11 Jul

Book: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

Origin: Borrowed from the neighbors

Ghosts, spirits, the recently deceased and things that go bump in the night are not for the faint of heart, but Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife is hardly hair-raising. Mary Roach is a hopeful skeptic, traveling cross-country and over the ocean to uncover humanity’s attempts at scientifically proving (or disproving) the existence of life after death. Drawing on a long history of scientific and philosophical inquiries, it’s a compelling compilation of our attempts at solving the unsolvable, wrought with humorous interjections by the author.

It seems like Roach has become famous for writing wherever her curiosities take her. An admirable feat, if you ask me. I’m guessing it has something to do with her unique ability to paint less than pleasant topics with colorful humor while still maintaining the objective eye of a curious researcher. She asks the questions we’re all dying to ask, but are too afraid or grossed out to investigate on our own.

Spook is no exception. Part popular science, part personal essay, she covers everything from reincarnation, ectoplasm, hauntings, near-death experiences and more. She even enrolls herself in Medium School. She exposes a long history of failed attempts to cash in at the expense of faithful believers and introduces us to some folks who are impossible to dislike; faults, biases and all. And sprinkled throughout are plenty of fascinating characters doing incredibly convincing research on the matter.

While I’ve seen some complaints across the web about her excessive use of (sometimes irrelevant) footnotes, I found they offered humorous insight into her personal experiences during research. She never claims to write academic science, so you can’t expect the same attention to scientific principals (and boring footnotes) that you might encounter in a science textbook (thank goodness).

If you are even slightly curious about what happens when science tries to uncover the truth about life after death (and prefer a more readable pop sci approach), this book is a must read. Don’t be surprised though if, occasionally, a ghost-stalking duo of quirky guys cast in grainy, green hues pointing homemade gadgets into the night wander through old abandoned buildings in your mind. An unexpected side effect I thoroughly enjoyed.

This Book’s Fate: Return to the neighbors.

Next Up: Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit.


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