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Editorial 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.

Critic Reviews

  • 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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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    2,602
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  • 3 Stars
    849
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Performance

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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  • 3 Stars
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    120
  • 1 Stars
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  • Overall
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what a surprise!

I bought this book for $4.95 after reading the synopsis. It was much better than I expected, and well read. I've since passed it on to others. Thanks Audible!

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Fascinating!

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

Mary Roach asks all of the questions that I would ask and gets the answers! It's very satisfying for someone with a lot of curiosity and not a lot of squeamishness!

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

All you ever wanted to know about cadavers

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

Roach has a wonderfully dry, witty tone to her writing, and that is perfectly interpreted by the seen-it-all delivery of the narrator. My only quibble is the narrator's repeated mispronunciation of

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

I haven't heard her before this, but I'll look forward to more.

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Loved This Book!

I absolutely loved this book. I thought it was entertaining, enlightening, and full of all kinds of fun facts that sent my squeamish husband running for cover! It certainly appealed to my morbid curiosity! The narrator did a fantastic job reading the book with a sense of humor where appropriate. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about what happens behind the scenes to make our lives more comfortable and safe.

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  • Jeffrey
  • Kitchener, ON, Canada
  • 03-14-12

Funny and informative

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

I enjoyed the care and respect she brought to a sensitive topic while adding humor in appropiate places.

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  • nicole
  • LAS VEGAS, NV, United States
  • 03-09-12

Could not stop listening

Would you listen to Stiff again? Why?

I really enjoyed this book. I love her sense of humor concering the topics. It really had me wanting more.

  • Overall
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Making dead people interesting again!

What can I say? I LOVE Mary Roach!! Ever since I read her columns in Readers Digest, I've been hooked on her! Just when you think you are going to lose it over some gory detail, in comes the wit. I lost count of the outburts of laughter. Good thing I was in the car. I had no interest in the topic of dead bodies, but since it was Mary, I gave it a shot. I learned more than I ever expected to and had fun along the way!

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  • Eyrene
  • Portland, OR, United States
  • 02-29-12

Fascinating

Where does Stiff rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

A very interesting book. Not top of the pile, but definitely a good one.

What did you like best about this story?

It seems an odd subject to research, so it's quite a fascinating one.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, I could pause it for other things, but I did enjoy coming back to it.

Any additional comments?

As expected, it's not the most pleasant of topics at times, but it was undoubtedly interesting, even with the potential queasy factor.

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  • Kayla
  • United States
  • 02-22-12

An interesting read, can get a bit dry at moments

Where does Stiff rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It was an interesting read, but not one of my favorites. It dragged on at times and I had to keep urging myself to keep listening

What did you like best about this story?

I loved the early, sordid history of cadavers, that was why I originally got the book, for research into the history of human dissection for a class.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Strange but entertaining

If you could sum up Stiff in three words, what would they be?

Strange but entertaining

What did you like best about this story?

Great reader; weird facts

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

Wonderful inflections....added to the humor which is needed with the subject!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No

Any additional comments?

Not for the squeamish