Stiff The Curious Life of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach

by Derwood Hunsdale-Talbot on July 28, 2009

Review by D.B. Lee

Aside from necrophiliacs, most of us never consider how much fun cadavers can be.

To read about, I mean.

And, for the adventuresome, dedicated and non-squeamish, cadavers turn out to be fantastic teachers. Without them (the dead, I mean) medicine wouldn’t be modern and criminal investigation would still be in the cloak-and-magnifying-glass stage.

We learn all this, and so much more, while gobbling up Stiff. That’s because Mary Roach is also a fantastic teacher. We hear interviews of the people who study the dead, and of her person interactions with the dead themselves. This book provides rich factual detail about such subjects as decay, anatomy, gunshot wounds, crucifixions, cannibalism, embalming, funerals and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, but in a style that is thoroughly engaging, entertaining and very often hilarious.

The dead have much to tell us. And they are extremely fortunate to have Mary Roach as their interpreter.

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