It's a little embarrassing how quickly and how much I got hooked on this book. I started reading it while on the job at a large and well-known bookstoIt's a little embarrassing how quickly and how much I got hooked on this book. I started reading it while on the job at a large and well-known bookstore, then started sneaking back into the psychology section every half hour to snatch a few more minutes of reading time. The next time you can't find a bookseller there, you'll know why. Since I couldn't stop thinking about it, I bought it that night and finished it the next day.
There are some subjects that I can read in big gulps like that, and abnormal psych tends to be one of them. Compulsive hoarding is one of those disorders that has become fairly well-recognized in the past few years, mainly due to Eyewitness specials and the like, and now we can add this book into the mix. That's where the embarrassment comes in, at least for me. Something about bringing mental disorders into the mainstream feels very exploitative, like we're all being invited to a zoo to point and take pictures. Frost makes it very clear that if you are, know, or live with a compulsive hoarder, there is nothing about the disorder that you want brought into the public light.
So much for my excuses. Stuff is a quick read, hard to put down, and really a very even-handed look at compulsive hoarding. Frost is a sympathetic researcher, focusing as much on the struggles and personalities of the hoarders as the disorder itself. He's not altogether averse to the odd "shocker" moment - take the first chapter, for example - but it's a pop psychology book, not a research manual. I knocked off one star from a five-star rating because it did end up feeling a little padded. There are plenty of repetitive sections that could have been trimmed down with a little more editing. On the whole, though, recommended. ...more
This book contains all you ever wanted to know about dead bodies, along with all that you didn't want to know, plus everything you didn't know you wanThis book contains all you ever wanted to know about dead bodies, along with all that you didn't want to know, plus everything you didn't know you wanted to know. Mary Roach asks all of the questions that us laypeople aren't in a position to ask, or are too afraid to Google because if we're ever involved in a murder investigation, the search history would be damning. One of the most interesting parts of all of that is the number of people she interviews with jobs that you never knew existed - like the woman whose job it is to cut off cadavers' heads so cosmetic surgeons can practice on them, or the guy who sets up dead bodies in a lot in different scenarios and examines them at various stages of decomposition to help forensic analysts determine time of death.
Cutting off cadavers' heads sounds gruesome, but apparently the modern-day approach to dead people is positively beatific compared to how they were treated prior to about 1950. There are enough sordid details there to merit several films, two bestellers, and a 60 Minutes expose. In terms of ethics and the humane-ness of it all, I had less trouble with the chapter on cannibalism than I did with the section on head transplants. Her descriptions of multi-headed dogs and disembodied brains almost made me glad for PETA. Almost.
This is the sort of book that you can't look away from - and that's a problem, sometimes. For the love of god, Ms. Roach, stop with the food comparisons! Among the foods that I won't eat for another month at least: chocolate syrup, lasagna, rice grains, cooked rice, chicken soup - any kind of yellow soup, actually, and anything with red sauce. All in all, it's an excellent book, though, with a sense of humor that you're glad of by the third or fourth chapter.
"We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between, we do what we can to forget."
This one sums up the book the best, probably:
"The recipe in Thompson's book for a batch of King Charles' Drops...contained not only Spirit of Skull, but a half a pound of opium and four fingers (the unit of measurement, not the actual digits) of spirit of wine." I love that she has to specify....more