Mindbender. Wild Thing. Ninja. Thunderbolt. The names of roller coasters are as evocative as Cook's debut work, a look at the psychology and steel behind America's most thrilling rides. A lively history of the roller coaster includes the ice slides of France in the 1800s, the first gravity railway on Coney Island that reached a whopping speed of six miles per hour, and the rise and fall in popularity of ""woodies,"" or wooden roller coasters. In a chapter on the physics of roller coasters, Cook cites comprehensible examples (such as the angle of a pencil to a desktop) to clearly explain such concepts as the science of motion and gravity, friction and drag, slope, and g force. Attractive inserts bring in the designers and engineers of the coaster, who allow riders to ""feel like they're going to die""; in these days of computerized engineering, Etch-A-Sketch-like scribbles on a computer screen are transformed into impressive assemblages of thousands of pieces of steel tracks and hills that span acres. One especially eye-catching chart outlines what happens inside the body during a coaster ride. In a final chapter, Cook gives ""airtime"" to coasters past and present. The colorful, captioned photographs--the swoosh of riders in motion, heads hanging upside down from an inside loop, or aerial views of a tiny car on wheels about to take the first drop--as well as the rest of the book--are more than worth the ride.