Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stiff by Mary Roach

So you've never found cadavers to be particularly compelling? You've always thought that dead bodies are best left alone? I thought so, too--and then I read Mary Roach's wonderfully quirky; funny; thoughtful; and sometimes, a little gross, book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

Stiff is all about corpses: what it's like when they rot, how they've been used as research subjects and crash test dummies, the way they help address questions about anatomy, ethics, and even cannibalism. Mary Roach's writing is straightforward and interesting, filled with all kind of juicy nuggets of information about things you would never think to ask. Did you know, for example, that a decomposing body smells a bit like rotting fruit and a bit like rotting meat, or that there has been debate and study about whether or not heads, when severed from their bodies, can see or hear or feel?

If the subject of this book just doesn't grab you, try one of Mary Roach's other books instead. She's the most compelling science writer I've ever read, and her subject matter tends to be slightly off the beaten path. Most recently, she's written Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, and her other books include Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife.

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