Must Read Monday is a weekly thing I do here to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed. I might sometimes throw in something I gave 3 stars to, but for the most part they’re books I gave a 4-5 star rating to. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily amazing literature, but it does mean I liked them enough to recommend them to other people.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
When I read it: March 2012
Genres: non-fiction (more specifically: science, medical, a touch of history I think, and death); humor
Recommended for: I recommend this to almost everyone when I recommend non-fiction. But, if you’re very bothered by corpses, death, body disposal, funerary practices, etc., you’ll probably want to skip this one.
What it’s about:
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. 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.
I read this book more than five years ago, and I still talk about it at least monthly, I think.
I’ll be completely honest here: I like morbid stuff. Blame it on my little goth heart, or whatever, but I’ve always been more fascinated than frightened of things like death and bodies, and what happens to said bodies after our consciousness departs them. I strongly considered becoming a mortician after I gave up the dream of anthropology (forensic, specifically, and no it wasn’t because of Bones because by the time the show aired, I’d already ditched that dream).
This book, from what I remember, covered a bit of history about how bodies were dealt with from possibly ancient times all the way to the present. Mary Roach also researched a lot of different body disposal methods, and explained how they worked, where they originated, etc. I think she even took a trip to “The Body Farm” in Tennessee, which I think is awesome. (Am I creeping anyone out yet?) At the end of the book, I believe, there’s even some info on how you can donate your body to science when you die, which really excited me because that’s what I want to do.
While the subject matter is serious, the entire book is pretty funny. Mary Roach seems to have a great sense of humor, and it made this a very enjoyable read, as well as informative.
While this is about death and what happens to bodies, I don’t remember it being super gory. Maybe a little, but it was all pretty technical, I think. This isn’t like reading about a crime scene or a murder in a thriller/mystery/horror novel, but more like a textbook, if it was written in the most light hearted way possible by someone with a sense of humor.
So far this is still the only one of her books I’ve read (and I plan to re-read it eventually), but I have one other on my shelf, and I want to read most of her books.
Have you read this, or any of Mary Roach’s other books?