What happens to you when you die? Do the aspects that make you “you” vanish once your body kicks the bucket? Are there ghosts trying to interact with the living? These questions are some of the ones that Mary Roach addresses in Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. Roach is a woman for whom the closest thing to religion is science, so she decides to explore the life-after-death question and all its related threads in this book from a scientific angle; she travels to England, India, and parts of the United States. Readers will learn about current and historical scientific research into the afterlife and all its related threads; they will read stories about the study of ectoplasm (which is truly disgusting by the way), the weighing of TB patients to determine if the soul leaves the body, and the attempt to scientifically study mediums and seances. Roach’s adventures over the course of the book are guaranteed to entertain.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. On my “to-do” list of 2012 is to read more non-fiction, and this book seemed like a good place to start. I have similar opinions of religion, yet I find the topic really interesting. I can’t say I have had any new insights into that question–my basic opinion is that I’m open to the idea, but figure I just need to wait and see– but I now have tons of interesting paranormal and historical facts that I can share over drinks or incorporate into stories. Simply put, this book is plain fun. Roach is an engaging and humorous writer, and I came to enjoy the exploratory nature of the text and loved learning about the interesting past and present scientific research on the topic. I will say that I enjoyed Spook more than her other book Stiff, which is about different things that can happen to one’s corpse other than the traditional cremation or burial. I don’t think it was necessarily the content, but simply that I didn’t appreciate Roach’s dry humor. I think I was thirteen or fourteen at the time, and, for that reason, I caution against suggesting or buying this book for a younger reader because they might miss out on some of the humor that makes Roach’s books so enjoyable.