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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Average Rating 4.5
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(303)

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(45)

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(11)

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(9)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

26 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

On A More Serious Note...

My most difficult decision came in 1961 when my husband and I donated our full term, first born, anencephalic baby, for scientific research. The doctors said everything was perfect except it had a profoundly absent brain. They knew very little because it was...
My most difficult decision came in 1961 when my husband and I donated our full term, first born, anencephalic baby, for scientific research. The doctors said everything was perfect except it had a profoundly absent brain. They knew very little because it wasn't a common occurrence, and was even less common to get an opportunity to studying it in depth. They told us that anencephally occurs very early in pregnancy, was caused by nothing we could control, had never happened to the same woman twice, that the baby couldn't perform rudimentary life supporting functions, death was imminent, and last rites were performed in the delivery room. Both a nun and a doctor asked us to consider releasing the body for scientific research. Feeling that if I could help prevent another, even if just one, new mother from feeling this kind of hurt, then our experience wouldn't be in vain. So when the baby expired, I immediately turned it's body over for research and I gave as much as I could to the March of Dimes. I did these things in hopes that another woman would not have to face what I had. I've cried many times because some people either didn't understand or thought my decision implied I didn't love or want my baby with all my heart, but I know I made the right decision. After having read Mary Roach's book I am convinced she has insight regarding the need to help others in a way that I do, one that is still not readily accepted nor talked about nearly enough. I do think the last chapter was a bit weaker than the rest of the book and although I love humor, the last part should have ended on a more serious note.

posted by Anonymous on August 18, 2003

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Interesting story, poorly written/edited

I could not believe the number of grammatical errors in this book. How did it get past an editor? It was very interesting though and I enjoyed reading it.

posted by 5847694 on September 22, 2012

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Page 1 of 26
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2003

    On A More Serious Note...

    My most difficult decision came in 1961 when my husband and I donated our full term, first born, anencephalic baby, for scientific research. The doctors said everything was perfect except it had a profoundly absent brain. They knew very little because it wasn't a common occurrence, and was even less common to get an opportunity to studying it in depth. They told us that anencephally occurs very early in pregnancy, was caused by nothing we could control, had never happened to the same woman twice, that the baby couldn't perform rudimentary life supporting functions, death was imminent, and last rites were performed in the delivery room. Both a nun and a doctor asked us to consider releasing the body for scientific research. Feeling that if I could help prevent another, even if just one, new mother from feeling this kind of hurt, then our experience wouldn't be in vain. So when the baby expired, I immediately turned it's body over for research and I gave as much as I could to the March of Dimes. I did these things in hopes that another woman would not have to face what I had. I've cried many times because some people either didn't understand or thought my decision implied I didn't love or want my baby with all my heart, but I know I made the right decision. After having read Mary Roach's book I am convinced she has insight regarding the need to help others in a way that I do, one that is still not readily accepted nor talked about nearly enough. I do think the last chapter was a bit weaker than the rest of the book and although I love humor, the last part should have ended on a more serious note.

    26 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2010

    Weird! I never knew that...

    That's what you'll be saying the entire time you're reading the book. Yes, it is a nonfiction and it can get a little bit long at some points; but if you stick with it you'll learn so many cool facts the average joe could've never imagined. It answers all those questions you were asking yourself at the last familial funeral. It cures all the curiosities of death, its history, and its future. It is a book that everyone should read at least once! It was the book that helped me decide I wanted to become a pathologist. It was so fascinating and weird I didn't want to put the book down!!

    15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The things you can do with a dead body

    This book was about the author travling to different parts of the world to understand what people do with different parts of a dead body. This book is full of information and fun, but weird, facts. I enjoyed reading this book because I learned more from it then I thought I was going to. One thing that I found interesting was how people's cells can still react to their emotions even when they are not in the body. They did an experiment where they took some siliva from a patient. They then analyze the cells and how they reacted with the emotions from the patient. Later, the patient was 50 miles away from the lab and was watching a horror movie. The cells still reacted to his emotions even from being that far apart. To me that seemed pretty amazing and is one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading this book. Overall, this was a fun and exciting book to read and I recommened it to anyone who's curious about the human body.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    AFTER READING PACKING FOR MARS, I HAD TO CHECK OUT THIS AUTHOR'S OTHER BOOKS....

    After reading Roach's PACKING FOR MARS, I had to check out other books of hers. I'm so glad I did! She can take a challenging subject and find ways to make you laugh out loud. Her humor is bold, but not disrespectful. She can laugh at the absurdity, yet still appreciate the pain dying brings. She must be a joy to live with!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    Funny and Entertaining

    I'm not sure how those who don't work in the health care industry will like this book, but if you do (or if you just have a general curiosity of how cadavers have benefited the art of medical science) then you will definately enjoy this book. It was also interesting to learn how cadavers have helped us learn more about automobile safety and forensics. I definately would recommend this book to anyone who just wants to learn a little bit more about what actually happens to your body when you decide to dontate your remains.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2003

    I Thought I'd Die

    This book is so good I thought I'd die laughing with it in my hands. As a retired nurse and author myself, I was researching the shelves for new listings by genre. I hadn't come in expecting to buy a book at all, but I'm glad I did. My career never made me want to leave my entire body for research but this book did. I found scads of information, both new and historical, regarding the study of human anatomy, how research and medical techniques are developed, all within the pages of the book, nestled between hilarious but straightforward comments. I'm definitely a better conversationalist after having read it, and I gained a lot of scientific knowledge I never learned in school. I now know the soul can be measured and I think I know just where it resides and why. Mary Roach's writing style makes a dreadful subject much more interesting than you can imagine. As an extra bonus, the fear of death is dispelled.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2010

    Read it more than once.

    What a wonderfully fascinating book! The material is informative and Mary Roach adds her own off beat observations. She makes a rather gruesome topic fun.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Awesome Book!

    Read it! I keep finding myself reciting facts that I have learned in this book in interesting conversation!

    One of my favorites!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2009

    Reading it twice

    I love this book. It is funny, intrigueing and insightful. Mary Roach is a great writer, she makes it easy to read. I love this book so much that I am reading it for the second time now. I let a friend borrow it and they loved it. If you can handle knowing what happens to your body after your soul is gone then you will have no problem reading this book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2014

    Pleasant, Considering the Subject Matter

    I bought this book after visiting a Bodies exhibit it really is an illuminating peek into the world of corpses and cadaver research.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 13, 2014

    In Stiff, author Mary Roach explores the many uses of human cada

    In Stiff, author Mary Roach explores the many uses of human cadavers throughout history--from ancient Egypt to the modern anatomy lab. As a medical student, I frequently get asked about my interaction with cadavers, and there seems to be a curiosity among the general public about what happens to the body after death. This book borders on the edge of “too much information,” if you’re a squeamish reader. However, I was impressed with the author’s descriptions of each scenario. The book was inevitably scientific, but Ms. Roach does an excellent job of simplifying the technicalities for readers who are unfamiliar with the science. At times, I felt the book lagged and was tedious to get through, but there were also many passages that were both interesting and/or lighthearted. Fair warning: this book *is* graphic at times and may not be for all readers. BUT I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in “the curious life of human cadavers.”

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2012

    Interesting story, poorly written/edited

    I could not believe the number of grammatical errors in this book. How did it get past an editor? It was very interesting though and I enjoyed reading it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2010

    WEIRD AND INTERESTING!

    I have to admit the reading of this book was so weird! At the same time you can learn a lot about what can happens to you after you die and the ANY options you have to consider to take "care" of your cadaver if you donate youself to science....

    Kudos for the author for writing about the subject!

    I specially liked the references and stories of past centuries dealing with corpses...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2010

    Funny, Compelling, Rich

    I had three copies of this book - at different times - loaned them out and have never gotten them back as they have been passed along for others to read, marvel at and be amused.

    This is one of the books I would want to be shipwrecked with - not only for its value while I'm alive but so I could ponder my condition once the insects and animals had their way with my remains and the cadaver dogs found me.

    Interesting, gruesome and totally a good, good read. (Don't NOT READ the footnotes - they are as compelling as the text)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2003

    Impressed

    I enjoyed the technicality w/ which the book was written. I also liked the humor -mostly the comparisions of day-to-day items. However what impressed me the most is Author Roach's approach to the subject. There are points when I'd wrinkle my noise and think...NO WAY! I can't believe she just explained that, but she follows through with the same human reaction that I had. Whether it be surprise or disgust. So I believe she isn't crazy but curious. And I thank her for all the research and information provided in a palatable manner.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2003

    One of a kind!

    Stiff is entertaining, shocking, gross, informative, and a page turner. One thing it is definitely not is boring. I learned a great deal about all different aspects of both life and death, and would recommend this book to anyone who has interest in one or all of the follow: the human body; random, yet very interesting, facts; The Discovery Channel or TLC; reading in general; or has a fun quarky personality.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2003

    Exceptional

    This book is not for those with weak stomachs. Don't read it at lunch. But, it is a compelling look at such topics as embalming, the use of dead bodies as crash dummies, the body farm in Tennessee as well as many others. It is just exceptionally well done. Respectful but also extremely funny. Very informative also.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2003

    Dark-side fascination laced with humor and history

    When I started crying from laughter (as I read the cover in the store), I knew this was a book I could not do without. Coming from a family of morticians, I have always been fascinated with death/funerals, the processes involved, and the decisions people make with regard to their bodily remains. The author captures the reader's attention immediately - who knew the preservation qualities of honey? The historical content of the book is vast and Ms. Roach adds humor where one least expects to find it. Buy it. Read it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2003

    Extraordinarily good read

    I walked into Blackwell's Bookshop in Oxford in the UK earlier this week and rather idly picked this book off the shelf. Several hours later I still hadn't put it back down. Roach is an extraordinarily talented writer and she's also very, very funny. This is one of those books that really does deserve to win the author accolades and a bucket of money. Roach lays out very useful historical groundwork and as the best writers do, makes it relevant to the modern era. It's irresistible and I can't recommend it enough.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2003

    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

    What a great and unusual book! Riveting, sprawling in scope, ultra-vivid, bizarre and funny. There's a description of a trip to China to track down a crematorium/dumpling tall tale that just about made me choke with laughter. Other favorite topics in STIFF -- the unflinching description of quasi-successful head transplants, the boneheaded follies of centuries of medical quacks, colorful glimpses of the characters who work with cadavers. The real story here, though, is the subtext Mary Roach brings to her topics through her outrageous comic style which is at once deadpan (sorry), illuminating, and brutally funny.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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