Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (Hardcover)
"One of the funniest and most unusual books of the year....Gross, educational, and unexpectedly sidesplitting."—Entertainment Weekly
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.
About the Author
Mary Roach is the author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Her writing has appeared in Outside, Wired, National Geographic, and the New York Times Magazine, among others. She lives in Oakland, California.
Roach exhibits both a keen sense of humor and a sincere respect for the dearly departed.
— American Scientist
A very funny book....full of surprises.
— Craig McLaughlin - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Roach saw some macabre things, but she describes them with respect and irresistible humor.
— Austin American-Statesman
Roach displays her metier in tangents about bizarre incendents in pathological history.
— Gilbert Taylor - Booklist
Surprisingly entertaining. Similar in tone to Bill Bryson's travel books, Roach manages to be humorous yet respectful.
— Rick Mathis - Chattanooga Times Free Press
Every detail is fascinating.
— Henry Kisor - Chicago Sun-Times
Bring[s] alive a subject that has the potential to be deadly dull.
— Steve Fiffer - Chicago Tribune
Her morbid subject—perverse, unsettling and voyeuristic—makes her book hard to put down.
— Dean Narcisco - Columbus Dispatch
This bizarre tome will shock, disgust, intrigue and entertain you all at the same time.
— Mary Morrison - Coral Gables Gazette
[Roach's] knack for detailed research and loose Dave Barry-ish style makes Stiff a leisurely and enjoyable read.
— Tom Westin - Daily Yomiuri
Though the cover...will draw many readers to this book, its deft prose will keep them returning.
— Fred Bortz - Dallas Morning News
Outrageously funny, irreverent"—but respectful....so delightfully written, this book is difficult to put down.
— Brian Richard Boylan - Denver Post
Whimsical, hysterical and terribly interesting.
— Katy Human - Detroit Free Press
A fascinating survey of the data yielded by corpses both medieval and modern.
— Discover Magazine
Acutely entertaining, morbidly fascinating.
An informative, gently funny but never irreverent look at the various uses society makes of the dead.
— Tom Pantera - Forum
Well-written and deadly funny.
— Bruce Willey - Good Times Magazine
Roach is a masterful writer....Irreverent? Maybe a little. Disrespectful? Emphatically no.
— Lisa Parsons - Hippo Press, Manchester, NH
The numerous tidbits of information derived from the author's travels and interviews make [this book] uniquely appealing.
— Joseph H Davis, MD - Journal of the American Medical Association
Fascinating, unexpectedly fresh and funny look at the multiplicity of ways in which cadavers benefit the living.... entertaining, absolutely.
— Kirkus Reviews starred review
Despite the irreverent, macabre title, this is a respectful and serious examination of what happens to cadavers, past and present.
— Michael D Cramer - Library Journal
As weird as the book gets, Roach manages to convey a sense of respect and appreciation for her subjects.
— Los Angeles Times
It's a rare talent that can make people want to throw up and laugh at the same time.
— Roy Rivenberg - Los Angeles Times Book Review
— Susan Ellis - Memphis Flyer
Mary Roach is an extremely funny science writer
— Laurence A Marschall - Natural History
A funny but never disrespectful look at the curious world of cadaver research.
Roach's deliberate carefulness diminishes the topic's gore and sets a comfortable, comic tone that finds solace in its own oddity.
— Tom Lynch - New City
[A] mordantly witty history of the scientific contributions made by the no-longer-living.
Roach's conversational tone and her gallows humor bring her subjects to life....Morbidly entertaining.
— Alex Abramovich - People Magazine
A quick and compelling, if slightly uneasy, read.
— Justin Bauer - Philadelphia City Paper
Roach traces the use of the cadaver...and describes odd, behind-the-scenes moments perfect to halt all discussion at dinner.
— T.D. Mobley-Martinez - Philadelphia News
Genuinely funny and destined to be a classic read.
— Donald A Collins - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
What saves the subject matter from intolerable gruesomeness is Roach. Her interest is genuine, despite her droll tone.
— B.T. Shaw - Portland Oregonian
As informative and respectful as it is irreverent and witty....Impossible to put down.
— Publishers Weekly starred review
Expect the insightful with the hilarious.
— Bridget Kinsella - PW Daily
[Roach] artfully and humorously unwraps the mystery of the dead body....an interesting and informative read.
— Deborah Love - Richmond Times-Dispatch
Lively and quirky....the writer's style is genuinely warm...she has a keen eye for observation of unique and ironic details.
— Michael Jaffee - San Antonio Express-News
A joy to read....this is wonderful stuff.
— Tim Redmond - San Francisco Bay Guardian
Fascinating and oddly fun.
— San Francisco Chronicle
Every page fairly drips with dark humor.
— Matt Palmquist - San Francisco Weekly
[Roach] manages to make material that normally comes with a warning for the faint-hearted somehow light-hearted.
— Jill Wolfson - San Jose Mercury News
Well written, with a reader-friendly format.
— Howard S Pitkow - Science Books and Films
[Roach's] firsthand accounts of places and people make this a captivating look at life after death.
— Science News
Delightful....authoritative, endlessly curious and drolly funny.
— Adam Wong - Seattle Times
[Roach] has written a curiously funny, touching and respectful study.
— Nancy Summers - Tampa Tribune & Times
An unflinching, often hilarious cultural history.
— Erica C Barnett - The Stranger
Roach's dry, irreverent wit makes for a delightful—though never disrespectful—read.
— Les Simpson - Time Out New York
A laugh-out-loud funny book....one of those wonderful books that offers enlightenment in the guise of entertainment.
— Washington City Paper
Our own instinctive discomfort with death provides fodder for Roach's dry sense of humor throughout the book
— Ana Marie Cox - Washington Post
Roach...goes into gruesome detail, but she also succeeds in not making the subject at hand too morbid.
— Kim Colton - Willamette Week
A fascinating book and, once you pick it up, you won't likely put it down.
— William R Wineke - Wisconsin State Journal
As fascinating as it is funny.... The research is admirable, the anecdotes carefully chosen, and the prose lively; and they combine to produce a book that everyone in the health care field should have to read, and everyone else will want to.
— Caleb Carr, author of The Alienist
Droll, dark, and quite wise, Stiff makes being dead funny and fascinating and weirdly appealing.
— Susan Orlean