Published May 2008 by Brilliance Audio|Length: 8 hours, 34 minutes
Where I Got It: audible.com
Genre: Adult Nonfiction- Science/Humor
The best-selling author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadaversnow trains 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 laptop?” 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. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves’ heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of “ectoplasm” in a Cambridge University archive.
What I Thought:
Of the Mary Roach books I’ve listened to (Stiff and Gulp), I thought I’d give Spook a try. It seemed interesting and quirky enough, which seems to fit Mary Roach’s style, but it wasn’t as compelling or as interesting as I thought it would be.
I like that she took a more scientific approach to the afterlife, and the book has her trademark humor. I definitely couldn’t help but laugh a few times. Nothing really stood out to me as particularly interesting or memorable- other than the first chapter, where she spends time with someone in India researching reincarnation, the chapter where she spends some time at a medium school and how she felt out of place, and the bit about how people who had near-death experiences/out-of-body experiences kept seeing shoes.
I liked that each chapter was devoted to something different, and I liked that she focused on how people used to see death and the afterlife. But I also felt like it was much more skewed to the past than the present, and I wish more of the present was included.
As for the narration, I really liked Bernadette Quigley! I really pictured Mary Roach with Quigley narrating. Quigley does do the occasional accent, and I can see that irritating some people, but it didn’t really bother me.
Let’s Rate It:
Overall, Stiff turned out to be just okay. It’s interesting, but not a lot was very memorable to me, and I’m not sure if a scientific approach to the afterlife is necessarily the best approach. Roach does bring a lot of humor to the topic, though. Spook gets 2 stars.