Stiff – Mary Roach [Audiobook]

Posted 17 October, 2013 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 24 Comments

Tags: ,


Title: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Author: Mary Roach
Narrator: Shelly Frasier
Published: 2003 Pages: 304
Audio Duration: 7 hrs; 59 min
Genre: Non-Fiction/Science
Rating: 4/5

In Short: Everything you wanted to know about what happens to the body after death. Also a look at how cadavers and various parts of cadavers are used in science and research.

Why I Listened: I don’t remember whose blog I first saw this on–maybe it was Chris’s? Anyway, let’s just chalk it up to Blogger Influence.

Thoughts in General: Who knew that dead bodies could be so fascinating? In Stiff, Mary Roach provides more information on cadavers than you could shake a stick at. She explores the way that cadavers have been used in research from airplane and automobile crashes to gunshot wounds. Readers will learn about grave robbers and ancient methods of preserving a body, different methods of disposal of bodies after death and where the soul truly resides. The entire book is absolutely fascinating and while some of it did make me a bit squeamish (I’ll never be able to listen to the sound of Rice Krispies the same), Stiff was too interesting for me to turn away.

Bottom Line: What kind of person willingly wants to read about dead people? I don’t know. I have been trying to convince my brother, who is interested in forensics, to read this one, but he just looks at me like “What the hell kind of book are you listening to?” But Stiff is seriously fascinating stuff! And had I paid a bit more attention (see note below about distracted listening), I would have been able to repeat all sorts of “Did you know?” tidbits in random conversation. And while Stiff is a bit of an information overload, Roach’s style is never dry and dull. Readers (or listeners) of Stiff will be entertained and informed. What more can you ask for?

A Note on the Audio: My friend asked how I’m currently listening to audiobooks. In a word: slowly. Most days Evie and I take a morning walk and I listen to my audio on my phone. At first I was listening without any headphones but it was too difficult to hear the audio when a car drove by. Now I listen with one earbud in so I can still hear Evie. It’s very distracted listening but I can’t figure out when else to listen without compromising my ears. Oh yes, the actual audio. I enjoyed Shelly Frasier’s narration of Stiff. Her voice is soft which makes the narration about dead bits seem a bit more personal rather than textbook.

Have you read Stiff or anything else by Mary Roach? What do you recommend?

24 Responses to “Stiff – Mary Roach [Audiobook]”

  1. Les

    I read Stiff when it first came out (pre-blogging days) and while I remember that I enjoyed it, I sure don’t remember a lot of details. I have a faint recollection about the cadavers being used for airplane crash testing, though. I think.

    BTW, check out Roach’s interview on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. They are both very funny!

  2. You’re not the first to say this is really good, but I’m kind of in your brother’s camp. I’m not sure I want to know what happens to dead bodies.

  3. This was the first Mary Roach book that got on my radar (thanks to the book blogs!) but I still haven’t read anything by her yet. Must remedy that soon!!

  4. I’m trying to come up with a list of authors I must read during 2014 because I’ve ignored their work and Mary Roach is number one on my list!!

  5. I loved this book. Roach has a great sense of humor and is very adept at writing about dry topics like this. All of her books are must reads.

  6. I love this book! It’s one of my fave pop science books. I actually read it after I bought it for my mom for Mother’s Day. Sounds weird, I know. I got some looks! But she loves forensics, and I think I loved this book as much as she did. Since you liked this one, I’d also recommend Death’s Acre by Dr. Bill Bass. He has investigated some very high profile forensic cases, and he’s been instrumental in founding and running U. of Tennessee’s “body farm” forensics study lab. Not as funny as Roach, but sort of in the same vein.

  7. I enjoyed the audio, but could never listen to it again… the part about all those plastic surgeons practicing their face lift technique, and the description of the set up totally grossed me out!

  8. I hear such rave reviews for this book, but I just don’t know. Maybe I should start with one of her more *tame* books (I know they’re all kind of out there).

  9. I haven’t read/listened to Stiff, but think it would be a great read. I wish I’d have gone into Forensics because everything about the subject fascinates me.

    Many years ago my hubby and I watched a dvd of an autopsy and I thought it was amazing. I still love learning anything I can about the body.

  10. This one doesn’t sound for me but I enjoyed your review.

    I audio while my toddler naps or when we’re running errands. She watches her little tv in the backseat and mama listens in the front seat to books. :)

  11. Glad you enjoyed it!! I absolutely loved this one and thought the audio was really good too :) What i love so much about Mary Roach is the subjects she chooses and how devoted she is to her research. It’s like she says “what’s the next most messed up thing I can possibly research and find the most bizarre stuff out about? Oh! Cadavers!” And I had to laugh out loud at your brother’s reaction! LOL. My favorite book of hers is still Bonk…her book on sex. I read that one based on Dewey’s recommendation and it was my introduction to her. Really good!

  12. I’ve been eyeing this one for a while, but like you say…what kind of person wants to read about corpses?? I haven’t quite reconciled that part yet. Still. I read Packing for Mars (my first by Roach) a few years back and found it fascinating. I love the way she writes. So whether it’s Stiff or one of her others (I’m thinking Bonk would be fun), I’m sure I’ll pick up something else by Roach at some point.

  13. I’ve been looking for some new audiobook rec’s to check out so I’m definitely going to see if my library has this one! So far I’ve been sticking to books that I’ve already read and that I want to reread but I’m ready to branch out :) And I’ve heard that nonfiction is really good on audio so thanks for sharing about this one!

  14. I’m not sure how many great reviews it will take before I could convince myself to read a book about dead bodies!

  15. I’ve been eying this book for a while. I do want to read it! It sounds fascinating if a little gruesome (rice krispies, you say?). Thanks for the review. I am going to get it!