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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, August - I don’t normally listen to nonfiction, but if the first few chapters of Shocked are any indication, I may have to change my tune. Dr. David Casarett’s Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead will naturally draw many comparisons to Mary Roach’s best-selling listener favorite, Stiff. Dr. Casarett is a hospice doctor, UPenn professor, and an expert in end-of-life care, and in this book, he takes us through all the techniques – new and old, ingenious and bizarre – used to keep people alive. While the topic is not just morbid, but morbidity itself, the author keeps the tone light, the pace quick, and the humor prevalent. David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, called it "heartbreaking," "hilarious," and "important." I’m sure the book will be in good hands with nonfiction narrator extraordinaire Walter Dixon (The Willpower Instinct, Spark), and I’m looking forward to listening to the whole thing. —Chris, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

Not too long ago, there was no coming back from death. But now, with revolutionary medical advances, death has become just another serious complication. As a young medical student, Dr. David Casarett was inspired by the story of a two-year-old girl named Michelle Funk. Michelle fell into a creek and was underwater for over an hour. When she was found she wasn't breathing, and her pupils were fixed and dilated. That drowning should have been fatal. But after three hours of persistent work, a team of doctors and nurses was able to bring her back. It was a miracle. If Michelle could come back after three hours of being dead, what about 12 hours? Or 24? What would it take to revive someone who had been frozen for 1,000 years? And what does blurring the line between "life" and "death" mean for society?

In Shocked, Casarett chronicles his exploration of the cutting edge of resuscitation and reveals just how far science has come. He begins in the 18th century, when early attempts at resuscitation involved public displays of barrel rolling, horseback riding (sort of), and blowing smoke up the patient's various orifices. He then takes us inside a sophisticated cryonics facility in the Arizona desert, a darkroom full of hibernating lemurs in North Carolina, and a laboratory that puts mice into a state of suspended animation. The result is a spectacular tour of the bizarre world of doctors, engineers, animal biologists, and cryogenics enthusiasts trying to bring the recently dead back to life. Fascinating, thought-provoking, and (believe it or not) funny, Shocked is perfect for those looking for a prequel - and a sequel - to Mary Roach's Stiff, or for anyone who likes to ponder the ultimate questions of life and death.

©2014 David Casarett M.D. (P)2014 Gildan Media LLC

Critic Reviews

"Shocked is by turns heartbreaking and hilarious. But more than that, it’s an important book that should force an urgent discussion of the hairline border between alive and dead, and the incredible ethical (and economic) questions we face as technology redraws that boundary." (David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 06-24-16

Dead vs. Sincerely Dead

Who here hasn't had to take a CPR course? Aren't we in an age where we expect life to be extended? "Shocked" takes all of this and explores it one way, turns it on its head another.
This is part Mystery: hunting down early attempts at resuscitation with the Royal Humane Society, hibernation, how the wood frog manages to live (be dead?) in harsh northern winters, and miracles. It's also part Science Fiction: zombie dogs, suspended animation, cryonics, and decapitated heads in a warehouse.
Casarett pursues all avenues, delves into hands-on research with zeal and cheeky good humor. The most gruesome of experiments turns into a laugh out loud moment, tho' you may find yourself cringing, with your toes curling.
I have to admit that my attention did wander a bit when he got into in-depth explanations of the functioning of the heart, cells, mitochondria and such, even though he explains it so simply that even I could understand, but that's my failing and not his. For the most part, this is a truly interesting and entertaining book.
FAIR WARNING: While a lot of the advances in the science of resuscitation come from freak accidents people have, most of it comes from animal experimentation. If you're an animal lover, as I am, you might be appalled. But even I know that the meds I'm on have come at an animal's price. Still, if you're sensitive, this might be a book you want to skip.
But you'll be missing a lot. 'Cause this is a funny, enlightening, and engaging book, delivered with sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes deadpan tones.
By the way, you'll love the bit where he experiments on himself by being strapped chest down on a trotting horse... :)

36 of 42 people found this review helpful

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  • Maureen
  • Elizabeth City, NC, United States
  • 07-08-16

Well Worth It

As a medical social worker for over 25 years I found this book informative and entertaining. I personally saw the sometimes devasting outcomes for patients and their families who opted for too much medical intervention with little understanding or appreciation for the likelihood of a less than positive outcome. As the author points out there have been remarkable advancements in medical care but all interventions are not always successful in every case. Personally, I loved the author's somewhat "sick" sense of humor but I suspect some listener's might be taken aback that anything dealing with death can have humor associated with it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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VERY interesting!

This was a really good book. The reader spoke a bit too quickly for my taste but the subject matter was fascinating.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Shocked

This book makes you realize that death may not be what it appears to be. People that are dead, without breath, pulse or body temperature, come back to life. You realize how much we have learned about the body and death and how much we don't know. Whether people are dead has been a question since medicine was little more than guesswork. Some of what you know or a great deal of what you know may be out of date. I was suprised at many of the things in this book and had some definite learning experiences.

21 of 27 people found this review helpful

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Horribly Categorized. Tremendously crafted.

What made the experience of listening to Shocked the most enjoyable?

the ability of the author to create a narrative out of what is quite a bit of technical medical information is magical. having him sneak that much information into your head while making you titter and smile and cry and cajole is truly the art of writing.

What other book might you compare Shocked to and why?

Bill Bryson's "A Complete History of Nearly Everything". See above box.

Which scene was your favorite?

The account of the most current ingenue of resuscitation. She's currently married to a person she was on a trip with when her "death" occurred. you can google up some youtube videos of her and her spouse if you're curious enough.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Interesting stuff

I found the history fascinating and the science completely engaging, if not a little over my head. The narrator did a fair job of not sounding too much like a doctor despite the fact that the book was very obviously written by one. However, the text was not muddled down in technical terms and the story clipped along at an enjoyable pace. My interest has definitely been captured and it will be exciting to see how this field advances in the next few years.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Dull and dry

I didn't get far before I'd had enough. I probably would have made it farther if the narration wasn't so bad! But not much farther...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Relevant, Educational, Entertaining, & Hysterical

This book takes a deadly serious topic (sorry, I couldn't resist) and inserts so much levity and humor that one cannot help but laugh out loud at parts. David Cassarett, MD has done a brilliant job of taking some highly technical research and breaking it down so it's not only understandable to a layman but so it's funny and entertaining enough to make you enjoy learning it. I had to be careful listening to it around my sleeping infant or my laughter would wake her. The narrator's somewhat deadpan delivery makes it even funnier. I'm so glad I got this as an audiobook and didn't just read it.

If you loved Mary Roach's Stiff, this book is much in the same vein exploring the fine line between dead and REALLY dead and where science has made progress at blurring that line. How dead is too dead exactly? This book will have you scratching your head. He explores not just the science but the financial and ethical implications of answering such a question. But most importantly, he does it with humor and levity and a forward momentum that keeps you invested and interested. I really think most anyone with a sense of humor can really appreciate this book, and anyone with the potential to one day be dead or really dead can find it relevant...so...everyone...really, everyone.

My only word of caution is that there are descriptions of animal testing. The author handles those descriptions with levity and still seems to me to impart due respect to those creatures that gave their lives in the pursuit of science. I am able to insulate my animal-loving mind enough to handle the clinical descriptions and they really are necessary inclusions in the book to help one understand where the science has taken our research related to resuscitation but if you're a PETA member or are super sensitive about such things, you might need to skip this book.

In short, I think this book is nothing short of a brilliant, relevant, and entertaining look into a topic that NEEDS more discussion. Opportunities to learn information like this and have fun and feel entertained while doing so are very few and far between. Even if non-fiction isn't your usual cup of tea, you aren't going to be disappointed with this purchase. And for those that enjoyed Stiff, you're going to LOVE this one. Books like this don't come along very often, don't miss out. Five stars across the board. This one is a gem.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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too much about cryonics

if cryonics we're not discussed so much, I'd give it a better rating. It's still informative though.

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Too repetitive! Same thing shit over and over again.

Overall this book was a waste of time. The author kept saying the same thing over and over again throughout the whole book. There were a few interesting stories but mainly the book was made up mostly of filler. Redundant, redundant, redundant!