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STIFF — THE SECRET LIFE OF HUMAN CADAVERS By: Mary Roach March 1, 2010

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.
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     The Lycan Librarian gravitates toward fiction, so is always delighted to find a nonfiction selection that is smooth and interesting, and reads like fiction. This fascinating book by Mary Roach is the perfect example of such a treasure.
     This book is humorous, mind-boggling, stomach-turning, and unforgettable. The many uses for human corpses throughout the ages are explored and revealed, and told with enormous wit. The author takes the reader from ancient labs and pharmacies, to today’s human heads in aluminum dripping pans being practiced on by student cosmetic surgeons. (Did you know that the human head is the approximate size and weight of a roaster chicken?)   She explores and promotes organ donation and body donation to further medical research, and interviews a wide range of professionals, from undertakers, doctors,embalmers, surgeons, medical students, crime scene investigators, auto safety testers and creamators. Although this intriguing nonfiction selection is about death, there is nothing depressing or gloomy about it; this work discusses the numerous alternatives to simply burying or burning a dead body, and it does so with intelligence and a light-hearted attitude.

     Mary Roach is also the author of two more recent books on the Moonlit Library’s shelves: SPOOK, which researches the possibilities of an afterlife, and BONK which takes a scientific look at the realities of sex. Visit her site at www.maryroach.net , and click on the cockroach to enter.

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1. Steve Buchheit - March 3, 2010

I believe this was the book I heard an interview of her where she talked about lab work and the dark humor they try to hide. How one researcher was making electron microscope slides of a brain. He dropped one slice on the floor and said, “Whoops, there goes a bit of third grade.” Which (at least to me) is quite funny. However he was admonished about it after she had left the lab.

lycan librarian - March 3, 2010

Yes! There were many such scenes — I laughed, often out loud, through the entire book. Despite the dour stereotypes of scientists and those in the medical field, this book proves that many have a great sense of humor, as does the author.


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