Stiff by Mary RoachStiff by Mary Roach


byMary Roach

Paperback | April 27, 2004

Pricing and Purchase Info

$17.56 online 
$21.95 list price save 20%
Earn 88 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores


"One of the funniest and most unusual books of the year....Gross, educational, and unexpectedly sidesplitting."—Entertainment Weekly

Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.
Mary Roach is the author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Her writing has appeared in Outside, Wired, National Geographic, and the...
Title:StiffFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:304 pages, 8.22 × 8.49 × 0.83 inShipping dimensions:8.22 × 8.49 × 0.83 inPublished:April 27, 2004Publisher:WW NortonLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0393324826

ISBN - 13:9780393324822


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Frank and Hilarious If you like dry humour, sarcasm, and the unvarnished truth then you will love this book!!
Date published: 2019-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic book - interesting and funny all wrapped up! Great read. Querky, funny, factual and interesting. Love this book and highly recommend it!
Date published: 2018-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly recommend!! Love how Mary Roach writes. The content may be serious, but she presents it with humor. Very interesting information and really made me think about how I want to be dealt with when I die!
Date published: 2018-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Funny but Educational! This was my first Mary Roach book but if it's a sign of what she's like then I will definitely be reading more of her work. She meshes humor with fact so that you're learning but still entertained. She does a good job explaining past, present, and future practices in her book. Her sense of humor is a tad morbid but so is mine so I loved it. This book is a great way to get a taste of cadavers (obviously not literally haha) that's written in a way that anyone can read it, even if you're not in the industry it's still easy to read and understand.
Date published: 2018-07-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Interesting This was a really well written and intriguing look into the lives of cadavers and all that we have learned from them. Somewhat gross at times, but still very interesting.
Date published: 2018-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this! I first saw this book in an episode of Six Feet Under and googled it to see what it was. Glad I did! Mary Roach breaks down science for people like me that generally don't absorb any of it. This book is a fantastic read and something I've come back to again and again.
Date published: 2018-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read! Mary Roach is my favourite science book author. This book is informative and very funny.
Date published: 2018-06-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Japan is doing a lot of things right thats hard to do when your population is 65 and older
Date published: 2018-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beyond Interesting This book is fascinating. Even if you aren't in the medical field, this book is worth a read. You learn so many things that you never knew you wanted to know.
Date published: 2018-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So funny! A bit macabre, but very informative and so very very funny!
Date published: 2018-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVE this book!! This is by far my favourite book by Mary Roach, a book I can read over and over again!
Date published: 2018-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 10/10 - Would Reccomend No one else could write such an engaging, thoughtful book on cadavers. This is probably my favourite of all Roach's works!
Date published: 2017-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So Good I'm so glad I found Mary Roach - she mixes science with humour and the results make a great read.
Date published: 2017-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazing As usual with Mary Roach, this book was funny, informative and addictive!
Date published: 2017-10-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth a Read! Roach explores the many controversial avenues of the history of surgery, funerary practices, organ donation, and so much more in a humorous and educational way. She touches on the vast array of uses (past, present, and future), along with their ethical pitfalls, considerations, and opinions associated with the use and study of human cadavers, and how what seems gruesome and unnecessary to some, has been pivotal in developing life saving treatments and safety features we rely on today.
Date published: 2017-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great writer! I purchased this book shortly after it came out and was enthralled from page one. So many things I didn't know and would never have occurred to me to know, about the life of a corpse! Fascinating, humourous and compassionate. I re-read this book 2 or 3 times a year!
Date published: 2017-08-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Nothing Special I found this hard to get into and a little dry. It had some interesting points but they were few and far between. I felt like I was dragging my way through it.
Date published: 2017-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it!! I saw this book while watching Six Feet Under and just had to read it, I'm so glad I did!! This book set me on a new career path as it peeked my interest in the dead!!
Date published: 2017-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learn while laughing This is one of my most favourite books ever. Mary Roach's writing has be incredibly interested and entertained. I'm not sure everyone would be able to write about cadavers and have it be funny, Mary does it incredibly well. As someone who strongly considered going into Mortuary Science this book was incredibly enlightening. It's a book that I'll continue rereading for the rest of my life.
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hilarious and weird Something you don't have to read but once you do you're glad you did.
Date published: 2017-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Hilarious and interesting. Mary Roach knows how to deliver what should be relatively dry information in such an engaging way!
Date published: 2017-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A perfect mix of history and humour. I took this book on vacation and could not stop reading it every day until I finished it. Was the first Mary Roach book I read and have since devoured the rest of her books. Absolutely love the way she writes.
Date published: 2017-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! A little bit of dark humour, history of medicine, and science... perfect!
Date published: 2017-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mary Roach's best I love Mary Roach in general, but her first I read was Stiff and it is still my favourite. At times disturbing and a bit morbid, but still fascinating. She is the queen of the footnote and will go to great lengths to follow an interesting thread via the footnote section.
Date published: 2016-11-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Surprisingly funny I loved this book! the authors passion for the subject was clear and it was so hilarious in a morbid, twisted way! I LOVE IT
Date published: 2016-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertaining #plumreview I loved this book. It's informative without being boring, in large part by the author's clear fascination in learning about the subject. While it's a bit morbid, humorous anecdotes and comments throughout the book balance it out nicely.
Date published: 2016-11-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Well researched and informative I guess I have watched too many forensic and medical shows because there was not a lot of information in this book that I was not aware of. What I found most interesting was what the future of cadaver use and disposal will look like. The writing style is easy and humerous and this book is an easy read for anyone. It has a lot of really well researched information.
Date published: 2014-04-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wanted To Read This For Ages This is one of those books that I've wanted to read for a long time and had high expectations.  I am well-read on the subject matter, it's one of my special interests, however I come to this topic with a Catholic worldview and that is where my review will differ from the average one.  First off, when one has such high expectations for a book so highly lauded it's not surprising I was a bit let down.  Mostly on the humour side.  I have a dry sense of humour, not easily offended but I didn't find this "uproariously funny" like Publisher's Weekly did.  Some of the humour made me chuckle but a lot of it fell flat, was full of puns (uck) and just not my type.  I wouldn't read any of her other books unless the subject matter fascinated me and so far none of the others do.  Anyway,  humour aside, I found the book entirely captivating.  Starting out historically I was in familiar territory and then topics became more modern describing their history up to expected new future advances.  I enjoyed most the history; that is where my own special interests lie especially during the Victorian period.  Next, I'm interested in forensics and really enjoyed the chapters on the body farm, airplane crashes and crash test specimens.  At chapter 8 I became uncomfortable with the topic of brain death and organ donation because the author allowed her own moral opinion to flavour the discussion, something she hadn't done up to this point.  The Catholic Church excepts brain death, as do I, however my convictions do not hold with taking organs from a breathing body that needs to be anaesthetised.  But Roach uses this chapter to express her firm opinion otherwise and in her punny way calls the 54% of us (her statistic) who would not donate organs from a supposedly "brain dead" loved one, "heartless".  It's preferable not to insult your reader; otherwise she was very respectful towards death, dignity and religion throughout.  I found the chapter on the future ways of disposing of remains quite interesting.  She presents two ways that may become popular: composting (which would not be accepted by my religion) and tissue reduction (which would be acceptable with the dehydration option).  If this last process, which results in remains similar to cremations, is cheaper and involves less funerary pomp then I'm quite interested in it.  An honourable and respectful funeral mass and internment is needed for the deceased (according to my religion) but fancy, expensive, funerary finery is nothing but a burden on the living.  Certainly an interesting book but I think I'm at the point now where I need to look at the texts she used for research and read those types of books myself now, since this is a subject I'm actually interested in scholarly.
Date published: 2014-02-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Gross and Gratifying! What happens to a body when it decomposes? What happens when you donate your body to science? These and many other questions are answered as you journey through medical history from the early grave robbers to crash test dummies. Some chapters are downright disgusting but like gawkers at a grizzly crime scene, you can’t look away. The section on embalming was particularly eye opening and you get a new appreciation for organ donation. some chapters were a bit stale but overall a very interesting read.
Date published: 2013-07-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Informative and funny If you ever wondered what donating you corpse to science might mean, this book has answers. Very interesting read.
Date published: 2013-04-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Kinda boring Not all it was advertised
Date published: 2013-04-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Stiff Waste of money
Date published: 2013-03-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from INFORMATIVE AND ENTERTAINING The topic of this book sounds a bit, well, morbid. In some respects it is. Ms. Roach tackles the subject of donating not only your organs but your whole body to science. She takes us through the history of the practice from body snatchers, cadaver theft and willing donors. We are given a tour of a body farm, a science lab and various other uses for human cadavers. Some of which I never suspected. Far from being morbid this book is factual and interesting. Ms. Roach’s writing style is light and often humorous (even at her own expense), despite the grim subject matter. A worthwhile read.
Date published: 2012-06-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Disgusting, interesting and amazing! Stiff takes you beyond the Hollywood of CSI to what really happens to bodies after death. Peppered with dark humour, Mary Roach holds nothing back as she takes you into the world of the dead. Reader discretion is advised.
Date published: 2012-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stiff with the Competition Death is never an easy topic to talk about with people - we're all afraid of it, and sometimes it's just not the most tactful thing to talk about (eg. at a funeral). Roach reaches back into history and relates in an engaging and respectful manner about how we dealt with death in a variety of ways, and how we've refined certain practices now. She delves into the occult and the strange (like the Dark Ages), the beginnings of the Enlightenment (the Renaissance), to current practices - and be careful! Your body may not end up where you thought it would be if you signed up for certain legal practices to be done after your death. I thought signing up for my body to be used for science would have my body end up in a museum or parts of it would be fueling others who needed it - which isn't actually all of the options listed. This book, above all else, gives you food for thought.
Date published: 2010-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read You may think it is a morbid subject or that it will be a gorey read but it really wasn't (in my opinion). Sure there were jokes, not tacky ones, but those used to lighten the mood while getting the point across. Heck, I always thought "Do what you want with me, I'll be dead... what do I care?". But now, I am really looking at all the options. If studying my body will help discover a cure for a disease or improve car safety then sign me up. Give this a read, you'll be glad you did. Real eye opener.
Date published: 2010-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome! educational! fun! fast! completely cool! and not at all gross or weird. i love how mary roach handles everything very clinical and not at all gratuitous. i will definitely be donating my body to science after this read.
Date published: 2009-06-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Interesting! What a great book! Mary Roach answers questions I would never have even though to ask! She has really inspired me to think about the various options for what I want done with my body after I die, and has educated me on so many options that I didn't know existed. It is so interesting to learn about all the various uses of cadavers, and yet, with such a light and entertaining tone. Roach uses humour to take any awkwardness out of this delicate subject. May be a little technical for some, but overall, a fabulous read.
Date published: 2009-05-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hilariously Informative Have you ever wondered what happens to all those donated cadavers? If yes, or even if No, youll love this great book. Informative and funny, Roach succeeds at making death and decaying hilarious.
Date published: 2009-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this book. A staff member recommended this to me and I looked at her like she was crazy. A book on cadavers? But she never steered me wrong in the past so I picked it up. I loved this book. It chronicles many different ways a human body is used after death - whether it is as a cadaver in gross anatomy in medical school or the heads being used as practice for plastic surgeons. While it is on the macabre side it is also hilarious and informative and respectful. It does make you think that maybe your body should be put to good use after you're gone. I can't wait to read her next book on the science of sex. Her books are a remarkable balance of information and entertainment. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2008-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favourites This book is one of my all time favourites. It's hilarious and very enjoyable to read. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Date published: 2008-02-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Macabre but fascinating. This book raised and helped resolve real personal issues. I had never really thought about what happens to people after they die, except the obvious funeral rites of course. But there is so much more and although creepy none the less very interesting.
Date published: 2007-10-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A curious fabulous read This book was oddly amazing, and tends to pull you in to the world of the human cadaver. This is probably as close as many want to get to one. I actually laughed out loud at some parts. I really enjoyed this book and I know you will too.
Date published: 2006-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome! I couldn't put it down! Best book I've read!
Date published: 2005-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great read! Took a good look into the factual side of things, yet somehow kept it light, and even laugh out loud at some points. Had alot of fun reading this book, can't wait for the follow up spook , should prove interesting!
Date published: 2005-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life Changing Stiff was by far one of my favorite books. I was a little weary about it when I first picked it up - wondering how interesting the lives of cadavers could be - but this book changed my entire perspective on both death and the scientific use of cadavers. It is graciously funny, full of wit and charm. A definate worthwhile read.
Date published: 2004-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from EXCELLENT!!! This is by far the best book i have ever read! Oddly laugh out loud funny in parts but Roach maintains respect. Very informative and entertaining...I could not put this book down!
Date published: 2004-07-26

Editorial Reviews

This quirky, funny read offers perspective and insight about life, death and the medical profession.... You can close this book with an appreciation of the miracle that the human body really is.—Tara Parker-Pope, Wall Street JournalA laugh-out-loud funny book... one of those wonderful books that offers up enlightenment in the guise of entertainment.—Michael Little, Washington City PaperAs weird as the book gets, Roach manages to convey a sense of respect and appreciation for her subjects.—Roy Rivenburg, Los Angeles TimesRoach is authoritative, endlessly curious and drolly funny. Her research is scrupulous and winningly presented.—Adam Woog, Seattle TimesMary Roach is one of an endangered species: a science writer with a sense of humor. She is able to make macabre funny without looting death of its dignity.—Brian Richard Boylan, Denver PostRoach writes in an insouciant style and displays her métier in tangents about bizarre incidents in pathological history. Death may have the last laugh, but, in the meantime, Roach finds merriment in the macabre.—Gilbert Taylor, BooklistAcutely entertaining, morbidly fascinating.—Susan Adams, Forbes