- Paperback: 303 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (May 17, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393324826
- ISBN-13: 978-0393324822
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,665 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers 1st Edition
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“This quirky, funny read offers perspective and insight about life, death and the medical profession.... You can close this book with an appreciation of the miracle that the human body really is.”
- Tara Parker-Pope, Wall Street Journal
“A laugh-out-loud funny book... one of those wonderful books that offers up enlightenment in the guise of entertainment.”
- Michael Little, Washington City Paper
“As weird as the book gets, Roach manages to convey a sense of respect and appreciation for her subjects.”
- Roy Rivenburg, Los Angeles Times
“Roach is authoritative, endlessly curious and drolly funny. Her research is scrupulous and winningly presented.”
- Adam Woog, Seattle Times
“Mary Roach is one of an endangered species: a science writer with a sense of humor. She is able to make macabre funny without looting death of its dignity.”
- Brian Richard Boylan, Denver Post
“Roach writes in an insouciant style and displays her métier in tangents about bizarre incidents in pathological history. Death may have the last laugh, but, in the meantime, Roach finds merriment in the macabre.”
- Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
“Acutely entertaining, morbidly fascinating.”
- Susan Adams, Forbes
About the Author
Mary Roach is the author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Her writing has appeared in Outside, Wired, National Geographic, and the New York Times Magazine, among others. She lives in Oakland, California.
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I absolutely love Mary Roach’s writing style! She’s hilarious without being disrespectful, and I can’t imagine anyone being able to write about this subject as well as she does. She keeps the reader engaged and asks the questions we are all curious about. . .well at least the questions I was curious about. This was a fascinating and at times a disturbing read. If you get nauseous easy this may not be the book for you. This may also not be the book for you if you are an animal lover. There are several sections that discuss experiments on animals – the same or similar experiments that are being done on cadavers – that was very difficult for me to read.
It’s a fascinating subject, and one that put Roach on the map – and having read the book, it’s not hard to see why. Done wrongly, the book could seem insensitive, ghoulish, or just depressing. But Roach celebrates these cadavers, reminding the reader just how much has been gained from this research and just how important these bodies have been to not only medicine, but to our society as a whole. At the same time, she never shies away from the discomfort people feel; indeed, one of the most compelling threads in each chapter is discussing with the various people she meets how they manage to maintain a proper emotional balance when they’re working with the dead all the time.
Roach is more of a presence in Stiff than she is in Grunt; it feels like more of a first book, and something she might grow away from as she went. But that also feels like a key part of why the book works; after all, death is a fundamentally personal event, and there’s little way to read Stiff and not spend time thinking about what you would want done with your own remains, be it cremation, burial, donation, or more. And Roach builds her own debate into the book, concluding the book with a chapter that finds her pondering what to do with her own remains, having done all these studies and researches into our possible fates.
But lest that sound too heavy, Stiff is every bit as engaging and fun as you would hope from Roach’s reputation. Her digressive footnotes and odd asides are still evident, her willingness to ask questions no less charming, and her ability to bring a light tone to even heavy subject matters no less welcome. More than that, she finds depth and thoughtfulness to discuss beyond what you would expect, to the point where you get the impression that she could write a whole second book about bodies and never run out of things to say. That she does all this while being incredibly informative, demonstrating a gift for conveying complex things quickly, and managing to even tell stories, is just testament to her skills as a writer, and the deservedness of her reputation.
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