Twitter Facebook RSS Email
Pinterest Instagram Google Plus Tumblr

Get Updates by Email

 

Search Coffee and a Book Chick Archives

 

Blog Archive

13 March 2012

Stiff, by Mary Roach (Audio Review)


People. I am not kidding when I tell you that I LOVED this audio book.

Hailed by Burkhard Bilger of the New Yorker as the "funniest science writer in the country," Mary Roach delivers a fascinating, engrossing, and shockingly delightful account of the "life" of the human cadaver. A history of everything from body-snatching, public autopsies, crash test dummies, crucifixion experiments, and...medicinal cannibalism, this will absolutely make my list of Top Books of 2012. Written in 2003, the hilariously brilliant and easy-to-understand approach of Mary Roach's writing, combined with the stellar narration of Shelly Frasier, was unquestionably a grand slam listening experience for me.

The full title is Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. And curious, it is. Non-fiction at its finest, Mary Roach has done what most authors may not be able to make a reader feel: take the emotion out of death and look at it clinically; even sometimes, laugh at it. Other than watching shows like The First 48 on A&E, I don't know what happens to bodies once the person is no longer alive, nor am I aware of the good our bodies can provide for science. I also had no idea that there were so many people in the world who were experimenting with creative and alternative ways for body disposal (note: only in legitimate and natural circumstances, not in a Mafia-esque type of way) that are outside of the "standard" options like cremation and casket burial (how about composting your body and being used as fertilizer? That's one way to "recycle" yourself). While some sections made me cringe and I made a note to stop eating any food right before, during, or right after listening to my copy, I loved every single second of this experience, and cannot imagine anyone not enjoying it.

Like most people, I'm humbled by the experience of dealing with the aftermath once someone we care about passes away. With this book, I got a chance to take the emotional aspect out of it, and was able to reflect on moments in my own life dealing with death. For example, my mother passed away after complications from a heart transplant eight years ago, and those last few weeks were painful. In listening to this audio, though, I removed quite a bit of the sad memories and ultimately was absorbed in several chapters, particularly by the theories presented later on as to "where" in the body the soul may reside, either the brain or the heart. Mesmerized, I was.

This is exactly what this book is: an experience. It's such a completely insightful snapshot of the history of a cadaver that I was disappointed when it came to an end. While I giggled, cringed, and gasped through chapters, it gave me quite a bit to think about, even so much as changing my own opinion on my plans for when my time comes (provided there are no available organs that are usable for donation). Maybe I will have to donate my body to science. I can't imagine not. At least right now.

As I mentioned earlier, this will make my Top Books List for 2012. Mary Roach delivers successfully an engrossing, hilarious, and humbling account of all the many things a cadaver can do, and you may recognize her most recent book making the blogging rounds, Packing for Mars. I cannot wait to snag that one next. She's got a bunch of other books out there, even one about sex called Bonk. I think I might get that one first. (After all, one of the questions presented in that book is whether or not one can "think" themselves to org*sm.)

What are you planning on doing when the time comes? Are you like me and just thought a standard burial or cremation would be the way to go?

Audio Notes: The narrator was spectacular! Shelly Frasier is a new-to-me narrator and my goodness, she delivered the humor remarkably. Her voice perfectly resonated, even through a few of the later squeamish discussions on "medicinal cannibalism." Click here to go to the Audible.com page and click the play button below the book cover for a five-minute sample. 

Others said (let me know if I missed your review):

Publisher: Tantor Media
Release Date: 9/28/2003
Audio Time: 7 hours, 59 minutes
Narrator: Shelly Frasier

About the Author
Journalist and former Salon.com columnist Mary Roach didn't leave readers and critics cold with her first book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. In fact, the comical-yet-scientific look at the "life" of the dead body throughout history earned her a spot in the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program. She is also the author of Spook, Bonk, and Packing for Mars.

Follow the author:

This is another selection for the 2012 Audio Book Challenge hosted by Teresa.

24 comments:

  1. This sounds like my kind of non-fiction. I need to try Roach's work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I definitely think you would like this one, Kathy. The audio book is a double thumbs up from me; Shelly Frasier was perfect! It's so freakin' funny the way Mary Roach writes, and Shelly Fraser cranks it up a few notches even more with the perfect delivery in the best sections. Enjoy!

      Delete
  2. I have PACKING FOR MARS lying around here somewhere, I may have to pick it up...after I listen to STIFF (or Bonk...big decisions!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've gotta read Packing for Mars, soon. I think I might pick up Spook or Bonk next, though, since the subject matter of both of those drew me in immediately. Of course, I don't think I'm going to go wrong with any Mary Roach book I pick up next :) Let me know what you think of Stiff!

      Delete
  3. Stiff if patiently waiting for me on my TBR shelf so I didn't read your entire review. However, I'm so glad to hear that you loved it! Can't wait to read it now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do let me know what you think when you read it! Certainly squeamish in some parts, but who cares, it was super-fascinating! Can't wait to see what you think!

      Delete
  4. I've had this audiobook for probably two years but just haven't been inspired to listen. Clearly, I've been missing out! Glad to know you liked it so much - I plan to get to this one asap! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yessss!! You have to listen to it!! Let me know what you think!

      Delete
  5. This is going on my TBR list! I rather like the idea of being composted. I'm a very green person and I believe in recycling. Plus all those chemicals they use to keep up cemeteries aren't be good for the environment. Can't wait to read this one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, you'll totally dig (like that word usage?!) this book, then. There are so many creative alternatives presented, and the fantastic way our bodies contribute to science or other studies is remarkable. I definitely don't want to decay away in a coffin, that's for sure! Let me know what you think of this when you get to it, I hope you love it!

      Delete
  6. I love how enthusiastic you get over books! And usually you are right, as far as my taste is concerned, anyway! So I guess I'll be adding this one to my shelves soon as well! :--)

    ReplyDelete
  7. How timely! I was just asking for recommendations for a good audio book. This will be it! Thanks - it sounds fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow this sounds great. I was thinking it would be sort of morbid (even though I know she's funny) but it really sounds more fascinating than anything. I have not read anything by her except for about half of Bonk. I was really loving it, but then about halfway through I just got tired of how in depth the information was and I never finished it. I think that was a year ago! I sort of want to return to it but don't want to re-read what I already read, but think I'll have forgotten it if I don't, LOL.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Just added to mt TBR shelf. Thanks, Natalie :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great review, Natalie! Listening really enhanced the experience for me, although the opening was a little rough (that face-lift refresher course for plastic surgeons). I'll definitely be reading more by Roach. BTW, the link above takes me to Zibilee's review of Packing for Mars. Here's mine:
    http://lakesidemusing.blogspot.com/2011/12/stiff-curious-lives-of-human-cadavers.html

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great review. I have read a lot about this book and have had it for a year on my nook.

    http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is my favorite Roach book and I think you wrote the most amazing review on it! I have listened to Packing for Mars, and was really enamored of that one too, and am now listening to Bonk, which is kind of scientific, but still very interesting and enjoyable. Such a great author, and her approach to research is really all encompassing and stellar. So glad you loved this one.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I've had it under my radar for years, but finally downloaded the audio version last month. It's top of the audiobook TBR. I'm very glad to know the narrator does a good job with it. Do you know if the paper version has images that we audio reader will miss?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Im always on the look out for a great audio read so thanks for sharing...:D And I just found your blog today...LOVE IT...:D

    ReplyDelete
  15. This one is new to me, and the cover had me immediately interested. I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I read this book a couple years ago and LOVED it. Like you, I had to remember not to read it right before or after a meal...there were a few sections that made me pretty queasy, especially the bits where Roach is touring that compound with the decomposing cadavers. Like you say, Stiff gives us a unique chance to look at death unemotionally, and to seriously consider what happens to bodies - and what might happen to OUR bodies - after death. I just finished Packing for Mars and can't wait to read another of Roach's books.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've read this one and Packing for Mars and thought they were both awesome. I have Bonk sitting on the shelf...I admit I'm a little nervous about that one, since I heard her talk about her research for the book...let's just say she'll do just about anything for science!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I loved this one too. Bought it for my mom for Mother's Day several years ago (and everyone looked at me funny). However, she adored it as well, and while I've tried others of Roach's works, I haven't enjoyed any as much as this one.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...