Of all of Mary Roach’s science books, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex is my favorite. Because I am a bit of a prude (a well-documented fact on this blog), this can be a tad awkward. When I read a book I love, I want to tell everyone I see all about it. Talking to everyone I see about the ins and outs of sex research is…not in my usual comfort zone. Trust me on this one, though: the book is fascinating.
After reading Bonk, I’ve worked my way through her other books. They are all great. If you haven’t read anything by Mary Roach, she is hilarious. Humor in writing can be tough to pull off, but she does it well. I have snorted embarrassingly loudly while reading more than one of her footnotes–even if you usually skip footnotes, these are worth the read. All of her books, but Bonk especially, are probably better suited for the YA+ crowd. I didn’t feel super comfortable listening to the last of her books I got on audio (Packing for Mars) with the kids because of some profanity and one chapter on sex in space.
The book more or less outlines the history of sex research. After I read the book, Showtime came out with its series Masters of Sex which might have some overlap in material. (I wouldn’t know. I have never seen the show. Not only do I not have cable, I’m a bit of a prude, remember?) So forgive me if this is old news, but William Masters and Virginia Johnson had the tenacity and no-nonsense approach that I admire in research scientists. Getting permission and subjects to study when the area of research was human sexual response was next to impossible. I have no doubt at all that this was true; it took my husband almost a year and a half to complete the necessary paperwork to study fish.
Bonk talks a bit about Masters and Johnson and other early sex researchers. It talks about the current field of research and some anecdotal silliness involved. Like all of her books, this one gently pokes fun at what is very serious work but seems utterly ridiculous from the outside. It laughs at the fact that researching anything to do with human copulation (or writing a book about it, to a lesser degree) carries an uncomfortable stigma. I learned more than I care to admit and was wholly entertained. You can get a feel for some of what is in the book from her Ted Talk:
If you liked the above video at all, you will love the book. If you didn’t care for the video, carry on. But while we’re on the subject of Ted Talks, check out this crazy one about crows. We may or may not have talked about getting a pet crow after seeing this.
I would recommend this to: a teen or adult interested in science, how things work, or humorous non-fiction.