Top positive review
Morbid yet entertaining
Reviewed in the United States on November 27, 2016
Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers is an example of a morbid topic turned into a page turning and ironically uplifting read. Stiff is very informative on the history and uses of cadavers while also providing entertainment through Roach’s unique style of writing. Additionally, the book contains numerous gory stories about blood and death, but the real meat of the book is in Roach’s main point of the history and uses of cadavers. She uses real examples of scientists and researchers performing horrific operations on human remains in order to learn the anatomy of our complex species. The chapters are deliberate and in depth and they address a wide range of topics from impact studies for car safety to human composting as a new means of disposal. Roach is additionally accommodating enough to include informative footnotes in places where the subject deviates from common knowledge. One of the best things about this book, besides just the mere content, is the witty style in which Roach employs. She seamlessly integrates jokes and humor into her writing of dead people without being the least bit disrespectful, in my opinion. To make its case, Stiff appeals to both medical interests in the surgeries described and to historical ones in its ample amount of sources on how humans first discovered how our anatomy was designed. The prominence of death in the book however does not lower its accomplishments by any means. If anything, death and dying opens up a new conversation of what to do after we die. The only piece of cautionary advice I have is that certain parts are a bit too bloody and gory, which may lead to sensitive readers not being able to read every page. To oversimplify, Stiff is one of a kind and can be thoroughly enjoyed no matter what medical expertise one has. While prior knowing of the book’s anatomy knowledge is useful in understanding the kind of value it has, it can be advantageous for a multitude of audiences.