Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stiff by Mary Roach

Stiff by Mary Roach
2004, W. W. Norton & Company

Synopsis: 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. 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.

Why read: I loved Roach's other novel, Bonk.

What impressed me: Roach really researches the hell out of her subjects, always shocking readers with the depth of information she comes up with. Stiff is no different, informing of every conceivable aspect of the body after death, peppered with sick moments, funny moments and more often a combination of the two.

What disappointed me: There was a little more of a historical aspect to Stiff than I would have been interested in, but given the subject matter there really is only so much you can learn about today without taking a good long look at history.

Recommended: Yes. While cadavers weren't as entertaining to me as sex, this was still an amazing book.

No comments :

Post a Comment