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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Unabridged Audio Book

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Shelly Frasier

8 Hours 4 Minutes

Tantor Media

September 2003

Audio Book Summary

An oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem.

For 2,000 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.

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  • Liz B

    I don't read a lot of nonfiction so it has to be pretty good to hold my interest all the way through. I was disappointed when this book ended. I have since purchased several copies to loan out to friends and family with an enthusiastic recommendation. Although the subject matter may seem a bit gruesome, just as it starts to get gross the author manages to shift gears. Her style is very cheeky and keeps a heavy subject matter as light as it could be. The reader is also excellent as she clearly connected with the writing style.

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  • Anonymous

    The first half of the book was hilarious and interesting. The second half got a bit slow, but still was worth finishing.

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  • Gary

    I tried & tried but just couldn't get into it. I listened to the first 5 Cd's & finally gave up. A full book about cadavers was more than I could endure.

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  • Lari Tonti

    Great book, OK, a couple of times i wondered what the heck am i listening to, but just then the author would explain why she was going there, and i just followed and enjoyed. Very informative and entertaining. Go for it,,,

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  • Anonymous

    Funny, reverent and highly accessible. Despite the seemingly gruesome nature of the material, Roach does a phenomenal job making it palatable and entertaining while remaining respectful.

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  • David Gardner

    This is one of the strangest books I've ever read. If you're not interested in what happens to bodies donated to science (in all gory detail), then this one's not for you. The author takes you on a tour of the "secret world of cadavers." A world that she compares to a cruise ship - lots of bodies lying around doing nothing! Written in an engaging style, the book is filled with anecdotes about the history of research on cadavers. Believe me, if you're the least bit morbidly curious, you'll love this one!

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  • Stephen L.

    Well done and entertaining.

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  • Dee A.

    Wonderfully entertaining

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  • Paige M.

    Mary Roach has written a masterpiece! A semi-serious topic with a humerus (haha) side - I laughed out loud (which had more than one person regretting asking me what I was laughing about...). If you're on the squeamish side, this book may not be for you. Mary brings us through the history of cadaver use. Discusses the rather grotesque past (and perhaps current) use of body parts. Offers recipes (please don't try these in my kitchen), and even discusses religious aspects of cadaver use. All the thumbs up.

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  • Chris Wolak

    I've been meaning to read this book for a long time. It's a fascinating look at all the things that happen to the human body after we die and all the odd and sometimes disgusting things that have been done to and with human corpses. The narrator was pitch perfect for the content--her dry, sarcastic tone was delightful.

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