I rarely read non-fiction, but the cover of this book grabbed me. Boy, am I glad I picked it up! Filled with tons of facts about the uses of cadavers, many of which I'd never considered (crash-test dummies, police training, fertilizer), the book's footnotes are not to be missed.
Terrifically funny without being irreverent, Mary Roach has written an informative book that got me thinking about what I want done with my body after death.
Not to mention the best line, ever, in a book: "Well, do me chicken."
THIS ISN'T FOR EVERYONE
After long admiring Ms. Roach's contributions to Reader's Digest, I read this book. Although the subject matter is unusual and might well be distasteful to many, she handles it with dignity and, if you can believe, much good humor. If you've ever been curious about all things dead, this is the book for you. Consider it the ultimate recycling idea. Chances are you'll never attend another wake without thinking about the stories in this book.
When the living stop living, what happens to what's left over? From funerary procedures, to medical teaching aid, to odd science experiments done in the name of education, to preventing future deaths, to being eaten... this pop-sci journey is a quick read, easy to understand, and takes away the mysteries and ignorances of what's done with cadavers.
Fantastic look at a topic not "fit for polite conversation"...what happens to our bodies after death. The author's humorous (but not disrespectful) tone makes the material, although off-putting, engaging. I thought it was fascinating and funny!
Oh, I enjoyed this book, and now want to will by body somewhere fun. Although I expected more of the book to be about where cadavers go, most of the book was about how different body parts have been used for different tests over time, including trying to prove if the Shroud of Turin was real, and different ways to inter oneself after passing. It made me be very thankful to those who have willed their bodies in the past for the safety changes that have been made because of them.
This was an excellent, fascinating book, though clearly not for everyone. As the summary describes, it is a book about the many potential uses for our bodies once we die. Mary Roach writes with both respect for the bodies and their previous owners and a great deal of humor. It's a fantastic combination that kept me coming back for more, and got me through some of the more graphic descriptions and unpleasant mental images. I would definitely recommend this book to all who are interested in science or even mildly curious about the lives of cadavers.
Explains exactly what happens to your body after you die: past history of cannibalism, dissection, autopsies, organ donation, life-ending trauma caused in airplane and car rashes, burial, cremation, and up-and-coming means of body disposal. Definitely not things you talk about at the dinner table, but I found it very interesting. She explores the history behind a lot of urban myths surrounding the dead as well. I liked how she broke the book up into shorter readable chapters.
crackabook reviewed Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers on
Helpful Score: 2
I found this book to be very enlightening. Not gruesome to read at all. I truly learned a great deal about all facets of the "life of a cadaver" when it is donated to science. I recommend this book to all who wish to be well read.
I read this book for a book club, and I loved it! I wasn't squicked out at all - I think it was written very well. It was just graphic enough to illustrate the situations, but not over the top or out for cheap thrills. Some of our group loved it, some hated it, but everyone has a lot to say about it. Very thought provoking and HUGELY educational.
I bought this book (PB & HC) for a fellow member who had wish-listed it, and the poster backed out on her (said she wanted to keep it, after posting it). In the interim the member acquired another copy - so here I was with 2 bindings of a book I would probably NOT have requested for myself! What to do? I did the only logical thing - I read it myself!This book is without a doubt one of the most obscure and innovative non-fiction subjects you could ever imagine being turned into a book. Mary Roach respectfully shows us all a lighter side of death. She goes above-and-beyond the normal fare of post-life activities that you might expect, and gives you new insights into things like organ donation, processing and eating of mummies in ancient China! Along the way, she pulls over and gives you glimpses of dead-derived medicines, embalming, decomposition, and the use of test crash cadavers. This is a book about the factual side of an emotional subject and I think it is superbly done! How she can work humor into an otherwise humorless area is beyond me! She elegantly attains a very difficult and fine-lined balance between respect, history, and humor in a book about a very thorny issue. Be very cautious when friends ask you "read any good books lately" - your answer may get you some strange looks in return! Mary Roach has written something that will make you scratch your head, smile, frown, wrinkle your nose, read with your mouth open, and reach a level of understanding of what happens after death that you wouldn't have achieved on your own! You'll want to share this book with your friends - well, you're my friends (so to speak), so I'm sharing it with YOU! READ IT - you'll thank me for it!
Funny, informative, and more than interesting, I found this book to be a wonderful read despite the fact that I wouldn't recommend to those who are the faint of heart or easily off put by graphic imagery.
I normally don't read non-fiction but I saw Mary Roach's name and said, what the heck?
Extremely, beyond my expectations well written. She writes it with dignity and makes the people (who work with cadavers) honorable. I never have been more fascinated with a subject such as I am now with the body farm. I'm reading the Body Farm and will keep reading more non-fiction books about this subject. It never gets old or boring because you learn something new everytime!
Very entertaining and interesting. Ms. Roach approaches the topic of cadavers with a good sense of humor, yet respectfully. Throughout the chapters you'll learn how cadavers are used in crash safety tests, plastic surgery classes, science experiments, and so on. There are a few parts the weak-stomached may want to skip, but it never gets too horribly gross and overall the book is very well written.
I love Mary Roach's monthly column in Reader's Digest and I loved this book. Well, as much as one can love a book about dead bodies! She has a wonderful sense of humor and she uses it well to discuss what happens to us when we're dead.
This was such an odd book. I want to say it was a little sick, but not really. There were parts that got me a little squeamish. But I'll tell ya, I don't wanna be buried somewhere to rot now *laugh*
The last bits with the different things "on the horizon" intrigued me. While they aren't happy things to think about, it did make me think there are other ways to dispose of your body besides rotting or burning. *shudder*
Anyway... good book, I'm glad I read it, I learned some stuff... and now I gotta go read something happy - like Stephen King or something with a happy place *laugh*
Before getting this book, I read a couple of great reviews. They were all right on the money. Stiff by Mary Roach is an engaging read about what happens to human cadavers. Mary Roach takes the reader through the testing of bullets on cadavers for the government, how important it is to donate your body after death,why it is important for medical students to work on human cadavers, experiments that were done on the dead for the sake of religion... Mary Roach is such a great writer and makes every chapter a chapter of interest. I recommend it to everyone.
What a cool book! Not for those of you with a weak stomach. Roach gives the behind the scenes perspective of what most of us never even think of...what happens to our bodies after death. She tackles the topic from every angle and leaves no grave unturned!
I read this book before I started nursing school, basically to see if it was possible to gross me out with this type of information. Her writing is splendid -- funny and educational at the same time. It's amazing what happens to cadavers. I can't tell you ... you really have to read it for yourself. It may help you to decide what to do after you leave your body!
A bit gross at times, but with a subject matter like this, it has to be. Yet, it is funny and informing while also being respectful of those who donate their bodies to science. A great read, especially if you are interested in forensics. I loved it.
What a fascinating book. After having this book sit on my shelf literally for years, I finally picked it up. Although I had been told by others that this was a great book, I was put off by the thought of reading about cadaver bodies, but once I started I never looked back.
When someone would see me reading this book, they would often crinkle their noses and ask, "What could you possibly be reading about? Is it just about medical school cadavers?" And I would proudly say, "No! Not at all! You have no idea what I a human body can do after it's dead!"
I am not sure how Mary Roach made a book about bodies so funny, without being distasteful, but she succeeded with flying colors.
Entertaining read about what can happen to human cadavers in the name of science.
I found the chapters a bit uneven - for example, I would have liked to learn more about the crucifixion experiments - that chapter was only 10 pages. On the other hand, the author spent 16 pages alone on the innovative way of human composting, advocated by Ms. Wiigh-Masak in Sweden. The chapter about injury analysts discovering the reason for TWA's flight 800 crash, based on what kind of injuries were sustained by the bodies, was very interesting.
After encouraging her readers to donate their bodies and/or organs, the author, however, ultimately cops out by saying that she will let her family make that decision for her.
So ... overall a very interesting book because of the subject matter, but a bit uneven and somewhat lacking in depth.
Do not read this book if you are in anyway squemish. Do not read this book if you still consider the human body as a person after death. However, if you are the least bit curious about what happens to cadavers, if you are considering "donating your body", if you wish to debunk some of the bizarre stories you have heard about cadavers & science then this is the book for you. I read it in a few days. Truly I found the opening page to be the most disturbing of the entire book. After that I put my science cap on & I was totally engrossed. Thank heaven people do donate their bodies to science though these people may not understand what happens after that. This books last chapter is getting a little dated as there are a few more environmentally sound options for burial since 2003. However, Mary Roach, a former travel writer, travels the world to bring her readers the story of Stiffs. Her research is exhausting but her writing lively & humorous. She is never disrespectful & genuinely suggest all modern humans should be appreciative for the unsung contributions of human cadavers. I, for one, would like to thank all the cadavers who contributed to airbag research & car crash tests.
This book is just plain awesome. Ever wanted to know anything about cadavers? This is the book for you. You will probably even find out way more than you wanted to. You find out what may happen to you if you donate your body to science (it can be way more interesting than a boring old dissection lab, let me tell you); what happens during the embalming process (I'm skipping that myself), cremation, and the future (maybe?) of disposing of cadavers; what can happen in a plane crash; and what exactly a cadaver's role in bullets and bombs really is. If nothing else, the book will force you to think about what you want to happen to your body after you've exited it (Roach has much more tact and respect than I do).
I found this to be absolutely fascinating. If I hadn't have decided weeks before what to do with my body after I'm gone, I probably would have gone for donating it to science after reading this. It can really be put to good use for countless others.
So back to the book--I found it to be really great and chock full of fun facts that my family and co-workers really wished I kept to myself. I don't get grossed out often, but if you have a weak stomach, you may have a few problems getting through this one (trust me, I'm very glad that I decided to skip the cannibalism chapter during lunch and come back long after I had any feeling of food remaining in my tummy). Really great read.
WEll, you'll never look at dead bodies like you previously did. They can be so useful ... who knew..
from crash test dummies to subjects for facelifts dead bodies are so useful.
This is a awesome and well researched book, very amusing on a weird subject. I promise you will not be bored at all.
While at times Stiff turned my stomach, I found myself wanting more! Not that it was the kind of book that couldn't be put down, but I always found it to pull me back in. Each chapter is based on a different 'life' of the human corpse and it was so interesting to find some of the uses for organ donors (ex:crash test dummies) and the history in which medical cadavers were first brought about.
Most of the details in Stiff are so well written that you have a hard time getting the images out of your head. This being said, I wouldn't recommend this book for people who get light headed at the mention of blood or fecal matter. Needless to say, this is NOT a book to read on your lunch hour!
Fantastic book if you have a morbid fascination (that's completely normal, right??). It details how cadavers that are donated to science are used, what really happens to your body during a fatal event, and new ways to "live on" after your death.
This book was really interesting and it makes you think about what you want done with your body after you die. It was written awhile back so some of the things she refers to as coming in the future should aleady be here. Even though the author takes a humorous approach to the subject, the stuff she writes about is serious and when I was done with it, the next book I ready was a comedy. Still, I find myself thinking about the subject matter and realizing there are more choices then I ever knew about.
I was quite interested in this book and it lived up to my expectations. Each chapter was about the different ways that cadavers, (bodies that have been donated) are used. Of course for medical students, but so many ways that I never thought of. For the Body Farm in Tennessee, for testing ammo, for car crashes etc. The reason I was so interested was because both my parents donated their bodies to medical universities. It was well written and even had some humorous parts. Not as morbid as you would think.
I wasn't sure if I would like this book, but I found it very compelling. It was the first book in months that I found myself unable to put down. What could have been a gruesome book was instead made interesting by the author's respectful yet humorous approach.
Science. * * * . For the CSI/forensics buff. The book takes a gander at how our dead bodies have been used throughout history; not only to solve crimes but also to help advance science, medicine, and safe cars. As weird as the book may sound, the author infuses the book with wit and dry humor making it an entertaining read.
It really gets down to the nitty-gritty so add Â½* if you like stomach-churning details; subtract Â½* if you don't. Regardless, it still is a fascinating look into the history of corpses.
Such a good book! I had no idea a cadaver could do so much. I don't think I can eat chicken soup again after reading it, but I'm still glad I did. I'd recommend it to all of my fellow Bones, Buffy, and Walking Dead fans. Not for readers with weak stomachs.
Quirky, readable yet very informative, and thoroughly entertaining throughout. Those who donate their organs and/or bodies to help others are treated with dignity and described as heroes; those who use those donations for research rarely fare as well. Given the subject matter, the humor is obviously a bit macabre and sometimes dark... but so very very dry; I loved this book!
It's good, not great. I've read a few books in this genre now, so I was hoping for some new and very interesting material. I found the first few chapters to be more of the same- similar to info I've already read. Some things were fascinating, like the canibalism chapter. Overall the book was interesting, though it lacked some of the scientific info I had found fascinating in Bonk. For instance, she describes some of the embalming process, but focuses more on the people doing the embalming than on what the heck the embalming process is. A lot of history of the science though- and it is gruesome at points. I did appreciate learning all the ways a body donated to science can be utilized though, and human composting is also fascinating. These were new topics to me, and covered in a unique way.
Mary Roach has a talent for taking mundane scientific information and presenting it in a way that is not only informative, but entertaining. In this book, she explores the life of a person's body after death, focusing on people who have donated their entire bodies to science. She treats the subject with dignity, even though she does this in a humorous way. She explores surgical training, forensics, and disposal, among other things.
An excellent anthropological study on human beliefs on death and the human machine. Also, one of the funnest books I've ever read. As an organ donor I'm happy to find out all the ways my corpse may be used. Really a great book.
This is a rather unique book about a subject few of us humans pause to consider. What happens to the bodies that are donated to science, a teaching hospital or even the Body Farm (of the University of Tennessee)? Having read 8 books by Dr. Bass (of the Body Farm), I sort of knew what would be discussed. However, Mary Roach has a way about discussing a subject that takes the grimness (and some of the gruesomeness) out by injecting her lessons with a lively wit.
One of the things I came away with was an understanding that cadavers are treated with the greatest care and even reverence. Roach mentions the 3-hour service that gross anatomy students attend (by choice, not requirement) to thank their body for the lessons they have learned over the course of the year. Students have even written poetry and recited it at the meeting; with not a dry eye left in the building. Interestingly enough, Roach indicates that some medical schools are phasing out cadaver study because digitizing has made such inroads in allowing medical students to see everything through slides and film.
Roach talks about the history of gathering cadavers for scientific study. During periods of poverty (hundreds of years ago), people were known to dig up a relative and sell it to a medical school. Roach talks about the wide range of uses for which the cadavers can help. She also mentioned that there are some circumstances in which cadavers are not used because family members might feel the bodies were not treated respectfully enough.
Make no mistake, some portions of this book are not for the faint-of-heart. The author uses a light and humorous touch but some of the chapters are a bit graphic. One of those (for me) was about how doctors, in past generations and locales, made sure that a person was really dead.
All about dead bodies (and more), this book was a hit last year and a relative gave it to me since I am "the reading type." Never one to turn down a book I read it and now am giving YOU the chance to do the same.
This New York Times best seller is unsettling at times but also surprisingly funny, fascinating and provocative. Roach does convey a sense of respect and appreciation along the way with a thoughtful afterword reflecting on all she learned about her subjects.
Fascinating but not for the squeamish. The author doesn't dwell on the gross stuff but...it does contain some graphic descriptions. She presents with a respectful sense of humor, though. I enjoyed this book!
Oh my, what an interesting book! I enjoyed the way it was written (serious, but with humor when needed). From body snatching to studying the rate of decomposition to organ donation, this covered everything that I can think of. I remember in college having the opportunity to dissect (well, the physical therapy students got to do it first) 3 cadavers in anatomy class. That was a different experience.
I have had patients donate their bodies to science at time of death (and when on hospice it's allowed and very easy, no coroner involvement since we go out and "pronounce.") It's fairly simple to do; Medcure is the program used most often for the deaths I've attended
This was a really fascinating and humorous look at the various things that happen to the human body after death. This included such things as dissection by anatomy students, studies on human decay, using cadavers as crash-test dummies to research automobile accidents, using them to study gunshot wounds, etc. There was also a lot of interesting information on related things such as body snatching which was prevalent in the days before bodies were donated to science for use by anatomy students. The chapter on how the human body and its excretions were used as medicine down through the ages especially by the Chinese was also engrossing (and gross) as well as the chapter on the possibility of transplanting a human head or brain.
Overall, this provided a myriad of information that I really hadn't thought too much about before including the various possibilities of what to do with your body after you die. Is traditional burial the way to go or should the body be cremated? But other possibilities are presented in the book such as donating your body to science (but do I really want to be dissected by an anatomy student?) or should I go with having my remains composted as people are doing in Sweden to be more environmentally friendly? A lot to think about!
I first started reading this book when I was at the supper table. It didn't take me long to realize that probably wasn't a good idea. Not that I have a weak stomach, it is just, unlike a cold beer, some of the material discussed didn't compliment what I was eating.
Other reviewers here do a good job in describing the material covered in this book. I'd just like to point two of my favorite tid-bits from the book:
"The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you."
"The human head is approximately the same size and weight as a roaster chicken."
Roach manages to be both irreverant and funny in her study of the way in which human remains have been treated over the centuries, without ever being morbid or disrespectful. Mostly, she concentrates on the use of cadavers as medical teaching or research tools, straying at the very end to some unusual methods of disposal of remains. Fascinating stuff, but not for the squeamish.
Funny and irreverent, Mary Roach demonstrates her willingness to do about anything you can imagine in her exploration about the "life after death" our cadavers "enjoy." A lot of good information and mind-opening ideas. Her last chapter on her own plans regarding her cadaver-to-be I found particularly thought-provoking.
I enjoyed this book. The irreverent, offbeat writing keeps the book moving, and prevents stray tangents into maudlin. It brought back memories of gross anatomy lab. I vividly remember being told I had to pull the lungs out of the chest, because I had the smallest hands. I still have memories of holding the lungs as fluid that looked and felt like, but sure didn't smell like barbeque sauce dripped over my hands and into my gloves. I bet, to Mary Roach, this would just be another foray into getting closer to the recently departed, and nothing to think twice about. Other than worrying about prions, but I hope that will be covered in another book she'll write, if I'm lucky! GREAT book!
This is the most fascinating book I have ever read. The author is factual and also funny (if you can find something funny about cadavers). Mary Roach did a ton of research for this book and it shows. A "must read" for everyone.