BONK by Mary Roach (is my Boyfriend)


I bought Bonk from my college bookstore when I was an undergrad. It’s moved with me from apartment to apartment, bookshelf to bookshelf (ugh, who am I kidding, more like piles of books on the floor to piles of books on the floor) and I never cracked this bad boy open. I always intended to, I always wanted to, it just… didn’t happen.

And then my book club (if we even qualify as a club, we’re just a bunch of friends who try to finish the same book at the same time so we can hang out and talk about it) decided to read Bonk. And that is the story of how bad boy here got cracked.

Why did it take me so long to read Mary Roach? So many of my favorite readers are members of the Cult of Roach (apparently it’s like Scientology, only instead of believing in personality tests and aliens living on your skin you just believe in being smart and cracking wise about science). I have no good reason for not having read one of, let alone all of Roach’s books cover to cover except for this: books are read when they are supposed to be. I don’t believe in astrology or numerology or psychics with neon signs in their windows or any of that mumbo-jumbo gibbledy-gobbledy-gook. But I do believe in Book Magic. When you are ready to read a book, there it will be, on your bookshelf (okay, whatever, on that pile of books on your floor.)

Bonk is a non-fiction ROMP, yes I said it, a ROMP through the world of human sexuality. From exploring the what-went-on-behind-closed-doors antics of human sexuality research pioneers (crazy things were happening in the 1890’s, you guys) to the Taiwanese surgeon who is the master of getting men their boners back, from that brief moment in history where men were trying to graft a third testicle onto their parts to the eternal question “Is the clitoris just a tiny penis?”, Roach travels across time and space, putting puzzle pieces together to try to sort out the science of the bedroom. The sections of the book are far-flung in their subject matter but the picture they together create is pretty clear: for something that is supposed to be pretty self-explanatory , sex can be perplexing. Perpslexing? Perplexesexing? I’ll figure this out.

Roach is a journalist and as such, the story always comes first. Still, there is SO much information, and you can tell Roach just can’t bear to let a great detail or anecdote fall onto the cutting room floor. Hence the footnotes on almost every page. Rest assured, they are the best footnotes ever. Sorry David Foster Wallace, this is just my personal opinion, but I think you got out-footnoted. I’m really sorry. I still really like your essays, I’m still going to read Infinite Jest at some point, I still want to be friends.

This is a compulsive read. And not just because it’s about weird sex stuff no one ever talks about, thought THAT DOES NOT HURT. In the end it’s Roach herself who makes the book such a I-wish-this-was-five-hundred-pages-longer-I-want-to-know-more-weird-things-about-sex treat. Her insatiable curiosity, consistent good nature, and spirit of adventure make her such a delightful narrator and such a great role model for smart, cool people everywhere.

WHAT KIND OF BOYFRIEND IS HE: A cute sex scientist with floppy Hugh-Grant-in-NOTTING-HILL-hair, huge glasses, forgets he’s wearing his lab coat a lot of the time, and likes to take his research home. YES PLEASE!


He tells me lots of interesting facts about sex.

All right, that’s enough talking.

7 Comments on “BONK by Mary Roach (is my Boyfriend)”

  1. Lindsey says:

    I have not read this one yet, but I did enjoy Mary’s book about all of the dead bodies. I’m not sure which is more fun to tell people you are reading about – dead bodies or sex…
    Either way, it is good times.

  2. Skylar says:

    Mary Roach is my number one response to the People You’d Have Over For Dinner Regardless of Time or Place. She gets the top slot.

    I have both Spook, Stiff and Packing For Mars. I think all in all, Spook is my favorite. The fact a book could be even more fun than Bonk… this is hard to comprehend.

    So excited for book club.

  3. Let’s try to get Mary Roach to come have dinner with us, like on the moon or something. I mean, if Time and Place is no object…

    Now I got to get my grubby paws on SPOOK…

  4. ravingreader says:

    I adore Mary Roach. She came on a visit to our university’s English Department and gave a *great* talk about her work. I hadn’t heard of her before then, but then went out and have been gradually reading her work. All good (although Spook was less good than others). She is so curious and seems to think like I think in that she likes the tiny details which other people mostly miss. If you like Bonk, you’ll love her other work, and if she ever comes to give a talk near you, highly recommend you going. She is hilarious.

  5. Kit, you are a shameless hussy. And I love you for it. :)

    I’ve only read this one and PART of ‘Stiff’ so far (note to self: do not attempt to read books about dead people if you mainly read at mealtimes) but I am very much looking forward to finding out some Weird Stuff About Space in ‘Packing for Mars’. Also, I think you are the only person I’ve come across who totally gets the EVERY BOOKS HAS ITS MOMENT thing. I completely agree. When the time is right, a book will fall into your hands and feel magical. If the time is wrong, you’ll throw it across the room/place it carefully back on the shelf/chuck it back onto the pile in the corner and have to start again ANOTHER time which is just annoying.

  6. maphead says:

    God l loved reading this review! I also enjoyed BONK. I found it incredibly funny and smart But above all, considering the book’s subject matter I never found Bonk gross or slutty.
    Keep up the good work!

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