Review: Stiff by Mary Roach

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers… 

Here’s the description from the back of the book:
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 our bodies when we are no longer with them.
So obviously this is my perfect book.  If you know me, you know that things like this-books about cadavers-are definitely something I would be drawn to.  You should have seen my mom’s face when I asked for this book specifically for Christmas.  It was blank. Blank!  Because she’s so used to my antics I guess?  Every year around Christmas and my birthday she makes comments about the “types of things I’m interested in”.  I guess I’m weird, but this book is perfect and I loved it.
I’d also like to to take this opportunity to apologize to my coworkers.  I read much of this book at work.  So they had to deal with me laughing out loud and also sharing a plethora of interesting cadaver tidbits for a few days.  Sorry guys!  
In Stiff, Mary Roach delves right into what different uses science has for our bodies after we’ve died.  Many people donate their bodies to science every year.  And while we all know how some of those bodies will eventually be used-in med schools, on research, etc, we don’t always know what types of research they’ll be used for.  Like did you know that the auto industry has human cadaver experiments to see how a real human body will react in certain types of impacts?  I didn’t!
The facts in this book don’t read like a textbook, and that’s because Roach is so good at her job.  She is hilarious!  She makes the most inappropriate jokes and I love it.  But she also knows when to be serious.  
One of my favorite parts was on organ donation.  Which is so important.  We donated my dad’s organs, so what she wrote about the importance of it really resonated with me.  She was completely serious about it and that felt good.  My favorite quotes from the book come from the section on organ donation.  And I’ll leave you with those quotes:
Page 164: To my mind, there is no “greater office” than that of “alleviating the pains of our brothers”-certainly not the office of religious propaganda.  Some people, as we’re about to see, manage to alleviate their brothers’ pains and sufferings while utterly dead.  If there were ever a cadaver eligible for sainthood, it would not be our Spalding Gray upon the cross, it would be these guys: the brain-dead, beating heart organ donors that come and go in our hospitals every day.
Page 195: It is astounding to me, and achingly sad, that with eighty thousand people on the waiting list for donated hearts and livers and kidneys (Side note by me-it’s actually now up to 120,000 people waiting), with sixteen a day dying on that list, that more than half of the people in the position of 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 or own lives, our 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.
I’m not sorry if I’m getting preachy about organ donation.  It’s important so sign up.
I highly recommend this, it is awesome!  Can’t wait to read Gulp, which is sitting on my shelf waiting for me!

Title: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Author: Mary Roach
Date of Publication:
Number of Pages:
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Personal Copy-Christmas gift from my mom!

About Kelly

Hi! My name’s Kelly. I’m a twenty-something gal from Buffalo, NY. Mom to a little dog named Peabody and a slightly evil cat named Archie. Engaged to the best dude ever. I love books and craft beer! I also love all things France and francophone and have a degree in French Language and Literature from Buffalo State College. My blog used to be called Kelly’s France Blog, but I finally decided it needed a change because I wasn’t posting about French things nearly as often as I used to! You can still see all my imported posts on A Book and a Beer, or you can visit my original blog at
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