Bay Area-based author Mary Roach is no stranger to topics both arcane and stomach-turning. Her fascinating 2003 book Stiff tackled the “Curious Lives of Human Cadavers”; two years later, Spook tackled the science of the afterlife. Droll yet frank, like Auntie Mame with a yen for medical journals, Roach excels at transforming dry lecture notes into giddy nuggets of improper dinner-party fodder. But her shot selection is a bit off with her latest, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (W.W. Norton, 288 pages, $24.95). Her whirlwind tour through the world of sex experiments, from tickling pig clitorises and bumping uglies in MRI machines to shadowing Taiwanese penis surgeons, is mind-boggling fun to be sure. But the subject itself: sex—and the myriad ways brave researchers have road-tested the act—is stale in a decade when Oprah already won’t shut up about her damn va-jay-jay. Roach’s gift, thus far, has been shining a light on topics nobody thought they’d ever want to know about and proving us wrong in less than 300 pages. Handing us a well-researched tome on the thing that’s already on all our minds? Well, where’s the challenge in that?
ATTEND: Mary Roach reads from Bonk at Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-0540. 7:30 pm Tuesday, April 29. Free.