Book Reviews of Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
Spook Science Tackles the Afterlife
Author: Mary Roach
ISBN-13: 9780393329124
ISBN-10: 0393329127
Publication Date: 10/2/2006
Pages: 320
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.

3.6 stars, based on 144 ratings
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

26 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
Mary Roach, also the author of Stiff (the lives of human cadavers) is an investigative journalist with a large funnybone that will keep you turning the pages. Spook gives an overview of society's various theories and experiments related to the afterlife, mediums, ghosts, psychoacoustics,near-death experiences, etc. Facsinating!
reviewed Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on
Helpful Score: 3
Funny and easy to read. This is not a serious book for people wanting to study the paranormal or religion. The author is a skeptic who did some research on various things and wrote a chapter on her explorations into each subject. I enjoyed her sense of humor and think that she would be a great lady to go have a cup of tea - or tequila- and chat with.
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Helpful Score: 2
Funny in some places, a tad boring in some places, but over all, a good read. I found the chapter on ectoplasm more than just a little interesting and more than a little bit gross.
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Helpful Score: 2
This book had a lot of potential, but it fell a bit short of meeting my high expectations. Some chapters were really interesting, and I truly loved the author's subtle touches of humor. But other chapters just dragggged. Overall, it's an interesting read, but you might want to prepare yourself to skim through (or even skip) a few of the sections.
reviewed Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on + 35 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
If you will be offended by her mocking tone toward God near the beginning of the book, then you might want to avoid this. If you can set that aside, the book is quite fascinating and at some points laugh out loud funny.
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Helpful Score: 1
Interesting topic, and the logical follow-up to her previous book, Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. But I thought the title was rather misleading; perhaps "Soul" or "Spirit" would have been more apt. And that misnomer lead to my greatest frustration with the book, I thought it would be more about ghosts, hauntings, that side of the afterlife. Roach's quips are out in-force in this book, more than the gently humor she shows in STiff, and the book is actually less enjoyable as a result. Her humor is always biting, but seldom appropriate and often distracting. Still, the majority of the book, about 70%, was highly entertaining and educational.
reviewed Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on + 51 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Interesting look at the efforts to scientifically investigate the existence of an afterlife. Seemed a bit lightweight, I preferred her previous book Stiff.
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Helpful Score: 1
I love Mary Roach's writing. I didn't like the topic, though, so this was a love/hate reading. I struggled to finish the book. Her first book, Stiff, was a better topic to bumble about. But... I guess the afterlife is tough to describe, huh?
reviewed Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on + 1049 more book reviews
Roach turns her patented cock-eyed view to the subject of the afterlife -- does it exist? How have humans attempted to deal with the question? Can we ever really know? Not surprisingly, she doesn't come up with a definitive answer, but the trip, as always, is entertaining.
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Funny and wisely written.
reviewed Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on + 3 more book reviews
this is fabulous reading.

mary roach is funny, well-researched and interesting in the way she presents her topics.

her other books ease the addiction developed after just reading one.

reviewed Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on + 15 more book reviews
i couldn't even bring myself to finish this. i really wanted to ... i'm interested in the subject, it just seemed like a really long ramble to me. and i also really wanted to find the humor, and did, in some of the side comments that mary roach made in order to make the science penetrable and palatable. but i just couldn't do it! passing it on to someone else.
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A pop-science book about the research behind paranormal activity
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From Publisher's Weekly:

Roach made an exceptional debut two years ago with Stiffit might seem a hard act to follow. Yet she has done it again: after her study of what becomes of our mortal coil after death, she now presents an equally smart, quirky, hilarious look at whether there is a soul that survives our physical demise. Roach perfectly balances her skepticism and her boundless curiosity with a sincere desire to know. She ranges into the oddest nooks and crannies of both science and belief (and scientists who believe), regaling the reader with tales of Duncan Macdougall, a respected surgeon who weighed consumptives at their moment of death to see if the escaping soul could be measured in ounces, and of female mediums who, during séances, extruded a substance called ectoplasm from their private parts (she even examines a piece of alleged ectoplasm archived at Cambridge University). She goes to school to learn to be a medium, subjects her brain to electromagnetic waves to see if they induce the experience of seeing ghosts and joins a group trying to record sounds made by the spirits of the Donner party. The text is littered with footnotes: tangential but delicious tidbits that Roach clearly couldn't bear to leave out. She is an original who can enliven any subject with wit, keen reporting and a sly intelligence.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
reviewed Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on + 7 more book reviews
Very interesting, but not as good as her first two books, "Bonk" and "Stiff." She seems to rely more on her internet browsing for scientific research, but still, I find it interesting (since I don't have the time to do it myself.) She relates several trips she's taken to interview experts, too. Good questions....makes you think.
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An enjoyable, sceptical approach to the question of life after death.
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An interesting account of the history of research on the soul.
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No where near as good as Stiff
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An exploration of life after death by a comedy science writer. I thoroughly enjoyed this and am now reading Passage by Connie Willis.
reviewed Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on
Filled with interesting information, but I felt it was not relevent to me, so I have decided to part with it.
reviewed Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on + 25 more book reviews
This is probably the least read and least known of Mary Roach's books. I think that's a shame. I've read Stiff, Bonk, and Spook, and I think Spook is the best of the bunch. Meticulously researched, as are all of Mary Roach's books, and written with a casual but confident style, this book is highly educational and thoroughly entertaining. You won't even realize you are getting smarter by the page. Ms. Roach is a wonderful writer - I'd read her descriptions of mousetraps and dryer lint, if that was where she chose to focus her efforts. She describes multiple lines of research, some mainstream and some definitely way up on the bank, about the afterlife, or "spirit world". Her experiences with ectoplasm, telecommunication, and psychoacoustics lead her into a reasoned description of the afterlife (or lack thereof). Its fascinating to see Ms. Roach explore the fringiest of scientific explorations in her quest to explain or understand what happens when the lights go out. Loved the writing, loved the book, but I'm not planning on leaving this earth with any unfinished business.
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Very personal account of one woman's investigation
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What is it about Mary Roach books? I have read all four out there (Bonk, Stiff, Packing for Mars, and Spook) and fervently look forward to the next one. I dont care what subject it will be on; I know I will be one of the first at the library to pick it up.

In Spook, Roach takes us through the history of human attempts to quantify, contact, and plan for the afterlife. Roach just does not hold back in her investigative journalism, asking all those pesky, pointed, icky questions and telling us readers truly what she found out and how she found it out. Let me share a few little tidbits with you. Yall love my tidbits.

The Egyptians had everything from daily life packed away with them for the afterlife, including single-seater toilets. Apparently, all functions continue as normal in the afterlife. Just something to look forward to.

There have been a few people, sometimes even doctors, who try to weigh the human body as it dies to see if there is a quantifiable loss the soul leaving the body. A few other people tried this same experiment with dogs, cattle, goats, and mice. Results have been mixed. Does your soul weigh upon you?

Masters of the seance had a brief period where they played around with low lighting, mysterious smokey incense, and ectoplasm from the beyond. The ectoplasm, upon close examination, was usually cheesecloth draped around the spiritual channeler. People eventually started to catch on to this and the lady seance leaders had to get creative on where to hide the ectoplasm until it was in their panties.

If you have not checked out a Mary Roach book yet, I strongly encourage it. Her books are some of the most enlightening, and entertaining, non-fiction out there.
reviewed Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife on + 37 more book reviews
I think Mary Roach is a hilarious writer. Ever since I read Stiff, I've been waiting in anticipation for her next book. In Spook Roach jumps from the physical to the metaphysical. Whereas Stiff examined the ultimate fate of cadavers, Spook looks to the soul. In particular, the book examines scientists' efforts to to offer measurable proof of the existence of the soul, and their attempts to understand what happens to immaterial parts of personhood after death. To give a full picture of these efforts Roach's research takes her across cultures and continents. She brings us the story of the woman who could vomit large quantities of fabric on demand in the name of talking to the dead. She writes of doctors who attached dying consumptives to giant scales. As with her other work, Spook is infused with Roach's sense of humor and her clear fascination with the bizarre. The stranger it gets, the happier Roach seems to be. This book is, without question, a rollicking good read. Beyond pure enjoyment, Roach book also shows just how enmeshed certain sectors of the scientific community have become, in the past two centuries, in matters of belief. The very premise of this book, and what unifies these stories, is an attempt to merge seemingly incompatible thought systems. Ever since the arguments in Kansas and the Dover, PA school board case, the ability, and the desirability of merging these two thought systems in the name of education has become an issue of political significance. Roach's study suggests that scientists and lay people have been involved in efforts to merge the physical and metaphysical arts. It shows that at significant points in the past, large numbers of people have been drawn to efforts to apply science to faith; see, for example, her chapter on spiritualism. The experts involved, however, (scientists, doctors, etc.) have ususally been marginal figures, on the fringes of their fields, or at least respected only in their work outside of the supernatural. Obviously, the scientific question of the afterlife is never going to create the firestorm generated by evolution/creationism/intelligent design. The general consensus remains that afterlife is a matter of faith, not science. Public schools have little need or desire to teach about the fate of the soul. That is the work of clerics and philosophers. But here lies the great irony. It is precisely because there is such widespread agreement in the western world on the division of body and soul, that attempts to bring science to bear of matters of the spirit and the immortal may be able to proceed without the criticism and argument generated by by similar battles in which the divisions seem less clear.
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I love Mary Roach! She's a hilarious writer and asks all of the questions you want to ask but may not feel comfortable doing so. Fun reads!
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This was the first book I've read by Mary Roach, and it won't be the last. Roach has a witty and skeptical mind, and she uses it to good effect in examining different ways that science has explored the afterlife. Roach isn't afraid to insert herself into the story, whether going along to interview a child that may have been reincarnated to enrolling in medium school. She brings a light touch to the subject, yet manages to work a whole bunch of science-cy stuff in a way that was fun and interesting. Although I didn't necessarily expect to entertained or amused by this book when I started, I was (entertained and amused). Plus I learned a lot of different things--some of which I wish I could wipe from my memory (e.g., the method in which mediums hid their "ectoplasm").

Roach explores quite a few ways that scientists have used to quantify, prove or document the soul and/or the afterlife. Some of the areas explored in the book include: interviewing children who were allegedly reincarnated; how early scientists looked for the human soul ... in sperm; attempts to measure the a soul by having people expire on a scale; a look at "the giddy, revolting heyday of ectoplasm" and mediums; modern mediums (including the lady that is the model for the TV show Medium); using acoustics to hear the dead; telecommunicating with the dead; hunting for ghosts; and attempting to measure near-death experiences in the operating room.

If you're looking for an offbeat read about a subject that I suspect all of us might be just a little bit curious about and you'd like a guide who is both an amusing and talented writer, then this gem of a book is for you. I personally enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. And although Roach's results are pretty inconclusive, she does hold out some tantalizing food for thought that won't leave readers completely empty-handed.

An excerpt: Carpenter points out that leprechauns have a volume similar to that of a human Mac. "This makes me suspect, " he writes, "that Leprechauns ... are most likely discarnate humans." This makes me, in turn, suspect that Donald Gilbert Carpenter is most likely not the staid scientists that his many equations and tables suggest.

Another excerpt: "Right," says the tutor after a minute has gone by. "Does anyone not feel a contact?" No one raises a hand. I haven't got my energy out the door, and apparently everyone else's is off in heaven at an ice-cream social. I raise my hand. The tutor comes over and puts her hand up to my face. She asks if I can feel my face. What does this mean? It's not numb, so I guess the answer is yes. I nod. "Okay, good, you've got it." She turns back to the group. I don't read minds, but I think I know what's going on in hers: AVOID THE YANK. The Yank is trouble.