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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers | [Mary Roach]

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

For two thousand years, cadavers 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.
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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

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Performance
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  •  
    Cynthia Eustis, FL, United States 09-07-09
    Cynthia Eustis, FL, United States 09-07-09 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    29
    5
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Entertaining, but a bit gruesome..."

    It certainly kept my interest... I have rather weird interests. FAR SIDE is my favorite comic, so that kind of tells ya.
    I was disappointed when it ended... I wanted more!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah Cedar Grove, TN United States 08-07-09
    Deborah Cedar Grove, TN United States 08-07-09 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
    43
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    170
    53
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    Overall
    "Grossly interesting"

    Sort of textbook material. Very interesting the different uses for "stiffs". Many subjects very disturbing, but definitely interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jayne 04-23-09
    Jayne 04-23-09
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Great Book!"

    I bought this book with reservations. I wasn't really sure that I wanted to know anything about cadavers or the intimate details of the dead body. But not only was the book informative, it was entertaining. I give a huge amount of credit to Shelly Frasier who narrated the book. Her voice is smooth and the words flow. But the content is remarkable. I definitely recommend this book. If you are uncertain then listen to the preview....you won't be able to resist afterward.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 05-30-08
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 05-30-08 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    516
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    279
    176
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    Overall
    "Different, to say the least"

    While parts of this book are fascinating, too often the author seems to throw in unnecessary gore. After all, did we really need to know that the heads of puppies have been "successfully" (though briefly) transplanted onto the necks of living adult dogs? I think not. That's just one example of her digressions into the gross. Yes, it's mildly interesting, but by the end of the book, I had serious concerns about the author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Ingraham 12-24-07 Listener Since 2005
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    18
    1
    Overall
    "wonderfully, morbidly odd"

    Fantastic dry, wry wit comes through in the reading of this deliciously oddball book about corpses. I did a lot of “Well, huh!” and “No way!” and “Whoa, cool.” And who knew? There are some serious social and environmental issues around corpses, too.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alicia 09-11-07
    Alicia 09-11-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
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    174
    3
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    "Dead right!"

    Inspired by the tv series, 6 feet under, I thought it would be interesting to read about what really happens after we die. The author even discusses our options, from the traditional to the enviromentally friendly. This book lead me through a reflection on what death really means to me and so many others. Facts, gore, and humour, what else could I ask for?!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yordana Sawyer 06-19-07 Member Since 2014
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    REVIEWS
    11
    4
    Overall
    "Very interesting and enjoyable"

    I really enjoyed this book. The author’s light style of writing took a topic that can be difficult to discuss and made it accessible. Although parts of the book were amusing, the tone was always respectful. Very enjoyable and fascinating – made me rethink what I want to do with my body after death.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane Seymour, TN, United States 05-14-07
    Jane Seymour, TN, United States 05-14-07 Member Since 2009
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    64
    5
    Overall
    "Morbidly funny"

    I thought this audiobook was hysterical! As a nurse I learned quite a few answers to questions I was afraid to ask. Provided me with even more respect for the dead and a stronger desire to donate whatever is needed!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zena olympia, WA, USA 05-11-07
    Zena olympia, WA, USA 05-11-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    14
    3
    Overall
    "101 uses for flesh"

    The author has done well with a topic that could well be dead weight. However, I found myself being cautious not to eat during the reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy Bloomfield, MI, United States 03-09-07
    Nancy Bloomfield, MI, United States 03-09-07 Member Since 2007

    Never got to go to a library until the age of 8 ! Since then I have become a book addict. History, biography and fiction all thrill me.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "interesting and funny"

    This book was sugested to me by my son. The premis sounds morbid but I enjoyed every minute. I now want to listen to all of her books.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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