Science isn’t very funny, I’ve been married to a scientist believe me I know, but sex is potentially very, very funny and not just in a “Carry on” boobs and buffoonery kinda way. Mary Roach is an American science writer and author of the chucklefests Stiff: The curious lives of human cadavers (2003) and Spook: Science tackles the afterlife (2005). Her latest humorous scientific foray Bonk: The curious coupling of science and sex attempts to answer such pressing issues as “Is vaginal orgasm a myth?”, ” Can a dead man get an erection?”, “Why doesn’t Viagra help women – or for that matter, pandas?”. Burning issues that demand an answer I’m sure we all agree (especially for all the sexually dysfunctional pandas among us).

Mary Roach’s approach to scientific investigation is rather in the mode of British documentary maker Louis Theroux, enthusiastic and self-sacrificing. Roach and her long-suffering husband Ed (ED also stands for erectile dysfunction) endure sexual congress by Dynamic 3D ultrasound, Roach witnesses Danish artificial inseminators pleasuring sows and finally rides the vaginal photoplethysmograph … all enough to make a librarian blush.

This is not a history of sex research but loosely dips in and out (phnarr-phnarr) some of the most significant eras of scientific investigation including Dickinson, Kinsey and Masters, as well as current research activity. Fun and a right “rollicking good read”, but typically not everyone agrees with me (see The Listener’s review).

And the nominees are …

Two New Zealand authors have been nominated for the 2008 Astrid Lindgren Memorial AwardMargaret Mahy and Joy Cowley. Last year’s winner was Australian author Sonya Hartnett.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is worth 5,000,000 Swedish kronor (which isn’t far off $1,000,000 NZD) and is the world’s largest prize for children’s and young person’s literature. The winners will be announced in March 2009.

It got me thinking about what my favourite Margaret Mahy title is … and it’s a hard one to pick, but I think today’s answer would be The riddle of the frozen phantom. Tomorrow’s answer might indeed be A lion in the meadow. With so many titles to choose from, what’s your favourite?