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Stiff Audiobook

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

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Audible Editor Reviews

Mary Roach unzips the body bag and tells us far more than we thought we wanted to know about what happens to our bodies after we pass away. And yet somehow, she makes you want to know even more. It's like watching something repulsive but fascinating through cracks in the fingers you placed over your eyes so you wouldn't see. The author takes a deliberately humorous, academic tone as she describes these fascinating atrocities, and Shelly Frasier mirrors the author's tone perfectly. That very dry humor pervades the entire book; never cynical or condescending, never adolescent or tasteless, and it makes what could be a ghastly, repellent subject surprisingly upbeat and entertaining. Despite all that, we can't recommend that you listen to this audio book with a bunch of 11- or 12-year-old girls in the car with you, unless you enjoy hearing "Eeeew - gross!" squealed in a high-pitched voice over and over again. To some, that would be a fate worse than...well, death.

Publisher's Summary

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.

©2003 Mary Roach; (P)2003 Tantor Media, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Alex Award Winner, 2004

"Uproariously funny....informative and respectful...irreverent and witty....impossible to put down." (Publishers Weekly)
"Not grisly but inspiring, this work considers the many valuable scientific uses of the body after death." (Library Journal)
"One of the funniest and most unusual books of the year." (Entertainment Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (4962 )
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  •  
    Linda 11-11-12
    Linda 11-11-12 Member Since 2014
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    "I worked with cadavers for years, but...."

    I've worked with cadavers, I've dissected them, taught students from them, studied from them. I've learned to appreciate the incredible gift of body donation. There is NOTHING that can take the place of actual human cadavers for the study of the human body. It was entertaining to hear a non-medical person's point of view and the author's warped sense of humor was for the most part entertaining. I read the paperback book, and then a few years later I listened to the audiobook. The narration was excellent in portraying what I believe to be the authors intended tone and voice, however her constant mispronounced terminology will probably be very distracting at first, if not down-right irritating. After you get used to the mispronouncing of words, the listener can begin to hear the tale. BUT WARNING, this book is not for the weak at heart. The author uses graphic descriptions of how human bodies have been used to further knowledge of medical science, automobile safety, organ transplantation and even effectiveness of bullet proof vests worn by our armed forces. At first the jovial tone of the book seemed disrespectful since as a student I was warned that any conversation that was inappropriate or disrespectful of my cadaver would earn me a failing grade and dismissal from the course. I suspect the cavalier, jovial tone of writing is what makes the subject palatable for the layman.
    All in all, an excellent book with great information that will hopefully change people's mind on the importance of organ donation and how critical body donation is to science. As people come to understand this,perhaps doors will open and opposition will end so that more studies can be done to increase our knowledge base. Perhaps some may even consider personally donating their body to science.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul 08-20-10
    Paul 08-20-10 Member Since 2015

    I like books that have interesting characters and easy to follow plots. For example, Cormoran Strike, is a great character for me.

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    "Simultaneously repulsive and fascinating"

    I enjoyed this book thoroughly. There were parts that were so repulsive that I almost had to stop listening but I persevered and was rewarded with one of the funniest, fascinating books I've ever listened to. The reader was particularly good. She captured the dark humor side of the book. How can we go wrong when a book lists the most common ways of testing a corpse for truly being dead including a red-hot poker up the butt?

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim 07-31-07
    Jim 07-31-07
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    "Simply Superb!"

    I work for a hospital and although I personally don't come across any cadavers in the course of my job, there's always something in the back of my mind which quietly reminds me that there aren't just "alive" people here in the hospital; there are some dead ones in the building, as well.

    I normally would not have purchased/read a book about cadavers. However, the reviews out there on the Internet convinced me to take a chance on this book.

    This book is superb in every way!

    Mary Roach did an enormous amount of research before writing this book, and she fills it with not just tons of factual information, from Medieval times through modern day, but she presents it with a subdued, dry wit which made this book not only informative, but also hilarious.

    I listened to this audiobook on my way to and from work for an entire week, and the following Monday I found myself wishing that Mary Roach had more audiobooks available on anything scientific, as she has to be one of the most informative, yet funny science writers I've ever come across.

    I feel that this book deserves a 5-star rating. It is simply superb!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephanie Orlando, FL, USA 05-27-04
    Stephanie Orlando, FL, USA 05-27-04
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    "fascinating introduction to a macabre subject"

    i admit it. i watch CSI religiously. i like forensics shows. so this book would appeal to me. but mary roach does a fantastic job of not only delving into areas most of us would go to great pains to avoid, but also addressing the moral and ethical issues of such topics as organ donation and the use of cadavers in research. i learned a lot, the reading is well done, and the writing is done in a very accessible, even entertaining style. highly recommended.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vira Pretoria, South Africa 05-09-13
    Vira Pretoria, South Africa 05-09-13 Member Since 2016
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    "What it means to be an organ donor"

    This is not some macabre book about corpses, dead bodies and things that scratch your door in the dead of night. Not at all. Instead, its a book written in journalistic style, always respectfully, which brings to light knowledge which is not easily available. Its a topic we'd rather not approach, until we suddenly need to. And this stuff is not only interesting, but some of it is also useful and good to know. Also easy to understand and very accessible.

    The body is regarded as a vehicle which we all at some stage will leave behind, and which then needs to be disposed of. The question is, whether we do so with a more emotive mindset, or alternatively, a more helpful one.

    Its about how much the dead have already helped the living, and a sense of gratitude pervades the writing. Its given me a much broader outlook towards organ donation, which I always thought was only for students in anatomy labs. But its more. Much more.

    There's a fair amount of historical background, and info about what other cultures have done in other ages. Some gruelling stuff there.

    Finally, Ms Roach presents some of the latest "disposal" technologies, such as composting (mostly in Sweden) and liquefication (I forget the exact terminology). This is news to me.

    Overall, a sensitive and extremely well-written, interesting expose of what happens behind closed doors. Lots to think about.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Helen Brooklyn, NY, United States 05-08-13
    Helen Brooklyn, NY, United States 05-08-13 Member Since 2012
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    "loved it."
    Would you listen to Stiff again? Why?

    Yes. I loved the story. however I think I missed some chapters while I was doing other things, would like to listen again to see what I missed


    What did you like best about this story?

    The details and humors. Was like having a chat with a close friend who has totally different profession than mine.


    What about Shelly Frasier’s performance did you like?

    Was easy to listen and very lively.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Pearson Idaho 02-11-12
    E. Pearson Idaho 02-11-12 Member Since 2008

    Occasional Thinker

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    "Mesmerizing"

    One of the best books I've read in a long time, particulartly because it is "scientific" and nonfictiobn. Roach is so clearly fascinated by her subject that she draws her readers into her explorations through sheer enthusiasm. There are gory bits to this book, but they are so well-handled and necessary to the movement of the narrative that the reader can do nothing but squeal in horror and giggle onward. All goriness is, in my opinion, necessary to the study of the subject, and the study of such a subject has universal appeal beccause it is, after all, about us. Fantastic research, excellent narrative. I can't imagine any reader regretting this book as an enlightening read.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sher from Provo Utah 12-04-11
    Sher from Provo Utah 12-04-11 Member Since 2015

    Tired teacher. That is, REtired teacher.

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    "Gruesome, but not gory"

    This is a very well written and informative book. It is gruesome at times, but not gory. I had the distinct impression as I read the first chapter, however, that I would throw up before finishing the book. I don't throw up easily, but I have on occasion thrown up after hearing about some traumatic situation. Well, I made it through this book without throwing up . . . but I finally had to unleash it the next day.

    With all that, is it worth reading this book? I definitely think so. I learned so much! There are so many interesting things to learn from dead bodies if we are willing to do it. But absolutely don't read it if you are queasy or have a sensitive stomach.

    I liked the narrator a lot, but thought she could have used a little more of a sense of humor. This book was really funny in parts, but the humor was often lost because of the deadpan delivery of the narrator. Still, she is a good narrator, just not my favorite.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve Massachusetts, USA 11-18-11
    Steve Massachusetts, USA 11-18-11 Member Since 2011
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    "What Happens When You Die?"

    Have you ever wondered what happens to bodies when they die? Maybe not, but believe me it's probably a lot more interesting than you think.

    Mary Roach does a great job of describing just how much we've been able to learn from our fallen ancestors. Dissections have helped transform many surgeries from a painful nightmare into a high-probability savior. Decomposition tests have provided crime scene investigators with new techniques to use when tracking down a criminal. Car manufacturers have used dead bodies to make automobiles safer for the living. The list goes on and on.

    Things are not always pretty in cadaver land however, and Mary Roach does a great job of covering the darker aspects of this topic as well. You'll learn about body snatching, cannibalism, head transplants, vivisection, and lots of other gory details. This audiobook is not for the squeamish - fair warning! I'm not a very squeamish person, but I was squirming during some of the more descriptive sections. If you have trouble with stuff like this - don't listen while driving!

    Shelly Frasier does a great job with the narration of Stiff. At first her somewhat quirky voice took a bit of getting used to for me, but Stiff is a quirky book and it really fits perfectly.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ice Cream Zombie 09-08-11

    Zombicat

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    "Great Writing and Great Narration!"

    Great Writing and Great Narration!

    Mary Roach writes with such captivating style I loved this book but wow, Shelly Frasier narrates with personality and character ... on many occassions, I forgotten this was an audiobook, to me her narration was great and natural. Beforehand, I've read the book twice but the audiobook adds so much more to what I had previously read and I heard alot of new material I didn't really retain during my earlier readings. Lately, I've returned to this book and begun to reread it more thoroughly and there is a difference.

    There are two things I've pro'd: Great Writing and Great Narration!

    One, I enjoyed this book that I'm going to collect and read Mary R's series.
    Two, Shelly Frasier is awesome and I'll definitely pick audiobooks narrated by her.

    ... Cons, to me there aren't any.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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