Monday, October 25, 2010

RIP Read #20: Spook

I'll admit up front that I'm not a huge fan of popular science books.  My scientific mind is rarely satisfied by the simplified way that most of the topics are presented.  Either there is not sufficient information given to explain something well enough or things are so over-simplified that they become slightly false.  Luckily, in Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Mary Roach attacks a topic that has very few real results and does it in a way that admits the gaping holes but also allows for the possibilities of, well, possibilities.

As the title implies, Spook takes a look at some of the research, both past and current, that has been used to try and provide proof of a soul and proof of an afterlife where that personal essence continues on past bodily death.  It also touches on the spiritualist movement which I've always been interested in.

I have the impression that Roach had much the same approach to the subject as I do.  I find the quest for proof fascinating (and amusing) but I'm skeptical enough to not really expect any of these experiments to ever pan out.  I'll watch an episode of Ghost Hunters International every once in a while but honestly it's more for the unique look at historical buildings than for the ghost hunting.  I never hear the voice on the EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recordings and the lights that move across the room always seem like the headlights from a passing car or dust caught in the light on the camera.  Old buildings creak and sigh and are quite drafty at times.  Just the other day there was a mysterious cold spot right in the center of my living room.  I felt it more than once and couldn't explain it -- not until I remembered leaving the flue open after turning off the gas fireplace a week earlier.

So, overall I found this book amusing but not especially informative or life-changing.  Roach has a very conversational and snarky writing style which may put some readers off (especially those who want to believe) but others will surely be amused by her irreverence.  I am willing to check out her take on some of the other subjects that she has researched -- namely sex, cadavers and space travel.

The truth might not be out there,

Support our site and buy Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on Amazon or find it at your local library.  We received our copy from our lovely blog buddy, Jenners.  Here is her review.


  1. i haven't read any of mary roach's books yet but i have seen her speak a couple of times and enjoy her style- so i guess i really need to read one of her books, at least :-) this sounds like a fun one to start with.

  2. I am definitely interested in reading something by Roach. It sounds like this one was fun! She covers such a crazy range of topics in her books. I wonder what's next?

  3. I recently picked this one up at Borders, and I'm excited to start it. It was awesome to see a review of it; I hadn't seen one before, so now I know what I'm in store for.

  4. I view her books more as entertainment than educational ... though she has a way of finding the oddest things to write about. Glad you liked it!

  5. If my library has this I might give it a try, but it is not something I would rush out and get a copy of...

  6. I'm not familiar with this author, but generally I do like popular science books and I read a lot of them, as you can tell from my blog. It very much depends on the author as to how good a science book is - I usually prefer ones written by scientists rather than journalists, although I make an exception for Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which is an excellent introduction to many scientific topics.

  7. Marie - I'm sure she would be a great speaker!

    Erin - This was a very quick read. It would definitely be a fun intro to Roach.

    History - I hope you like it!

    Jenners - I think these are definitely good introductory books. They introduce a lot of aspects of the topic that could definitely lead to further research!

    Kailana - Definitely a good library book!

    Tracy - You might like these but then again I know you go for a little bit more meat in your pop sci books. I would be really interested to hear what you think if you try Roach out!