I’ve been a big fan of Mary Roach ever since having read Stiff, her brilliant and hilarious study of the business of human preservation. Roach is that rare talent whose impeccable journalistic techniques are bolstered by a conversational style and an unparalleled sense of humor, making each revolting factoid that much easier to swallow. After breaking big with her debut, Roach tackled the afterlife with Spook, which put ghost hunters and professional psychics under the microscope. Now, having wrestled with the dead, Mary Roach is ready to go to work on the living.
Bonk (Norton, $24.95) delves into the long and sordid history of sexual physiology, covering ground cleared by everyone from Leonardo da Vinci (an alleged cold fish who regarded human coitus as “awkward and disgusting”) to Alfred Kinsey (whose illuminating experiments were often carried out in the attic of his home). The phrase “too much information” has no bearing on these exposés of everything from animal insemination to penile implantation: Does clitoral placement dictate the propensity for female orgasm? Will paralysis spell the end for one’s sex life? Could masturbation serve as a cure for the hiccups? Roach delves into each avenue with characteristic fervor, occasionally transforming herself and her long-suffering husband into guinea pigs for the researchers she investigates. (Her tale of kinky sex inside an MRI machine is likely to resonate the next time you go in for a CAT scan.)
This book is sure to appeal to anyone with a healthy curiosity about sex, and serve as a guilty diversion for everyone else. Equally awe-inspiring and side-splitting, it marks another high point in Ms. Roach’s already stellar career. Best of all, you won’t look creepy reading it on the bus.