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Publisher's Summary

The study of sexual physiology - what happens, and why, and how to make it happen better - has been a paying career or a diverting sideline for scientists as far-ranging as Leonardo da Vinci and James Watson. The research has taken place behind the closed doors of laboratories, brothels, MRI centers, pig farms, sex-toy R&D labs, and Alfred Kinsey's attic.

Mary Roach, "The funniest science writer in the country" (Burkhard Bilger of The New Yorker), devoted the past two years to stepping behind those doors. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Why doesn't Viagra help women - or, for that matter, pandas? In Bonk, Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm - two of the most complex, delightful, and amazing scientific phenomena on earth - can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to slowly make the bedroom a more satisfying place.

©2008 Mary Roach (P)2008 Brilliance Audio

Critic Reviews

"Narrator Sandra Burr's enjoyment of Roach's descriptions and wry comments is obvious, making this a pleasure to hear." (Library Journal)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Absolutely Wonderful!

Bonk is one of those rare books that is wonderfully new and different from anything else I've read in it's field.

The author does not shy away from any related subject matter in her search for knowledge, even those that may make many people uncomfortable. As a result, this book is a treasure trove of information that few other people are comfortable even bringing up!

And the frankness with which she does bring them up is tremendously refreshing. Who else have you ever heard talk about experiments in manipulating the genitals of chimpanzees to gauge their orgasms? What other sex documentary has ever gone into detail on the methods for arousing female pigs? (They're the only animal other than humans who enjoy having their nipples being manipulated, BTW.)

I've never before heard such in-depth descriptions of the surgeries available for penis implants and the science behind them. She observes an actual surgery and apologizes for descriptions that will cause many men to cross their legs in discomfort. But to me the descriptions only enhanced the story.

If you're at all uncomfortable reading anything I just wrote, this may not be the book for you. This book, instead, is for those of us who are curious enough about these amazing and fascinating aspects of science and biology that concerns of "ickiness" take a back seat to a thirst for knowledge.

This book is a wonderful narrative of a journey through the world of sex research, including explorations of related side industries and events as part of a search for knowledge encompassing a wide variety of aspects of human sexuality.

The people are portrayed as vividly as though you'd met them yourself, and every situation is narrated with frankness and wit. I very highly recommend this book to anybody looking for knowledge about sex that only a few are brave enough to tell you.

62 of 62 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jani
  • Geneseo, NY, USA
  • 05-13-09

Interesting-not as engaging as "Stiff"

Mary Roach certainly does her homework and the book covers in great detail the scientific (and not so scientific) explorations of sexuality. It starts a out bit slower than did "Stiff" and I found parts of it throughout read a bit slower as well. It is still worth the read (or listen). No matter what, you will come away knowing much more about the search and research behind orgasms, sexual theories and practice, and gender issues in general. I appreciate the interjection of humor throughout. This book is definitely not for the modest or frail (reading about humans masturbating monkeys and pigs had me sitting a bit on edge) but the author still comes away with a scientific view point and keeps focused on the major topics covered. For a biologist I did find it very informative and not in the least dry! Overall I would recommend it to anyone (except maybe those under the age of 15).

25 of 25 people found this review helpful

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Educational & Extremely Entertaining

This book is a gem. Five stars all the way! Most other books on the topic are either dry and boring scientific talk or they are too crude and juvenile. This book is a perfect balance of education and entertainment. As someone who is medically trained, I still learned quite a bit from this book, but was entertained as I learned. The author uses appropriate and well-thought out humor that makes the read very enjoyable. The reader can, at one moment, be caught in a state of marvel with the science while at other times giggling uncontrollably from the author's own humanness and wit.

I think this book is for everyone, young and old. I would even go as far as to recommend it to high school students who want to know more than the standard "birds and bees" talk in sex ed class. It's entertaining enough to keep young folks engaged, yet scholarly enough to be considered a good supplementary textbook. I think back at the boring pamphlets and other materials I got when I went through sex ed as a young adult. I can't imagine how fun class would have been if I would have had this book as additional reading, or even to read on my own since the information I got back then was so abbreviated and boring. Of course this isn't meant as a primary text for sex ed, it would make an excellent complimentary text for those who want to dive a little deeper and laugh while learning.

I read/listened to the audio book version and would recommend the audio version over the text because the narrator does such an excellent job in timing the humor so perfectly and even doing some voice characterization.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jeremy
  • St Paul, MN, USA
  • 09-08-09


I always listen to audiobooks at 2x speed, this is convenient for how many books i read, and rarely a problem as most books are written to be as 'palatable' as possible ("filer" is probably too strong a word..) Then there's Mary Roach.. Her clever writing is so full of information and imagery that i'd listen at 1/2x if i had the time. Palatable? Yes. How? I don't know, but this is one of the most entertaining, intelligent and enjoyable books i've read.

24 of 26 people found this review helpful

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read like a textbook!

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Time well spent if you can stay awake. Well written and witty but read like a textbook. At first I wondered if I was listening to a computer generated reading of the book- to bad because the author attempts to make a point about the problems of scientifically studying sex, but the monotone loses all the small jokes and made me feel like I was in a science class instead of listening to research on an interesting subject.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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where has she been all my life

What made the experience of listening to Bonk the most enjoyable?

the writer and reader, I am a scientist and love Mary's sense of humor and irony (mice in polyester pants?)
This book and stiff took everything I love, humor, science and great research. These books should be given to classes (higherlevel).

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Delightful find

This book is not about improving your sex life or having more sex. It is just a fun look at sex research and the people who do the research. There is a lot of seriously strange research and equally (or more) strange researchers. The book was witty and fascinating. The narrator delivered the perfect tone and really increased my enjoyment.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Well written, entertaining, well read

I didn't read Mary Roach's book about corpses because, well, let's just say that once you've been exposed to it, death is not all that remarkable and certainly not interesting enough to read a book about cadavers. Sex, on the other hand, is always interesting. Even so, I didn't consider downloading this book until I saw an interview with Mary Roach on the tube. She struck me as a person who is endlessly curious about everything. That character trait appeals to me, so I decided to see what this book was about. What I found was well-researched and entertainingly written. Kudos as well to the reader, who managed to strike a fitting balance somewhere between clinical detachment and red-faced embarrassment.

This is a great read, but Mary, if you're reading this, I really could have done without 30 minutes on Danish pig insemination! I'll never be able to get those images of farmers and pigs out of my head!

30 of 37 people found this review helpful

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  • Grant
  • NANTUCKET, MA, United States
  • 08-03-12

Ow. Ow. Ow.

Okay, this is a really entertaining book. But the parts where Roach talks about ED and its treatments, plus a few other parts, made me feel, as the owner of a penis, rather uncomfortable. Aside from that, it's a thoroughly enjoyable and insightful work.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • M3
  • Monterey, CA
  • 05-18-12

Curiosity makes for a good read (listen)

Mary Roach demonstrates a curiosity for all things unusual, and her investigations in "Bonk" are both candid and amusing. Although the book wanders a bit, Roach's self-deprecating style and great sense of humor keep the reading light, and her questions are consistent with those anyone might ask about how a scientist investigates "the act"...albeit with a red face.

In Mythbuster's style, Roach's self-guided inquiries into how sex and research meet are only slightly scientific, but almost always thoroughly amusing. Be prepared for candid discussions that may not be well-received in car full of kids (or neighbors).

Although one can't answer specific questions by using "Bonk" as a reference, the book does answer a great many questions that may have never been asked the first place.

Well written and easy to read (hear).

2 of 2 people found this review helpful