
  Tafadhali | Nov 18, 2015 |
In her previous books Ms. Roach has tackled subjects as varied as human sexuality and the “secret” life of human cadavers, so it seems somehow appropriate that she complete that circle with a look into the afterlife. Ms. Roach’s always thorough research drives the content of this book (I often wonder how she finds some of her sources) and her trademark wit and light writing style make it educational yet entertaining to read. One review I read recently stated, “If Mary Roach were a college professor, she would have a zero drop-out rate”. I agree whole-heartedly. From searching for the weight of the human soul to near death experiences and then on through séances and reincarnation Ms. Roach covers most the bases. I say most because I wish she had included a few more contemporary examples of fascination with the afterlife and the paranormal. I understand that not everything can be covered in one book, but maybe a little less about the soul/sperm experiments? If I had criticize one thing in this book (as well as in “Bonk” … it was sperm related too??) it would be that sometimes Ms. Roach does latch onto to one particular aspect of her research and lets it dominate too much of the book. This will definitely not stop me from picking up another since I can always skim through a few pages or fast-forward through a minute or two of an audio book. “Gulp” is already in my TBR pile.


I enjoy Ms. Roach’s books because she gives the reader so much more than a dry accounting of what she discovered in her research. She includes the more questionable and bizarre discoveries and, if she can get away with, often participates in ongoing research and experiments, enabling her to give the reader a first hand account
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
Roach ranges far and wide in "Spook," traveling to India to look into reincarnation and England to take a course in how to be a medium. She is a skeptic, but comes to some surprising conclusions in "Spook."
 
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For my parents, wherever they are or aren't.
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My mother worked hard to instill faith in me.
I don’t recall my mood the morning I was born, but I imagine I felt a bit out of sorts.
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Also published under the title of "Six Feet Over".
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393329127, Paperback)

If author Mary Roach was a college professor, she'd have a zero drop-out rate. That's because when Roach tackles a subject--like the posthumous human body in her previous bestseller, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, or the soul in the winning Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife--she charges forth with such zeal, humor, and ingenuity that her students (er, readers) feel like they're witnessing the most interesting thing on Earth. Who the heck would skip that? As Roach informs us in her introduction, "This is a book for people who would like very much to believe in a soul and in an afterlife for it to hang around in, but who have trouble accepting these things on faith. It's a giggly, random, utterly earthbound assault on our most ponderous unanswered question." Talk about truth in advertising. With that, Roach grabs us by the wrist and hauls butt to India, England, and various points in between in search of human spiritual ephemera, consulting an earnest bunch of scientists, mystics, psychics, and kooks along the way. It's a heck of a journey and Roach, with one eyebrow mischievously cocked, is a fantastically entertaining tour guide, at once respectful and hilarious, dubious yet probing. And brother, does she bring the facts. Indeed, Spook's myriad footnotes are nearly as riveting as the principal text. To wit: "In reality, an X-ray of the head could not show the brain, because the skull blocks the rays. What appeared to be an X-ray of the folds and convolutions of a human brain inside a skull--an image circulated widely in 1896--was in fact an X-ray of artfully arranged cat intestines." Or this: "Medical treatises were eminently more readable in Sanctorius's day. Medicina statica delved fearlessly into subjects of unprecedented medical eccentricity: 'Cucumbers, how prejudicial,' and the tantalizing 'Leaping, its consequences.' There's even a full-page, near-infomercial-quality plug for something called the Flesh-Brush." While rigid students of theology might take exception to Roach's conclusions (namely, we're just a bag of bones killing time before donning a soil blanket) it's hard to imagine anyone not enjoying this impressively researched and immensely readable book. And since, as Roach suggests, each of us has only one go-round, we might as well waste downtime with something thoroughly fun. --Kim Hughes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:14 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Draws on the achievements of scientists, engineers, and mediums to consider the feasibility of life after death, from a reincarnation researcher's experimentation with out-of-body experiences to laboratory investigations into ghosts.

(summary from another edition)

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