Stiff is a nonfiction book that explores the history of human cadavers and their use in research and experimentation. Mary Roach takes readers on a journey through time, examining how dead bodies have been used for medical, mechanical, and religious purposes for nearly two thousand years. The book covers a range of topics, from facial anatomy and face lift review classes to airplane crashes and human composting alternatives for burial.
The main themes of the book are the utility of the human corpse, the continuance of personhood, and the absurdity of death. Roach argues that the human body is not massively dissimilar from the corpse of any other animal, and that what we leave behind after we die is essentially the same as what a chicken or cow leaves.
She also maintains the humanity of the cadavers she sees, particularly “beating-heart cadavers,” which raise difficult philosophical questions of what exactly makes a person.
Overall, Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. It offers a unique perspective on death and the human experience, and is a must-read for anyone interested in medical history, science, or philosophy.
What I Liked
All of Mary Roach’s book are fascinating. She does an excellent job digging into everyday, important, but rarely discussed parts of life. I love the stories, research, and first-person narrative that she puts together.
What I Did Not Like
Nothing – funny, informative read.