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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

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4.05  ·  Rating details ·  142,566 Ratings  ·  11,467 Reviews
Stiff is 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. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of ou ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published 2004 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2003)
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Becky K I've just started it, but the author says she's a journalist. I'm taking that to mean she did not work on the bodies, but wrote it based on research,…moreI've just started it, but the author says she's a journalist. I'm taking that to mean she did not work on the bodies, but wrote it based on research, observation opportunities, and interviews.(less)

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Trevor
Sep 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
If you can’t cope with the idea of death without a hearty dose of euphemism – this probably isn’t going to be the book for you.

When I became an archivist at the City of Melbourne a very dear friend of mine became a technician at the city Morgue. I figured at the time he had watched a couple of episodes too many of Quincy M.E. and that he would find a normal job eventually. It is probably 15 years since I stopped being an archivist – my friend still cuts up dead people for a living.

A few weeks a
...more
Dan Schwent
Mary Roach writes about what happens when you donate your body to science. Hilarity ensues. Well, maybe not hilarity but it is a good dose of edutainment.

Way back around the time the earth's crust cooled and life spread across the planet, late 1994 or early 1995, I should think, I visited a chiropractic college with the rest of my Advanced Biology class. This trip was memorable to me for three reasons:
1) It was the first time I experienced an excruciating caffeine withdrawal headache
2) It was th
...more
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Omg and Grossness! I made the mistake of trying to eat a bit while reading this! Just no!



And then a part where they talk about left over skin being used for wrinkle stuff and something to do with penises. I didn't even look up the word they used. Although, now, if a penis was ever whipped out somewhere, I would have to wonder if that penis had something to do with cadaver skin!



I did have to skip over stuff due to my ewww reflex. But there is a lot of stuff I learned that I had no idea about. T
...more
Tung
Jan 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
In my nonfiction phase during the year, I grabbed this one and after finishing it, regretted its purchase. The book is about medical use of corpses and the human body, present-day and in the past. The subject matter is extremely interesting, and some of the methods, tests, and history behind human body experiments is worth the read. The book makes you want to be an organ donor, or want to donate your body to medical science. The problem is that the author is one of the WORST writers I have ever ...more
Will Byrnes
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Laugh out loud funny is the way to go if you want to learn more than you realized might be worth knowing about dead bodies. It made me greatly disposed to finding out what else Roach has written, before I become a subject for studies like this one.

And here are reviews of what we found:
-----Grunt
-----Gulp
-----Packing for Mars
-----Spook
Matthew
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First read of 2017 complete! It was a good one - 4.5 stars.

Who knew that a book about what happens to our bodies after we die could be so interesting. This book covers everything to the horrific to the incredibly fascinating. This book may not be for the squeamish, but I think Roach did a great job combining information and humor in a respectful manner to make it more easily accessible to a wider audience.

I recently helped to prepare a funeral plan for my Mother. She is still alive, but it was s
...more
Kemper
Mary Roach details a lot of uses for human cadavers in this book, but she missed a major one. As Weekend At Bernies taught us, you can always use the corpse of your boss to scam your way into a free weekend at a beach house. That scientific research is all well and good, but there’s nothing in here at all about the best ways to simulate a life like corpse for your own selfish purposes. I learned more from Andrew McCarthy than I did reading this!

Ah, but seriously folks… This is the second book I’
...more
Miranda Reads
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, touching and surprisingly wholesome considering it's about dead bodies
Many people will find this book disrespectful. There is nothing amusing about being dead, they will say.

Ah, but there is.
Mary Roach brings cadavers into a whole new, sometimes painfully bright, light. We follow her as she attends autopsies and medical discussions. We learn what happens to bodies as they decompose on the field, under the field and in so, so many places.
The way I see it, being dead is not terri
...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

“Cadavers are our superheroes: They brave fire without flinching, withstand falls from tall buildings and head-on car crashes into walls. You can fire a gun at them or run a speedboat over their legs, and it will not faze them. Their heads can be removed with no deleterious effect. They can be in six places at once.”

If you know me, you already know that I have a different sort of relationship with the dead. You know, the kind where y
...more
Jay Green
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm a compulsive buyer of Mary Roach's books. Part of the reason is research for my own books, of course, part of it is fascination, thanks to her astute choice of subjects, and part of it is simply enjoyment, derived from her clear prose and tales well told. In this case, I read Stiff just after my father passed away, so I was trying to make sense of his loss while trying to come to terms with the brute reality of death. It helped a great deal, as I anticipated it would, largely down to Roach's ...more
Raeleen Lemay
Read for Popsugar's 2018 Reading Challenge #48: A Microhistory

This book was so wonderfully written, and I definitely look forward to reading more of Mary Roach's books. She was concise and easy to understand while also being HILARIOUS which I wasn't expecting. I will say though, the book dragged quite a bit around the middle (two chapters back to back that didn't interest me at all) to the point that I almost considered putting the book down. This is completely a testament to my personal prefere
...more
Amanda NEVER MANDY
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A while back I told my husband I really wanted to read this book. I went on and on about how it received great reviews and at the time he seemed extremely interested.

Let’s pause right here so I can explain his levels of interest and how to read them:

NOT INTERESTED – Changes subject at end of the convo and/or walks away.

KIND OF INTERESTED – Nods at end of the convo like he might have listened.

INTERESTED – Brief eye contact and a nod or two during the convo.

EXTREMELY INTERESTED – Total eye contact
...more
Lissa
Sep 26, 2007 rated it liked it
I bought this book when I first taught my class that has a foresnic anthropology component. I thought I could pick out a chapter of this book to assign to them, and it would be a nice, informative, lay-person account that would be entertaining, yet informational. However, due to time constraints, I never got around to reading the book. In that time, several people have borrowed and returned this book to me, so my copy is a bit tattered and dog-eared, as if I'd read it many times. I can safely sa ...more
Becky
There was not a single zombie in this whole book!!

Mary Roach writes books about some interesting topics. This is the one that most interested me, though on finishing I realized that I also had "Packing For Mars," which I think will likely get read sooner rather than later, now that I've finally got around to reading one of her books and have really enjoyed her style. She brings a bit of levity and a healthy sense of the absurd to topics that most of us can go a full lifetime avoiding even thinki
...more
Lynx
Oct 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Loved this one! Mary Roach brings enjoyment to the macabre in this extremely educational book. Everything you wanted (and some things you didn't want to) know about the life of a cadaver. Packed with laugh-out-loud humour and interesting facts on every page, you'll be sad as it reaches the end. So check this book out and learn all about the exciting life your own body could have after death!
Jim
In spite of the macabre topic, Mary Roach must have had a ball doing her footwork for this book. Not happy to glean her information from published sources, Mary travelled extensively to conduct her research, and had doors opened for her that I doubt get opened very often. Let's face it, when your job requires you to work with the dead the average Joe already thinks you're a ghoul, so it follows that you would be very cautious about allowing someone, a reporter no less, to observe you at your wor ...more
Erica
I really ought to have read this sooner. I'm not sure what happened and why it took me so long to get this information into my brain.

This is a book about what happens to dead bodies. It's an older title and some of the information therein has changed (Spoiler alert: there are now six? body farms in the US, I think. And the Swedish lady has not been as instrumental as hoped in burying the dead via compost, more's the pity because I totally want to compost myself! There is currently, however, a wo
...more
Athena
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was ok
Well, I am half way through this and it has turned into a huge disappointment. What started out to be a funny depiction on what happens to donated cadavers, has taken a turn for the horrible. By the 6th or 7th chapter, the author showed what I can only equate to laziness and added commentary on subjects not pertaining to her once appreciated topic. I now find myself skipping over entire pages due to the lack of interest her writing presents and the tangents on which she goes; this I image done f ...more
Karlyflower *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)*


R, is for Roach

3.5 Stars

HUM-ANE: adjective: humane; comparative adjective: humaner; superlative adjective: humanest
1. having or showing compassion or benevolence. "regulations ensuring the humane treatment of animals"

synonyms: compassionate, kind, considerate, understanding, sympathetic, tolerant;


How is it that a species with a history ripe with abuse and mistreatment of animals has come to use a word so similar to that species title to describe the very thing history proves us not to be?! A
...more
Jennifer
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science, 2017
4.5*

After giving this some more thought I’ve added to this review. Additions are in bold.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the body when it dies? Or how cadavers donated to science are used? Have you ever wondered if embalming keeps your body from ever decaying? These are just a few of the questions covered in this book.

I absolutely love Mary Roach’s writing style! She’s hilarious without being disrespectful, and I can’t imagine anyone being able to write about this subject as well as she
...more
Mindy
Mary Roach didn't strike me as funny or witty, just annoying. She's like the wise ass class clown in the back row, heckling the teacher and distracting everyone from an otherwise fairly decent lecture. Only she's supposed to be the teacher, too. What was her point? To talk about dead bodies or impress herself with her own juvenile jokes?

On a professional note, Roach seems awfully distrustful of librarians. Does she really think the circ clerk at a medical library thinks she's freaky for checkin
...more
Richard
Oct 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Folks curious about odd stuff, tolerant of goof-ball humor, and not too squeamish.
Shelves: nonfiction
Opening paragraph:
The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much happens, and nothing is expected of you.
If you read this book, you will undoubtedly have many “ick” moments (especially in the chapter about eating the dead, but there’s also that footnote about necrophilia on page 43...), but you should have even more laugh-out-loud moment, and maybe
...more
Andrea
Last year my man and I visited Calgary on our way to the mountains and spontaneously decided to check out the Body Worlds exhibit in the local science museum. Because, you know, hanging out with human cadavers for a few hours is our idea of a romantic outing. The majority of the exhibit was exceptionally fascinating and educational, and considering the subject, not too outlandish, until we reached the curtained room that illustrated human reproduction and sexuality. Here we were, with a bunch of ...more
Vanessa
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stiff is a book that really educated me, in terms of a topic that I was wholly unfamiliar with. Gone are the days when I thought that bodies were either donated to universities, cremated, or buried - there are SO MANY MORE OPTIONS.

This book was both a fascinating and gruesome read. Although I wouldn't say I am the most squeamish of people, I did find myself screwing up my face in disgust at particular sections of this book (*cough*cannabalism*cough*). I wouldn't recommend it for people that are
...more
Meg
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Morbid and tongue-in-rancid-cheek funny nonfiction piece about what happens to a body when it's donated to science. From shaving off their faces for plastic surgery training to strapping them in for automobile crash tests, these stiff bodies are in for one hell-on-earth of a ride. The most curious thing? Even after hearing how they're poked and prodded, desecrated and dismembered, I actually think I'm more likely to donate my body to science now than I was before reading this book. Not sure I wa ...more
Caroline
Jul 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caroline by: Will Byrnes
Shelves: science
Eeeek! Too much information for my squeamish stomach. I know Mary Roach has thousands of fans, but I found her relishing of gruesome details a bit unpleasant.

I also found the chapters dealing with the historical treatment of cadavers more interesting than the chapters on how they are used now. I thought some of the chapters on contemporary usage were a bit boring, and could have been edited down.

The titles of the chapters of the book give a good indication of the contents. (view spoiler)
...more
Fiona
Nov 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fiona by: TNBBC
I'd never heard about this book before until it came up within a non-book related discussion topic in a group here on GoodReads. Strange how some books just pop out at you. Reading about cadavers - dead bodies, interested my morbid fascination with the dead and death.

She writes sensitively, but humorously about what happens to you when you die. If you are considering donating organs or your whole body to science - like I was before even picking this book up, curious, or a family member wants to
...more
Kasia
Feb 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Morbid humor supported by extensive research = my kind of read. Now, how do I make Mary Roach my eternal BFF?
Carmen
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Wow, this book was very informative. I learned about practicing surgery on the dead. I wonder if people who donate their body to science know they might end up as practice for a face-lift?

Body snatching and other sordid tales from the dawn of human dissection – interesting.

On human decay and what can be done about it – interesting.

Human crash test dummies and the ghastly, necessary science of impact tolerance – very interesting.

When the bodies of the passengers must tell the story of a crash
...more
Jill
May 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: the morbidly curious
Recommended to Jill by: Metafilter.com
Stiff, by Mary Roach, is a book about human cadavers and the curious situations they find themselves in. Well, they didn't find themselves in any situation. They are dead bodies. But Mary Roach found them and this book is the result.

While reading this book I paused at halfway and actually asked myself if I wanted to bother finishing it. I have never found myself asking myself this before. I usually stick it out to the bloody, gruesome end. This book, however, just was not interesting. It was not
...more
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7,191 followers
Mary Roach is the author of the New York Times bestsellers STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; GULP: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, PACKING FOR MARS: The Curious Science of Life in the Void; and BONK: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex.

Her most recent book, GRUNT: The Curious Science of Humans at War, is out in June 2016.

Mary has written for National Geographic, Wired, Discover
...more
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“The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you.” 179 likes
“It is astounding to me, and achingly sad, that with eighty thousand people on the waiting list for donated hearts and livers and kidneys, with sixteen a day dying there on that list, that more then half of the people in the position H's family was in will say no, will choose to burn those organs or let them rot. We abide the surgeon's scalpel to save our own lives, out loved ones' lives, but not to save a stranger's life. H has no heart, but heartless is the last thing you'd call her.” 99 likes
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