• Stiff

  • The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
  • By: Mary Roach
  • Narrated by: Shelly Frasier
  • Length: 8 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 26-02-04
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 (89 ratings)

Editor reviews

Mary Roach unzips the body bag and tells us far more than we thought we wanted to know about what happens to our bodies after we pass away. And yet somehow, she makes you want to know even more. It's like watching something repulsive but fascinating through cracks in the fingers you placed over your eyes so you wouldn't see. The author takes a deliberately humorous, academic tone as she describes these fascinating atrocities, and Shelly Frasier mirrors the author's tone perfectly. That very dry humor pervades the entire book; never cynical or condescending, never adolescent or tasteless, and it makes what could be a ghastly, repellent subject surprisingly upbeat and entertaining. Despite all that, we can't recommend that you listen to this audio book with a bunch of 11- or 12-year-old girls in the car with you, unless you enjoy hearing "Eeeew - gross!" squealed in a high-pitched voice over and over again. To some, that would be a fate worse than...well, death.
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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. They've tested France's first guillotines, ridden the NASA Space Shuttle, been crucified in a Parisian laboratory to test the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and helped solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800. For every new surgical procedure, from heart transplants to gender reassignment surgery, cadavers have been there alongside surgeons, making history in their quiet way.
In this fascinating, ennobling account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries from the anatomy labs and human-sourced pharmacies of medieval and nineteenth-century Europe to a human decay research facility in Tennessee, to a plastic surgery practice lab, to a Scandinavian funeral directors' conference on human composting. In her droll, inimitable voice, Roach tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.
©2003 Mary Roach (P)2003 Tantor Media, Inc.
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Critic reviews

Alex Award Winner, 2004
"Uproariously funny....informative and respectful...irreverent and witty....impossible to put down." (Publishers Weekly)
"Not grisly but inspiring, this work considers the many valuable scientific uses of the body after death." (Library Journal)
"One of the funniest and most unusual books of the year." (Entertainment Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Ian on 13-03-16

This is so cool!

I love learning new things and finding out how things work. This is no exception!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Adrian on 01-12-15

Inclusive, welcoming writing from Mary Roach

I bought this based on previously enjoying Packing for Mars (one of my favourite audio books). Unlike Packing for Mars, this book is more of a mixture of history and culture with a light dip in to science and it does not suffer for it.
The narrator reads beautifully and the words are engaging.
A highly recommended audio book for anyone who is not too squeemish.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Matthew on 15-03-04

Darn funny if you're open to the idea.

If you believe the subject of cadavers should be treated somberly under all circumstances, you'll want to take a pass on this one. If, on the other hand, you have an irreverent sense of humor and believe that there some sort of humor in almost every slice of life (and death), then you're going to love this book. Informative, well-written, witty, and done in a mostly tasteful way (it is about cadavers after all), Stiff is a fresh book that explores a topic and a world that most of us never glimpse.

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48 of 49 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Joel on 28-05-05

Wonderful and En'gross'ing

I wouldn't have thought it possible to treat this sometimes unpleasant topic with equal parts humour and respect. Mary Roach succeeds admirably in both aspects. I listened to this book almost straight through, with my responses ranging from cringing to laughing out loud.
Shelly Frasier is an excellent casting choice for this book as her voice has a sultry tone to it. It is not clinical at all.

Highly recommended if you're not squeamish.

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23 of 23 people found this review helpful

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