Stiff by Mary Roach
Updated: Jul 12
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When we think of death, we think of the sadness attached to the person who has died. What we don’t often think about is how their body could help others in the field of science. Each chapter dives into different ways cadavers have been used after death. Some stories may horrify you, while others may fascinate you.
I highly suggest having a strong stomach before starting this book. There is no holding back on the details as you read about surgeons slicing into cadavers, honing their craft on dead bodies before working on live ones. And this one section is only the begging. Mary Roach does insert humor to lighten the mood and to soothe the reader at some of the grislier parts.
But surgeons aren’t the only ones who use cadavers. You’ll find that many fields you never thought studied the dead use them to solve crimes and prevent death. Stiff also gives readers an overview of how studying cadavers began, and the more unsavory ways people used them as experiments before laws and regulations came into effect.
I will admit the hardest part for me to read was the use of animals in experiments. This ties into some of the history before cadavers were used, and I had to disassociate and take breaks to make it through the chapter. Dead bodies are one thing, live animals are another. I applaud Mary Roach for being able to put what she did down on paper for the public eye to see.
I was fascinated and horrified by this book. If the writing style had been more scientific, I most likely would not have made it through. But Mary Roach has tact when speaking of the dead, and won me over with her curiosity and character.
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