Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (Hardcover)

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"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.

Praise For…

Roach exhibits both a keen sense of humor and a sincere respect for the dearly departed.

A very funny book....full of surprises.
— Craig McLaughlin

Roach saw some macabre things, but she describes them with respect and irresistible humor.

Roach displays her metier in tangents about bizarre incendents in pathological history.
— Gilbert Taylor

Surprisingly entertaining. Similar in tone to Bill Bryson's travel books, Roach manages to be humorous yet respectful.
— Rick Mathis

Every detail is fascinating.
— Henry Kisor

Bring[s] alive a subject that has the potential to be deadly dull.
— Steve Fiffer

Her morbid subject—perverse, unsettling and voyeuristic—makes her book hard to put down.
— Dean Narcisco

This bizarre tome will shock, disgust, intrigue and entertain you all at the same time.
— Mary Morrison

[Roach's] knack for detailed research and loose Dave Barry-ish style makes Stiff a leisurely and enjoyable read.

— Tom Westin

Though the cover...will draw many readers to this book, its deft prose will keep them returning.
— Fred Bortz

Outrageously funny, irreverent"—but delightfully written, this book is difficult to put down.
— Brian Richard Boylan

Whimsical, hysterical and terribly interesting.
— Katy Human

A fascinating survey of the data yielded by corpses both medieval and modern.

Acutely entertaining, morbidly fascinating.

An informative, gently funny but never irreverent look at the various uses society makes of the dead.
— Tom Pantera

Well-written and deadly funny.
— Bruce Willey

Roach is a masterful writer....Irreverent? Maybe a little. Disrespectful? Emphatically no.
— Lisa Parsons

The numerous tidbits of information derived from the author's travels and interviews make [this book] uniquely appealing.
— Joseph H Davis, MD

Fascinating, unexpectedly fresh and funny look at the multiplicity of ways in which cadavers benefit the living.... entertaining, absolutely.

Despite the irreverent, macabre title, this is a respectful and serious examination of what happens to cadavers, past and present.
— Michael D Cramer

As weird as the book gets, Roach manages to convey a sense of respect and appreciation for her subjects.

It's a rare talent that can make people want to throw up and laugh at the same time.
— Roy Rivenberg

Bizarrely entertaining.
— Susan Ellis

Mary Roach is an extremely funny science writer
— Laurence A Marschall

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

[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

A quick and compelling, if slightly uneasy, read.
— Justin Bauer

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

Genuinely funny and destined to be a classic read.
— Donald A Collins

What saves the subject matter from intolerable gruesomeness is Roach. Her interest is genuine, despite her droll tone.
— B.T. Shaw

As informative and respectful as it is irreverent and witty....Impossible to put down.

Expect the insightful with the hilarious.
— Bridget Kinsella

[Roach] artfully and humorously unwraps the mystery of the dead interesting and informative read.
— Deborah Love

Lively and quirky....the writer's style is genuinely warm...she has a keen eye for observation of unique and ironic details.
— Michael Jaffee

A joy to read....this is wonderful stuff.
— Tim Redmond

Fascinating and oddly fun.

Every page fairly drips with dark humor.
— Matt Palmquist

[Roach] manages to make material that normally comes with a warning for the faint-hearted somehow light-hearted.
— Jill Wolfson

Well written, with a reader-friendly format.
— Howard S Pitkow

[Roach's] firsthand accounts of places and people make this a captivating look at life after death.

Delightful....authoritative, endlessly curious and drolly funny.
— Adam Wong

[Roach] has written a curiously funny, touching and respectful study.
— Nancy Summers

An unflinching, often hilarious cultural history.
— Erica C Barnett

Roach's dry, irreverent wit makes for a delightful—though never disrespectful—read.
— Les Simpson

A laugh-out-loud funny of those wonderful books that offers enlightenment in the guise of entertainment.

Our own instinctive discomfort with death provides fodder for Roach's dry sense of humor throughout the book
— Ana Marie Cox

Roach...goes into gruesome detail, but she also succeeds in not making the subject at hand too morbid.
— Kim Colton

A fascinating book and, once you pick it up, you won't likely put it down.
— William R Wineke

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
Product Details
ISBN: 9780393050936
ISBN-10: 0393050939
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: April 17th, 2003
Pages: 320
Language: English