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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers…
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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003)

by Mary Roach

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,437357471 (4.09)491
  1. 121
    Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach (alaskabookworm)
  2. 31
    The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead by Heather Pringle (FFortuna)
  3. 31
    A Traffic of Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in Nineteenth-Century America by Michael Sappol (meggyweg)
  4. 20
    Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These engaging, unusual accounts deal with the human body after death. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes wittily relates the work of an assistant in a crematorium, while Stiff presents an entertaining account of what happens with cadavers.
  5. 21
    Lenin's Embalmers by Ilya Zbarsky (bertilak)
  6. 21
    The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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    Shocked : adventures in bringing back the recently dead by David Casarett M.D. (juglicerr)
    juglicerr: If you liked either on of these books, I recommend trying the other author. Both offer nitty-gritty medical details leavened with humor, which helps make the gross details more bearable. For my money, Mary Roach is funnier, but I thoroughly enjoyed both authors… (more)
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    Working stiff : two years, 262 bodies, and the making of a medical examiner by Judy Melinek (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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    The Shadow King: The Bizarre Afterlife of King Tut's Mummy by Jo Marchant (sboyte)
  10. 11
    No Stone Unturned: The Story of Necrosearch International Investigators by Steve Jackson (grizzly.anderson)
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    The Dead Janitors Club: Pathetically True Tales of a Crime Scene Cleanup King by Jeff Klima (infiniteletters)
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    Never Suck A Dead Man's Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI by Dana Kollmann (meggyweg)
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    The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers by Scott Carney (meggyweg)
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    The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey (MyriadBooks)
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    Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (jbarry)
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Showing 1-5 of 352 (next | show all)
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
4 Stars

An oddly fascinating and highly amusing yet also somewhat disturbing and often sickening account of the various uses of human cadavers.

As a reader of mysteries and thrillers that often involve forensic details, I am no stranger to gritty descriptions and gruesome portrayals. Nevertheless, some of the information in the book is particularly jarring, especially the parts involving animal experimentation and human cannibalism.

The author makes liberal use of humor throughout the book and while some readers may find this off-putting, for me it made the difficult passages more readable and served to lesson the harsh impact of the content.

All in all, an exceedingly well researched and interesting book but definitely not for the squeamish or faint of heart.
( )
  Lauren2013 | May 8, 2016 |
I read this book for my Non Fiction Library Book Group. I read with morbid curiosity of what other tales might come out that I had not heard of before. I knew of body snatching from several other books I have read on haw the medical field came to be and the advances they were able to make through the use of human cadavers. There is also a good movie on the darker side of body snatching called Burke and Hare, they got a little sidetracked and committed murders once they found out how much could be made supplying bodies for the London surgeons. The chapter on the use of human heads was a little horrifying as well as people who gave their bodies as a food for medicinal purposes. A cadaver has uses in not only the medical field but law enforcement, military, crash test dummies, they can also help in plane crashes in telling another side of the story from the black box, and it turns out possibly creating a greener planet (Eeww!).

Morbidly fascinating and I think I will pass on donating my body to science. ( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
This book is a fun read for a general audience, but for many the narrative voice of Mary Roach either makes it or breaks it. I'm not so concerned with whether her antic style is or isn't appropriate to the subject matter, though this seems to be a stumbling block for some and for others the whole key to the slightly naughty, trangressive fun of the book. She clearly displays her discomfort with much of the subject material by her choice of corny wisecracks, which may be why so many general readers love the book, because they can thereby feel that their own discomfort is defused.

The book is very uneven in how well and reliably it covers the various subjects that are touched on. She paints a fine and vivid portrait of medical students learning new and more sensitive ways to relate to the cadavers they use in classwork, by way of contrast to some of the callous and distancing attitudes of the past. Other subjects - like cryogenics - seem to have been chosen just because they're weird and whacky, and are given a quick, shallow, and distancing treatment.

To me personally, the biggest disappointment of the book is the section in which she tries to take on the much bigger and more important topic of what happens to *most* human bodies after they die, which is incredibly weak on both the history of human burial, and the complexities of the modern crisis of burial costs and burial space. She seems to have looked at a small handful of sources, and read those very superficially. She spends an inordinate amount of time following the Swedish inventor of the "promession" process around, apparently without having done much background research on why this process is being proposed, what it really proposes to replace, and whether or not it has a serious chance at revolutionizing human burial/body disposition customs.

It's possible to be very humorous about this subject without being inconsequential; I'm disappointed that Mary Roach's book more the latter than the former. ( )
  theparsley | Mar 24, 2016 |
Cindy Hardin Killavey
  jmail | Mar 21, 2016 |
First, Mary Roach has a terrific sense of humor. She takes a challenging subject and finds ways to make you laugh just when you need it. Her humor is irreverent, but never disrespectful. She can laugh at some of the absurdity, yet still appreciate the pain dying can bring.
This is well written, well researched, and thorough. My one, very minor complaint is with the organization of the book. I feel as though it starts much more strongly than it finishes. So, for example, she might have considered organizing the chapters differently.
I don't think you need a particularly strong stomach to read this book. Only one item actually turned my stomach. But when it did, it *really* did.
The book succeeded in making me think about my own death. It also made me think about my mother's death and made it easier to accept certain events. ...
I hope this book will make you laugh and then think too. ( )
  Sandra_Berglund | Mar 16, 2016 |
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The human head is of the same approximate size and weight as a roaster chicken.
The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. (Introduction)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393324826, Paperback)

"One of the funniest and most unusual books of the year....Gross, educational, and unexpectedly sidesplitting."—Entertainment Weekly

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. They've tested France's first guillotines, ridden the NASA Space Shuttle, been crucified in a Parisian laboratory to test the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and helped solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800. For every new surgical procedure, from heart transplants to gender reassignment surgery, cadavers have been there alongside surgeons, making history in their quiet way.

In this fascinating, ennobling account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries—from the anatomy labs and human-sourced pharmacies of medieval and nineteenth-century Europe to a human decay research facility in Tennessee, to a plastic surgery practice lab, to a Scandinavian funeral directors' conference on human composting. In her droll, inimitable voice, Roach tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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