Author(s): Mary RoachDownload
Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.
Some Reviews: 12515 in Goodreads.com
Fascinating, touching and surprisingly wholesome considering it’s about dead bodies
Many people will find this book disrespectful. There is nothing amusing about being dead, they will say.
Ah, but there is.
Mary Roach brings cadavers into a whole new, sometimes painfully bright, light.
We follow her as she attends autopsies and medical discussions.
We learn what happens to bodies as they decompose on the field, under the field and in so, so many places.
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.
We get a bit of a history lesson with the sordid tales associated with body-snatching and the early medicine’s need for atomically correct models.
We even go so far back as ancient Egypt and their secret honey recipe (you will never look at honey in the same way) (trust me).
This is one book you’d have to be
to miss out on.
Death. It doesn’t have to be boring.
First read of 2017 complete! It was a good one – 4.5 stars.
Who knew that a book about what happens to our bodies after we die could be so interesting. This book covers everything to the horrific to the incredibly fascinating. This book may not be for the squeamish, but I think Roach did a great job combining information and humor in a respectful manner to make it more easily accessible to a wider audience.
I recently helped to prepare a funeral plan for my Mother. She is still alive, but it was suggested that we prepare ahead of time to make sure that all wishes are met and there is no scrambling when the event happens to figure out what is wanted and where the money comes from – less stressful for all! After reading this book, I am not saying I will go back and change any of our decisions, but it definitely gave me a lot of thinking points I would not have considered and may have had an affect on how my decision making went if I had read this before the planning took place.
After death – the inanimate body lives on and something has to be done with it – read this if you want to know more!
Side note – This is my second Mary Roach (I also read Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal) and I liked this one a bit better.
I’m a compulsive buyer of Mary Roach’s books. Part of the reason is research for my own books, of course, part of it is fascination, thanks to her astute choice of subjects, and part of it is simply enjoyment, derived from her clear prose and tales well told. In this case, I read Stiff just after my father passed away, so I was trying to make sense of his loss while trying to come to terms with the brute reality of death. It helped a great deal, as I anticipated it would, largely down to Roach’s sympathetic and informative tone. It was like being taken through a morgue by a thoughtful friend.
I never guessed I would want to know about what happens to a dead body after it … dies. But here I am, reading and now reviewing a book on just that.
Was it funny? Sometimes. Was it gross? Sometimes! But was it deeply FASCINATING?
Yeah, I guess it was.
It really wasn’t too deep on the science bits, actually, not spending too much time on the actual bugs in your gut partying down on the glut of the you-buffet, but it did have plenty of eyewitness accounts of morgues and the everyday lives of the folks there. Plus the military outfits that used bodies for ballistics research. And let’s not forget about the second half of the book that goes into the really funky stuff.
You know, like methods of disposal of your earthly remains from a historical standpoint. Oh, you wacky Resurrectionists. Or my personal favorite modern (and hopefully soon-to-be-legal for you, soon) composting farms!
Look, seriously, folks, I think it’s a wonderful idea. First I get freeze-dried, shattered into hamburger-sized chunks, then I GO ON TO FEED THE PLANTS FOR REAL.
Like, for real, for real. Since ashes are pretty much worthless for that and getting buried is a joke when you think about it, getting turned into mulch so that you ACTUALLY return your nutrients back to nature is a BEAUTIFUL gesture.
Where can I sign up? I mean, donating my body to science is great and all, but the poetry of getting mulched is TOO MUCH FOR ME.
My daughter to my granddaughter: “Your grandfather helped grow this grove of apple trees.”
“I thought he was a writer of Science Fiction who rarely went out of the city?”
“Oh, I mean it literally, sweetie. After we mulched him and spread him across the land, he literally helped grow these!”
“But not with his own two hands.”
“Oh, no, we used those, too.”
“You don’t understand me!”
“I want to grow roses. Pink ones.”
In spite of the macabre topic, Mary Roach must have had a ball doing her footwork for this book. Not happy to glean her information from published sources, Mary travelled extensively to conduct her research, and had doors opened for her that I doubt get opened very often. Let’s face it, when your job requires you to work with the dead the average Joe already thinks you’re a ghoul, so it follows that you would be very cautious about allowing someone, a reporter no less, to observe you at your work. I think that her fair and open-minded approach probably broke down barriers very quickly,
Mary, you see, is not the squeamish type. She is perfectly willing to stroll around a field of rotting corpses or sniff a shovelful of composting human in order to obtain not only information but sensation and experience. Certainly some work was done in the library – she covers a good deal of the history of the uses and abuses of dead people, with corpses being used for everything from uncomplaining patients for the instruction of cosmetic surgeons to dangling about as test subjects for new military munitions – but the majority of Mary’s work was done on site at the labs, clinics and mortuaries where dead people tend to congregate. The result is a fair and honest look at the dead, how we have used them in the past and what we may have to do in the future in order to dispose of the millions of people who will be expiring daily.
The book has every right to be sombre. It isn’t. In fact, Ms Roach approaches the subject with a form of reverent humor that entertains the reader but does not disparage the departed. This is a respectful and thorough treatment of the topic. I hereby declare that this is one of the best books I have read this year, and I further declare that Ms Roach is one writer I would love to hoist a pint with some day…I have no doubt she could relate many a fascinating anecdote that didn’t make it into print.
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