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Stiff by Mary Roach

Book Review – Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

June 11, 2019
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers Book Cover
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers Non Fiction W. W. Norton Paperback 303 Roach, Mary. Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. W. W. Norton & Company, 2004.

Stiff by Mary Roach

This is the first book review that I’ve actually done on a nonfiction book! I’ve found that when I start to write one, it seems a bit tricky. Mostly because then I feel like I’m critiquing the actual writing instead of the story or the characters. Luckily for me (and you) Mary Roach is an amazing author!

Goodreads Synopsis – 

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. (Source

Stiff by Mary Roach

What I Love –

It probably seems like I LOVE every book I’ve reviewed so far, and to that you would be correct! So far I’ve only reviewed books that are my favorites. That probably doesn’t seem fair but I figured since this is still new to me, I’d do books that I adore. Don’t worry – I already have plans to review books that were harder for me, just give me time.

That being said, I truly do love this book. I know when some people see the label nonfiction that can be a deterrent, they think it’ll be dry, boring and put them to sleep. I find all of Mary Roach’s writing to be quite the opposite of that. Frequently am laughing out loud to something that would normally be very serious. I appreciate how she can put anything into layman’s terms and help find humor in the humorless.

So I gave you the synopsis – but what is my run down on the book? So when I’m telling someone about this book and why they should read it the first tidbit I give them is this: This book is about the different things that can happen to your body if you donate it to science after your death. I found this book in a time of my life when I was doing a ton of research. As a mystery/ crime / thriller writer you want to have as many facts at your disposal as you can. This was also a period in my life when I was scared of my own writing – so I would just get lost in the research. 

Stiff by Mary Roach


Since this book is science based – there is a few footnotes at the bottom of the pages. To be honest, I normally skip things like this. However, not the case in a Mary Roach book. The footnotes can be just as funny and insightful as the main of the book as well. If you decide to pick up one of her books after this – keep that in mind!

What I Didn’t Love 

I think that this is fair in any book, but as I’ve grown older I’ve developed a bit of a weak stomach. I feel ashamed to say that because I love the gorey type books and movies. But alas, every once in awhile I get a bit queasy while reading or watching something. This is completely on me so I usually just have to pace myself. I would say if you’re similar just take into account that this book deals with corpses and that theres bound to be some uncomfortable situations. 

Stiff by Mary Roach

Why I Would Recommend this Book – 

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in this post so far but I actually recommend to almost everyone that asks for a book recommendation. I should do a post on my top recommended books and the why behind it. One of my favorite things to do while getting to know someone is trying to match them up with a book I’ve read in the past. I think I would be super excellent at recommendations but not sure how to start a website or app in that regard – or even if there’s any interest in something like that.

Back to the book – why do I constantly recommend this book? Well I think that everyone needs more nonfiction and more science in their life. But I also think that it can be hard to find a writer that makes it easy to read as well as enjoyable. Even in some of the true crime nonfiction that I’ve read I’ll start to get drowsy because sometimes facts just aren’t as fun as fiction. But Mary Roach will sometimes give her entire thought process from start to finish – seemingly at a stream of consciousness pace. I love how her brain works and think that most people will find it enjoyable as well.

Where to Buy

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Thriftbooks

Stiff by Mary Roach

About the Author

Mary Roach is the author of the New York Times bestsellers STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; GULP: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, PACKING FOR MARS: The Curious Science of Life in the Void; and BONK: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. 

Her most recent book, GRUNT: The Curious Science of Humans at War, is out in June 2016. 

Mary has written for National Geographic, Wired, Discover, New Scientist, the Journal of Clinical Anatomy, and Outside, among others. She serves as a member of the Mars Institute’s Advisory Board and the Usage Panel of American Heritage Dictionary. Her 2009 TED talk made the organization’s 2011 Twenty Most-Watched To Date list. She was the guest editor of the 2011 Best American Science and Nature Writing, a finalist for the 2014 Royal Society Winton Prize, and a winner of the American Engineering Societies’ Engineering Journalism Award, in a category for which, let’s be honest, she was the sole entrant. 

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Stiff by Mary Roach

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