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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

4.2 (5311 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Beverly Benton Harbor, MI, United States 02-07-12
    Beverly Benton Harbor, MI, United States 02-07-12

    bethany dawn

    ratings
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    1
    1
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    "Stiff is not for me"
    Would you try another book from Mary Roach and/or Shelly Frasier?

    probably not, so turned off by the irreverent tone of this one


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    dont know


    What does Shelly Frasier bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    irreverence


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    totally turned off


    Any additional comments?

    was looking for new information on a topic that is not discussed that much and disappointed to find the tone so irreverant.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sue United States 02-07-12
    Sue United States 02-07-12 Member Since 2015
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    42
    3
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    "The narrator is fantastic! A very interesting boo"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Stiff to be better than the print version?

    This book, obviously, covers a gruesome topic, but it is written with a dry, witty tone that actually adds humor to what isn't a humorous topic. The narrator is excellent, and, if you can get past the grossness of the subject matter, the information is fascinating.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Holly 02-03-12
    Holly 02-03-12 Member Since 2012

    Avid reader/listener. I work in/study Design Research at post-graduate level. I crochet, I'm a production potter, and I cook allergen free

    ratings
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    50
    2
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    "Bad Audio..."
    Would you consider the audio edition of Stiff to be better than the print version?

    No, and I say this mainly because the quality of the recording is SO poor it makes it difficult to listen to. The background static and crackly quality make the high end white noise click in and out with the voice and it actually hurts your ears to listen to it in some places.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Shelly Frasier’s performances?

    Her voice is actually quite nice once you get past the horrible recording, so yes. I say this with the caveat that I would listen to a sample to ensure the recording itself was better than this one.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    Diego Rivera's (the artist) cannibalism.


    Any additional comments?

    Perhaps a better vetting of the recordings' qualities?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    NJFirefighter'sGal 02-02-12 Member Since 2016
    ratings
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    6
    4
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    Performance
    Story
    "please get rid of the bald guy headphones icon!"
    Where does Stiff rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    pretty good!!!


    What could Mary Roach have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    not much. That will take a few re-listenings.


    Did Shelly Frasier do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    yes!


    If you could give Stiff a new subtitle, what would it be?

    not sure! so many out there....maybe


    Any additional comments?

    fun, however dark read!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven New Liskeard, Ontario, Canada 01-30-12
    Steven New Liskeard, Ontario, Canada 01-30-12 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An eye opener"

    A good and interesting listen. Provoked thought, stimulated suspicion and often left you jaw-dropped.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    FatherNature 01-30-12
    ratings
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    8
    1
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    "A Physician's Perspective"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Entertaining and informative. Called up memories of gross anatomy lab from med school many years ago. We did treat our donated cadavers with much respect and gratitude for their contribution. Even though much of the material was already familiar to me, I still learned a good bit. Ms. Roach did a good job of covering a broad topic. If you are endowed with general curiosity and not squeamish, this is a good listen.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alison Austin, TX, United States 01-24-12
    Alison Austin, TX, United States 01-24-12 Member Since 2010

    Miss Construed

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    35
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    8
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    "Hmmm...who knew???"

    The first part of the book was great. It then took a bizarre turn for several chapters. It ended well, but those odd chapters kind of spoiled it for me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 01-22-12
    David 01-22-12 Member Since 2017

    Indiscriminate Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2423
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    "A very respectful, reverent look at death - NOT"

    I really enjoyed Mary Roach's more recent book, "Packing for Mars." Roach's shtick seems to be pick a subject that the public has a fascination with, and go write a book about it by interviewing various professionals and asking embarrassing questions. It's not clear whether Roach really is as annoying while interviewing people as she seems to be, or if this is just a little narrative embellishment for the sake of making the book more entertaining, but she seems to revel in making people regret they agreed to talk to her. Especially priests and mortuary directors.

    So, you can't get much more irreverent than writing a pop science book about corpses. In about a dozen chapters, Stiff covers the history and science of, well, dead bodies. Decomposition, putrefaction, mummification, decapitation, embalming, cremation, organ removal, it's all here. Also, cannibalism, cadavers used as crash test dummies and for studying bullet and explosives injuries, and where the corpses and skeletons used in medical schools come from.

    The disposition of dead bodies has been guided for centuries by religious and cultural practices, often based on irrational superstitions or misguided scientific notions, and persists to this day. One wishes everyone could be as flippant about human remains after they've been reduced merely to meat as Mary Roach is, though I'm not sure I'd want her anywhere near my corpse. But this is a pretty interesting book, although if you have a low tolerance for gore and grue, you probably shouldn't read it while eating. Also, if you're one of those people who thinks death is very, very serious and dead bodies shouldn't be joked about, well, the title should warn you that this isn't a book that treats the subject with any degree of solemnity. On the other hand, if you've ever wondered how you'd like your remains disposed of, this book will give you plenty of ideas!

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather whitebird, ID, United States 01-22-12
    Heather whitebird, ID, United States 01-22-12
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    "It was good"
    Would you listen to Stiff again? Why?

    Yeah I would, Im sure I didn't catch everything..


    What did you like best about this story?

    It was really interesting things I didn't know..


    Have you listened to any of Shelly Frasier’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I really enjoyed listening to Shelly Frasier..... I will loook for her again!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bookworm 01-16-12
    Bookworm 01-16-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting material"

    The content of the book is very interesting - different ways a cadaver is used.

    My only complaint is about the author's style. She must have low self esteem because she constantly crowbars comments and/or jokes to show how brave she is, how pushy she is to get interviews, how "sick" she is (yes, I get that you like dead bodies for the 100th time), how well she understands French (please - don't tell a joke in French if you don't translate it), etc. So anticipate a few eye rolls when you listen.

    I loved the content but if you are sensitive to animal abuse, be careful. There are several times when animal experimentation is discussed in detail, with apparently little concern for the animals. The author even makes jokes about this subject which seems very crass. (I'm not sensitive about jokes but it's hard to listen to horrible abuse and then hear a joke after it.)

    I wish the author had let the subject speak for itself and just give the information.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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