Friday, October 03, 2008

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach

(pb; 2003: science/non-fiction)

From the back cover:

"Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers -- some willing, 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."

Review:

The above book blurb describes Stiff the way I would: it's (mostly) interesting and always informative, with some laugh-out loud (but respectful) quips. Like Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, it's a standout -- in a good way -- book.

My only quibble about Stiff is that certain chapters held no fascination for me, namely: "Dead Man Driving" (where Roach writes about car companies using corpses to measure the effect of car crashes on human bodies); "The Cadaver Who Joined the Army" (where Roach reveals U.S. military ballistics testing on corpses); and portions of "Holy Cadaver" (where Roach talks about historical medical and religious professionals who, among other things, have sought the physical location of man's fictional "soul"). Bear in mind this minor complaint is a reflection of my lack of interest in these subjects; Roach, in order to be thorough and reflect the interests of other readers, practically had to include these bits. (I only mention this personal quibble so certain readers who share my reading tastes may be forewarned.)

This is a memorable and informative read -- definitely worth owning.

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