Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mary Roach: Stiff - The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

I was drawn to this book for a few reasons. Firstly, if I could do university all over again I would work to becoming a forensic anthropologist which is career that I find extremely fascinating. Secondly, my grandpa passed away in 2013 and he elected to donate his body to science and recently we just received information that he was ready for cremation. My grandpa used to joke about how the student was in for a interesting shock when they got to his lungs (he smoked several packs a day for almost his entire life) and his liver (he drank almost as much as he smoked). As my family and I will never fully know the adventure that my grandpa's body went on after he passed, I thought it might be interesting to know a possible path that he took.

Mary Roach takes readers on an strange adventure with what happens when someone donates their body to science. She takes reader through some history from how they have been procured to what the have been used for and the advancements that have been made because of work on them. The scientific aspects of the books are mixed in with Roach's own thoughts, feelings and whit. 

Each chapter takes on a different aspect in science that could benefit from the use of cadavers to work on; Plastic surgery to Crash Test Dummies Roach has deemed to explore a wide range for the use of cadavers (and it is by no need an extensive list, but she did choose some interesting ones that I never thought of). This book also touches on at times the use of animals in experiments and some that are pretty disturbing and what I would think would be straight out of a horror novel. For example attaching a decapitated puppy head to a live dog to determine if the flesh can be reanimated or survive. And I guess that brings me to my next point if you have a squeamish stomach this book will not be for you, as Roach does go in to a fair amount of detail at times.

This book has quite a bit of humour in it for the topic but you need to have a similar type of humour or not get offended easily in order to enjoy this book. Roach often gives her own personal observations or thoughts during the moment when researching or interviewing scientist about the "lives" of cadavers, and most of the time her thoughts could boarder on offensive to some people at the jokes or thoughts that just seem to pop in to her mind. I think that this is the part that people will either love or hate, however, this is what makes the book truly unique in voice instead of just stating scientific or history facts.

I liked learning about some of the curious lives that human cadavers can have now and in history and I am sure that there are many more adventures for them to have. Although Roach is not a medical professional (as you can tell from her personal comments) I think she did a great job in presenting the science as well as making it interesting. I would read another book by Roach and I seriously would consider donating my body to science even though I wouldn't want it to end up in some of the places the cadavers in this story did.


I don't have something too similar to this book, but these are some fiction reads that I think will be a good segway from this book.

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