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Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (edition 2006)

by Mary Roach

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2,6951242,200 (3.53)155
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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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 |
Having had more than a few paranormal experiences, I was a believer. But this book made me think twice. People usually believe what they see/hear/feel, but there are many explanations for these experiences. Although some of my own aren't explained in this book, many are. Which is perfectly fine with me.
It follows the history of science trying to prove in the afterlife, souls, etc. as well as the history of paranormal experiences (and how they can be explained scientifically), and the history of so-called psychics and mediums. Mary is a wonderful writer, she makes you feel like you're traveling along and experiencing these things with a close friend who, while seriously investigating, is having fun and not adverse to calling people on their BS. She's sarcastic, naturally funny, and relatable. I loved this book! ( )
  DanielleMD | Jun 20, 2015 |
Phantastic phantasmagoric phun. Mary roach is sharp as a tack and witty to boot. Her humor style has been honed since "Stiff." Never has running around in circles and finding nothing been so entertaining. She transitions from chapter to chapter very well, framing the end of each with a proper introduction to the next. I enjoyed immensely.
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
After reading "Packing for Mars" and enjoying it so much that I became annoyed the author was already married, I was looking forward to "Spook".

With such high expectations, it is only natural that I was somewhat disappointed with "Spook". Certainly, Roach does a good job explaining the science in a way that even I can understand and there will many humorous turns of phrase that left me wondering how I could claim them as my own. And Roach does Gonzo journalism as well as anyone. However, "Spook" just didn't grab my attention as well as "Packing for Mars".

Part of this lack of attention grabbing is no doubt due to the topic; life after death doesn't interest me as much as space exploration does. And "Packing for Mars" certainly had myriad more references to faecal matter, which my immature self always loves (although Roach's section on ectoplasm partially made up for it).

Still, it's a four star book in my mind and that's nothing to be spooked by (see what I did there?) ( )
  MiaCulpa | Apr 29, 2015 |
I loved Mary Roach's "Packing for Mars," and when I told that to a friend, he lent me "Spook." I enjoyed this book too, but not as much. I got some big laughs from "Packing for Mars" (while learning a lot), while Roach seemed more subdued in "Spook." Only in her last chapter did I feel some of the same spirit she showed in "Packing for Mars."

"Spooks" is subtitled, "Science Tackles the Afterlife." The title is a bit misleading. For most of the book, a more accurate subtitle would be, "Science Tackles the Psuedo-Science Intrigued With the Afterlife," as Roach investigates mediums, parapsychology investigators, and the like. In the few instances where she talks with true scientists, the final answer she arrives at to the question, "What might science tell us about any afterlife?" is, "Nothing, really." ( )
1 vote kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 124 (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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I don’t recall my mood the morning I was born, but I imagine I felt a bit out of sorts.
My mother worked hard to instill faith in me.  (Introduction)
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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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2 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 184195845X, 1847670806

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