A lively, hilarious and informative look at science’s dirty secrets.

BONK

THE CURIOUS COUPLING OF SCIENCE AND SEX

Wondering whether orgasms make sows more fertile? Turn to Roach for the answer.

One of the funniest and most madcap of science writers, the author has approached sticky subjects to hilarious effect in her two previous books. Stiff (2003) looked at the many uses to which human cadavers have been put, while Spook (2005) told of science’s attempts to understand the afterlife. Her latest is no less captivating or entertaining, as she flings wide the closed doors behind which the scientific study of coitus has traditionally been conducted. Roach details the careers of sex researchers Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Marie Bonaparte (Napoleon’s great-grand-niece) and porn-star-turned-Ph.D. Annie Sprinkle, among others. Such researchers “to this day, endure ignorance, closed minds, righteousness, and prudery,” she writes. “Their lives are not easy. But their cocktail parties are the best.” Emulating her subjects’ daring spirit, Roach displays a firm belief that there is no question too goofy to ask—or, barring that, to Google. What happens when you implant a monkey testicle in a man: Does he get more vital, or does he get an infection? She explores centuries of research into such questions as how penile implants work (a pump could be involved); whether surgically relocating the clitoris can lead to better sex (no); why the human penis is shaped as it is (to scoop out competitors’ sperm); and what exactly is going on when it enters a vagina (shockingly, there is still much to learn). Apart from its considerable comic value, the book also emulates its predecessors by illustrating a precept of scientific research: The passion to know, in the face of censure and propriety, is what advances our understanding of the world.

A lively, hilarious and informative look at science’s dirty secrets.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-393-06464-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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