Audiobok: Stiff

by Mary Roach
Read by Shelly Frasier
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: Um, Roach doesn’t mince her words when she talks about scientific stuff, and so some of this is kind of … gross. Fascinating, but gross. There’s a few mild swear words, but if you’re interested in dead bodies, go for it. It’s in the science section of the bookstore.

I picked this one out because I was in between audio books and because I really enjoyed Roach’s writing in Gulp. This time (it’s an earlier book), Roach takes a look into what happens to bodies after people die. From the ones that are donated to science — used in anatomy labs, for surgery practice, for research, etc — to the way the bodies decompose, you have to say that Roach is nothing but thorough.

On the one hand, this wasn’t the best book to listen to. Frasier did a good enough job narrating (though I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t Roach talking; much of the book is in first person), it’s just that when you read about bodies decomposing, you don’t want to LISTEN to the words. Or at least I don’t. I never got physically ill, but it did make me queasy on a couple of occasions.

On the other hand, though: it was fascinating. Even if the book is 10 years out of date, it’s interesting to think about what can be accomplished through science after one dies. If anything, it got me thinking about what I want done with my body (though Roach pointed out that much of what is done with the body is decided not only by the deceased but by the family members) after I pass on. I think I was most swayed by one of the final chapters where Roach wrote about a woman in Sweden who was advocating for promession, which is a way of composting bodies. For some reason, this really struck a chord with me. I’d much rather be turned into earth and help a tree grow than sit in a graveyard. Shocking, I suppose. But my kids are on board with that (at least right now).

In the end, even though it was gross at times, I really enjoyed this one.

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