Review: Stiff by Mary Roach

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Title: Stiff
Subtitle: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Author: Mary Roach
Pages: 304
Genre: Non-Fiction; Science
Publisher: W. W. Norton and Co.
Pub. Date: January 28, 2003
Audio Publisher: Tantor Media
Audio Narrator: Shelly Frasier
Audio Time: 7 hours, 59 minutes

The only other book I've read by Mary Roach I enjoyed but didn't actually finish. My reaction to what I had read was interesting, interesting, I never thought there could be so much to discuss about this topic or that I would be interested in it, but I am, okay now I feel a little bored, wait now it's interesting again. So, that was pretty much my exact reaction to this one!

Stiff is all about the things that human cadavers are used for. You'd never know there is actually enough material to fill an entire book! (ack, no pun intended!) I listened to this book on audio after reading a recommendation from another blogger and because I was able to get it through my library. Plus, I had seen Mary Roach talk in person at BEA in 2010 and I knew I liked her. She's funny, and I like the way she thinks. Well, I almost turned this audio off for good after I first started listening because I didn't think I could stomach it. It was gross. The first chapter talks about the use of practicing medicine on human heads. .  .  .

But I continued listening and was amazed. I had never even considered that human corpses were used in science at all. But apparently that is a common thing done in medical school. Seriously!? (Actually I read a medical book not long after this where the author mentioned it as well). I seriously had no idea and also didn't know that was a thing that people can choose to donate their bodies to after death. It was interesting to read about the students' reactions to dealing with this. Another interesting concept was the crimes of body snatching and digging up graves back in the day before these things were regulated and people did this to give the bodies to science and make money. Another thing I had never considered was the use of human bodies as crash test dummies. An actual dummy can only reflect so much what actually happens to someone in a crash because of the make up of an actual human body.

All in all, this was a book presented fascinating information about a topic I never knew to think about or that I would have thought would be interesting. The author is witty as I guess you'd have to be to make this topic interesting. I laughed out loud at some of the little, subtle things she said such as her interactions with the doctors who teach using human corpses. However, I don't think it would have ultimately kept my interest if I hadn't listened on audio. (It just seems to take more work to focus on a book than play an audio while you're driving).


Linda said...

I own this one and I keep meaning to read it. Too many books, too little time.

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