Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

by Mary Roach

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Overview

The best-selling author of Stiff and Bonktrains her considerable wit and curiosity on the human soul.


"What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that—the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top?" In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393329124
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/02/2006
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 115,373
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Mary Roach is the author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Her writing has appeared in Outside, Wired, National Geographic, and the New York Times Magazine, among others. She lives in Oakland, California.

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Spook 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 172 reviews.
TrickyTasty More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing and I think it deserves a five star review. But only certain people would like it. First of all, you have to appreciate Mary Roach's style of sarcastic humor. I think it's hilarious but some people don't like sarcasm. Secondly, you have to have an open mind or a be able to suspend your disbelief. Narrow-minded people who don't look up when someone says "gullible is written on the ceiling" won't enjoy this book. You have to believe from the start that scientific experimentation can measure spiritual phenomena. Also, I'm one of those people who enjoys ghost/haunting shows so if you aren't an avid fan of Ghost Adventures or you're not at all curious about whether ghosts or the afterlife exist, you won't like this book. This book covers many different topics like does the body become lighter at the moment of death as the spirit departs, is reincarnation plausible, are seances legit, near death experiences, etc. I thought it was all very fascinating. You just need an open mind, some curiosity, and a sense of humor to like this book. P.S. You don't have to be a crazy cat lady or psychic to enjoy this book. Also, if you read Stiff and liked it, Spook is narrated in the exact same way aka it is equally as awesome.
MerryMayhem More than 1 year ago
I've read Stiff and Bonk, both by Mary Roach, and enjoyed them immensely. I was super excited to get this book for Christmas, but found that I was really struggling to get through it. I believe this is her second book, and it sounds like she's struggling with her voice a little: this one read more like a research paper, lacking somewhat in her characteristic sense of humor. The subject matter is interesting, and, as usual, you can tell she knows her stuff, but I didn't find it to be as absorbing as her other books.
Cpski More than 1 year ago
This book was not as entertaining to read as Mary Roach's book "Stiff". It had many interesting facts, yet I was glad when I finished reading it.
nycfs More than 1 year ago
Having read and enjoyed Ms. Roach's previous effort "Stiff," I looked forward to reading Spook. I was a little disappointed however because at the end of the book, you come to realize you haven't really discovered anything. For a book to explore the possibility of life after death, all you come away with the same realization that no one knows for sure what happens to the soul. But it took 200 pages to see I was pretty much right back to the same question. I don't profess to expect her to unlock the secret of course, but I thought the research left a little something to be desired. I guess "Stiff" could be better enjoyed considering it's subject is a tangible matter (even if that matter is corpses). I just felt the Spook was a wasted read.
mike100274 More than 1 year ago
I've read a couple of Mary Roach's books and this one was not as good as others, in my opinion. I felt it was an overambitious attempt to answer certain questions. There weren't complete answers and it left me unsatified. I also thought there was too much emphasis on certain parts of science and not enough on other areas. I felt there was too much subjectivity and not enough objectivity, which makes for a bad science-based book. But that is my opinion. Mary Roach is a fantastic author that tackles amazing topics! If you like death and the afterlife, I'd get "Stiff" if I were you!
pccoder More than 1 year ago
After reading Stiff, I tried this one. It's a good book, don't get me wrong. Unfortunately it didn't really answer any questions or shed any light on anything new for me. I suppose that's because she subtely debunks a great deal of meta-physical nonsense that so many poeple in the world (not including myself) believe. I went in to this book already feeling a certain way. All she did was show me that I'm most certainly not the only one was ultra-sceptical when the lack of any emprical evidence is provided for mediums, afterlifes, out on a limb Shirley McClaine craziness. :)
M_L_Gooch_SPHR More than 1 year ago
Mary Roach followed up Stiff with another home run. Spook is exceptional in both depth and breadth. For me, Mary Roach is what you would have if you combined Michio Kaku and David Sedaris. In this clever study of what happens to our spirit and/or soul after death, she presents a witty and entertaining look 12 different arenas that deal directly with after-death. While maintaining a skeptic's edge, Mary nonetheless seems to give the died-in-the-wool (pun intended) believers the benefit of the doubt as she joyfully pursues her research. From the silliness of ectoplasm to the sadness of medium school, the author takes us on an original ride that fascinates while repelling and attracting. I really appreciated the footnotes except that I wished she had explored these side roads a bit more. Oh well...maybe in another Roach book. I hope you find my opinion helpful. Michael L. Gooch Author of Wingtips with Spurs
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mary Roach is like any other person who wonders about the afterlife. She cleverly wrote this book providing background information and experiences on her journey to find out the inevitable question: Is there really an afterlife? Not really for the religious reader, I would say, simply because religious readers know what they believe in and are very passionate about it. But for others, it is definetly one of the most interesting things you will ever read. This book is fascinating and gives you A LOT to talk about. Good for someone seeking answers and information. Not only that, but Mary Roach is hilarious. I literally L-O-L'ed reading this book. It's a book you don't want to put down. Highly (and I mean highly) recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As someone who has interest in science and the unknown, I was looking forward to reading this book. I must admit there were some very good discussions, and the writer explored a number of different experiences. In the end though, was looking for more substance even though the writing style made the book enjoyable.
Ricardoricardo More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading Spook. Mrs. Roach knows her trade. I'm looking forward to read her other two books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been laughing aloud reading this book. Her deadpan writing style is great, and the history of spirituality is fascinating, not to mention current research. I can't help but notice that the only negative reviews given this book here are from those who already believe strongly in the ghosties. grin
compulsivereaderSC More than 1 year ago
This is a great read whether you are a believer or not. Like Roach's other work, the book is incredibly well-researched and allows for your own opinions and interpretations.
kpro More than 1 year ago
Mary Roach has quickly become one of my favorite writers. She is funny and interesting, and always picks a provocative subject to write about. Her books are very well researched and besides being entertained I always feel like I learned something. Spook is great (not quite as good as Stiff) and I would recommend it to anyone.
BuzzMA More than 1 year ago
Mary Roach has a great depth of knowledge of her subject matter and presents it in an understandable, witty and humerous fashion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Have you ever wondered what would happen after you die? So did Mary Roach. In her novel Spook she goes on a search for any evidence that can be found about the matter. She first tackles reincarnation, which is being born into another life after you die. To study this, Roach teams up with Kirti S. Rawat and together they traveled to India to interview children ages 2-4 about their past lives. She then tries to figure out if a soul really does exist and if so, does it weigh something and how much? Another question is if one can you actually see a soul and how? Roach also studies a great deal about spiritualism and mediums. Spiritualism is connecting to the dead through mediums, while mediums are people who talk to the dead. In her book she also addresses mental patient ¿voices¿ and how Wilson von Duson thinks them to be actual spirits and not their imagination at all. She also talks about other peoples own experiences with spirits, and how some are their own relatives supposedly come to tell them important news. This mind boggling question is very hard to handle or even just to think about and I give Roach much credit for her novel. I do believe that this novel was very well written. I would probably recommend this book to skeptics about spirits or the after life, even though they would probably become more confused about what they believe after reading this book, as I have. The writing technique was not my favorite but I did like how she explored many solutions to the same question. Mary Roach is a very good writer who tries to answer her own questions along with others, thus I am very much looking forward to reading many more novels by her.
NielsenGW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Roach's humor and skepticism is laugh out loud funny. She's honestly trying to assess the current work being done on the human soul, but along the way, she gets swept up into the world of mediums, the Society for Psychical Research, NDE researchers, and everything in between. She puts a lot of research on the table and even the footnotes are worth reading.
lahochstetler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
madamejeanie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mary Roach sets out to prove or disprove scientifically the existence of the human soul and what happens to it (if it exists) after we die. Her research takes her from science labs to the slums of India, and she has put together an exhaustive study of everything she could find in history of scientific experiments geared to prove the existence of an afterlife. But the book is far from dry and scientific. Ms. Roach writes with great wit and I enjoyed this volume a great deal. The only real complaint I have about it is her liberal and distracting use of footnotes. There's one on nearly every other page and they often go off on tangents that have little to do with the subject at hand. In that respect, I think she is a bit enamored of her own wit, and the book needed a better editor, I think, than it obviously had. Still, it is definitely worth the read. I'll give it a 4.
sboyte on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is absolutely the most humorous and interesting non-fiction I have ever read. Roach's quirky writing style had me laughing out loud and her lay approach to science writing was right at my level. I can't wait to read Bonk!
Alera on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love science but it's hard to find something that both discusses something with a broad scope and interesting subject that also talks at a level that doesn't make me feel like I need to have a dictionary and the internet at my side. Mary Roach manages to accomplish this task with ease. Spook is a relatively open look at varying aspects of 'The Afterlife.' I don't agree with every summation, but Mary does a great job of encouraging making your own decisions and possibly investigating further on your own. Lovely read.
lindseynichols on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
interesting for a while, if you enjoy trivia. however, this book is written in a looser, more "rollicking" style than the previous book, Stiff. in some ways, Spook is more a comedy of manners and less a book about investigating the possibility of the afterlife. i didn't finish it. hopefully mary roach will emerge from her sophomore slump with something even more clever, even more controversial, than her lovely first book.
indygo88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this one to be on par with Roach's other two titles ("Stiff" and "Bonk"). I've enjoyed all three nearly equally, and while I don't typically read much non-fiction, I do enjoy Roach's humor for the most part. I would agree with the comment of another reader's review that I read which said this book might be more aptly titled something along the lines of "Spirit" or "Soul" or something similar, as opposed to "Spook", which leads the reader to believe there might be more ghost-story &/or spooky type anecdotes in the book, which is not the case. While most of the information in here was interesting, it seems that science continues to struggle to find evidential proof of a soul's existence.
TZacek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sandwiched between Stiff (her book about cadavers) and Bonk (her book about sex), is Spook, a book about boring. Honestly, there was some of the flavor of Roach's other books, with her typical humor and dry wit interspersed. I just found it bloody hard and tedious to get through. Perhaps it is my own cynical feelings on the afterlife, but I just could not get absorbed the way I was with her other books. Sorry, Mary, I love ya. But this one was a swing and a miss for me.
spang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rubbed me the wrong way. The humour got on my nerves. I guess I expected a more serious book. It's not just that the style didn't suit me, but it didn't seem like the author was setting out to do anything but have some laughs and make a few superficial investigations. Lacks depth.
DougUnit12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The writer's command of the language is superb. Her ability to swing from serious to intelligently flippant and back again without missing a step is amazing. While I did not find her to be "hilarious" as some have advertised, she is truly funny, a genuinely talented writer.What she is not, in this book at least, is "objective", or at least not as objective as she claims (or perhaps thinks) she is. Yes, there are a thousand flaws to be found in the many areas of pseudoscience she has investigated in this book. And yes, there are certainly a large number of "practitioners" of the various aspects of afterlife exploration she touches on who are frauds, or who are fooling themselves, even if they did not fool her. But it still appears that her membrane of disbelief is not to be broken by any evidence, period. If it is possible that a certain something that seems paranormal MIGHT be caused by radio waves or thunder clouds or acid rain or whatever, then surely ALL such occurrences must be produced that same, mundane and NOT paranormal way. She says she wants to believe, but either she is not being paid to believe or she simply does not dare.Still, I LOVE her writing. And her attitude is quite endearing. I thoroughly enjoyed the book even though I could not buy into all of the skeptical conclusions.