Ever wonder what happens to your body after you die? For most of us, we’re either buried six feet under in a box or cremated and poured into an urn. That being said, there are a few folks who make the decision to donate their mortal vessel to science. In Stiff, Mary Roach explores the world of cadaver research with a humorous, often conversational tone that’s far removed from the dry, overbearing tomes from your high school biology class.
I had a bad experience with Mary Roach about two years ago when I took a chance on an audiobook version of Packing For Mars. While the subject matter was interesting, the narrator was about as fun to listen to as a seminar on box factories put on by Ben Stein after he woke up from a nap. After making my way through Bill Bryson’s America: One Summer, 1927 a few months ago, I wanted back on the Mary Roach train. I decided to grab one of her more known books, Stiff.
Stiff is a fun, informative, albeit morbid experience in which Mary covers a wide variety of uses for the human body after its expiration date. Roach visits a body farm where the departed are studied during various stages of decomposition, a research lab that studies the effects of car crashes on cadaver test dummies and even discusses ill fated head transplant experiments. There are also crucifixion tests, practice patients for surgeons in training and when exactly a person should be considered legally dead and thus available for organ harvesting.
Without a doubt, Stiff has definitely renewed my interest in checking out more Mary Roach. I can’t wait for the next time someone brings up dead bodies at a party so I can flaunt my random cadaver knowledge.