I read a lot of these layman’s academic non-fiction type books, and usually by the time I get to the end I feel somewhat disappointed. In this case, it might be because the author never really shores up enough evidence to persuade the reader either way. However, I think that feeling in this case is more because I so enjoyed the book that I wish there were more of it!
Mary Roach takes us on a journey about finding more about what science (and pseudo-science) says about the soul and life after death. We start with reincarnation and end with near death experiences, and along the way we talk to a variety of scientists, researchers, and people who are using “science” (applied loosely) to communicate with the dead. I found Roach’s writing style to be witty and inclusive, and just like a friend telling you interesting stories over coffee. (By inclusive, I mean that when the book gets jargon-y, she realizes this and tells you how it goes over her head too. There is lots of care to guide the reader along when things start to get complex, and I really appreciate this as a non-scientist.)
One omission in the book is about the amount of Biblical scholars that write and teach about the existence of heaven. They may not be scientists, but are academics in their own right. Several years ago, I read a really really long book by Randy Alcorn titled Heaven, and I know he interviews a bunch of researchers. While he has a vested interest in biasing his book towards the probability of Heaven existing, there was a lot of good stuff in there that I found convincing when I read it. This book only has a brief side bar about Catholic priests and the papacy. The Hindu religion actually has more prominence in this book.
Otherwise, I found this book very engaging and enjoyable, and I much enjoyed her writing style. I will probably be checking out more of her books in the future.