Bonk – Mary Roach

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I had heard many people raving about Mary Roach and so when I spotted this in my local library I took the opportunity to give her a try.

Bonk takes a light, amusing look at sexual research. Mary Roach visits laboratories, hospitals and even pig farms in the hope of gaining an insight into the world of a sex researcher. She interviews everyone thoroughly, asking questions that most of us would be too embarrassed to ask. Bonk isn’t for the prudish as it contains many detailed descriptions of bodily functions and medical procedures, but I was entertained throughout.

I loved all the little facts about attitudes to sex throughout the ages:

The ancient Greeks, as we’ve learned, thought that women produced their own semen, released at the climax of intercourse, and that the mingling of male and female seed formed the basis of conception.  Young widows, with no sexual outlet and a consequent log jam of womanly seed, were said to be especially prone to hysteria – or “womb fury.”

Mary fills the book with snippets of information so interesting that I had to keep pausing mid-page to let my husband know them:

Cheese crumbs spread in front of a copulating pair of rats may distract the female, but not the male.

I’m not sure I learned anything life changing, but I found much of it amusing and look forward to seeking out the rest of her books.

Have you read any of Mary Roach’s books?

Which one do you recommend I try next?

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  1. Verity says:

    This sounds intriguing and rather fun! What else has Mary Roach researched?

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, I know she has written books on dead people and angels, not sure if she has any others. I’m a bit scared about trying the dead one though!

      1. Verity says:

        Sounds intriguing!

  2. Julie says:

    I’ve never heard of Mary Roach, but this sounds interesting and as the noter above commented, rather fun! Thanks for the review!

    1. Jackie says:

      Julie, It had me laughing out loud in several places – I recommend you give it a try.

  3. JoAnn says:

    I have the audio of Stiff, but have not listened to it yet. This one sounds interesting, too.

    1. Jackie says:

      JoAnn, For some reason the thought of listening to the audio of Stiff really creeps me out – I look forward to you thoughts on it though!

  4. I have the Roach back catalogue on the TBR and really need to get cracking. I am thinking I might give ‘Stiff’ (the one about the dead people) a go first as sort of can work it into the reading I have lined up so am the fountain of all knowledge at Highgate.

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, I think you’d find Stiff useful for Highgate, but I am worried about how squeamish I might get. Let me know how bad it is!

  5. Kinga says:

    I’ve read Stiff before and it was most enjoyable (??) and interesting. I’ve heard of Bonk and look forward to getting my hands on a copy, especially after this review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kinga, I’m worried by your question marks – does that mean it is really gruesome?

      I hope you enjoy Bonk!

      1. Kinga says:

        I don’t think it was. I’m a Biology teacher, though, so gross and icky stuff is fascinating to me. She mainly talked about what happens to the body post-mortem and the different ways this can be studied. It didn’t gross me out at all, but my threshold is higher than most people’s. If you find it at a library, give it a go. :)

  6. Nicole says:

    I have Stiff and I started reading it at one point, but didn’t get very far and though i think about picking it up again, never do. Not sure why. This one sounds good. I love the bit about female rat and cheese. I would probably be distracted by that as well.

    1. Jackie says:

      Nicole, Sorry to hear that you didn’t finish Stiff. It is sounding as though Bonk is much more entertaining. I don’t think I’d be distracted by cheese, but would be distracted by the rats!!

  7. Stephanie says:

    I have read three of Mary Roach’s books (which may be all she’s written, I think). Bonk was my second favorite, right behind Stiff, the one about dead people. It is kind of gruesome, but interesting nonetheless!

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, Perhaps I’ll try Stiff – I’ll blame you if I’m sick though ;-)

  8. joemmama says:

    I just like all of her books. Stiff was fascinating, Bonk was hilarious, and Spook was cool. I guess I’m just a sucker for wit and info.

    1. Jackie says:

      joemama, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time!

      I think I may have to read all her books at some point. Thanks for letting me know that they are all worth reading.

  9. I have been wanting to read this. Mary Roach is so funny. I loved reading her articles in Reader’s Digest for years and then when I discovered Stiff, I read it as soon as I could. I’ve also since read Spook by the author. On both counts, my husband and whoever was around me when I was reading (coworkers in the break room during my lunch break) had to listen to me share funny tidbits with them. No one complained fortunately, but I’m sure I was driving them all crazy by the end.

    1. Jackie says:

      Literary Feline, I just love books that are so good that you have to quote them to whoever happens to be closest! I’m sure I’ve driven a few people in the past too!

  10. Beth F says:

    I loved Stiff, but I haven’t read her other books. I’ll have to look for this one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I hope you find a copy soon – it is really funny!

  11. Steph says:

    I’ve always thought this one sounded like fun, even if it’s not especially deep! I’ve also been interested by her book “Stiff”, though I’ve never actually read anything by her! Glad you enjoyed this one!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, It might not be really deep, but there are a lot of interesting facts about how our knowledge has changed over the years. I think you’d enjoy it.

  12. Sakura says:

    I really want to read ‘Stiff’ but haven’t yet. Now I really want to read ‘Bonk’ too.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sakura, I hope you find a copy of them soon – enjoy!

  13. Andi says:

    Her first book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, remains one of my all-time fave non-fic books. I read it in what seems like a heartbeat, and was thoroughly impressed with her ability to tackle such a touchy subject with grace, humor, and respect. And a healthy dose of honesty. I tried Bonk, but sadly I didn’t have much luck with it. I can’t remember now if I listened to it or actually read a copy, but it’s one I’d be willing to try again.

    Another non-fic author who is new to me is Marilyn Johnson. I loved her new book about librarians: This Book is Overdue! And I really want to read her first book, The Dead Beat, about obituaries and their writers. She’s similar to Roach in her quirky topic choices, and she’s also uber-respectful of her subjects.

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, I can’t imagine these books working on audio. Listening to someone saying some of those words would just be a bit weird for me. Perhaps you should try picking up the print version of Bonk and giving it another try?

      I haven’t heard of Marilyn Johnson before, but I recognise the title This Book is Overdue!. I’ll have to see if I can track down a copy.

      1. Andi says:

        Luckily, if I was listening to this one on audio it was in the car, so the blushing was minimal. lol I think I tried listening to Spook (totally unimpressed with the topic), and I tried reading a library copy of Bonk. Still willing to try again though, since my moods so often dictate what I love/hate.

  14. lilly says:

    I never read anything by her but I do know of her. I remember reading some mixed reviews on her book about corpses (I don’t remember the title) but it’s the first time I read about this book and I think I will go for Bonk, somehow it’s more fun to read about sex than corpses :)

    1. Jackie says:

      lilly, I can see why a book about corpses would produce mixed reviews – I am a bit aprehensive about reading it myself. I hope you decide to give Bonk a try and enjoy it.

  15. lovely treez says:

    Stiff was a fabulous read. Somehow she manages to capture the perfect balance between humour and respect whilst discussing subjects which make us sometimes feel squeamish.

    Her book on the afterlife, Spook in the US market and Six Feet Over – Adventures in the Afterlife here, is quite funny too but it didn’t work as well for me as she seemed to overdo the sarcasm – just my personal opinion!

    I hadn’t heard of Bonk though so I must reserve it at the library.

    1. Jackie says:

      lovely treez, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time!

      Thanks for the insights on her other two books – it sounds as though Bonk might be the best of the three. I hope your library has a copy and that you enjoy reading it.

  16. Jenny says:

    I always get Mary Roach mixed up with Marilyn Johnson, which I’m sure I could rectify by actually reading some of their work. This looks like a fun place to begin. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I hadn’t heard of Marilyn Johnson until the comment above – I’ll have to find one of her books and see if I then get them mixed up too :-)

  17. Jenners says:

    I just read my first Mary Roach book not too long ago (“Spook” in which she examines people exploring the afterlife and ghosts) and I really enjoyed it. I think she has a wonderful way of writing about these topics that make it quite enjoyable and educational and entertaining. I also have “Stiff” to check out as well. I agree with you … nothing earth-shattering but interesting and easy to read books that have lots of cool information in them. I like her approach!

  18. Kathleen says:

    I’ve not ready anything by Mary Roach. This book sounds like a fun one. The whole idea of “womb fury” had me laughing out loud!

  19. Rebecca Reid says:

    I was squeamish about Stiff too but it is so awesome. I learned so much, and have since decided I DO NOT want to be buried. Yuck. So many cooler things to do with a dead body.


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