Before I Blogged I Read- Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

There’s a lot of books I read before I started this blog in June of 2010 and I figured it might be fun to spotlight those! They won’t be an actual review because OMG YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO LONG AGO but I’ll just note a few things about it, if I enjoyed it and what my Goodreads rating was. So thus “Before I Blogged I Read…” was born. Because you know…I’m so original with my names for things. Check out PAST “Before I Blogged I Read” posts.


Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers


Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads
Date I Read it: September 2009

1. I love interesting non-fiction about the most random things. This definitely fit that bill. I mean, CADAVERS. Who would have thunk it would be an interesting read? IT WAS. She talked about all sorts of things related to cadavers — history type things and cultural things with dead bodies, how sometimes cadavers help solve crimes, what happens when you donate your body to science and all the interesting things that cadavers have been used for. SUPER INTERESTING STUFF.

2. It was informative, funny and never boring. Mary Roach writes in a way where you forget you are LEARNING THINGS. She’s humorous and makes you interested in every word. I think some people think..NON-FICTION = boooooring but this is the most NON-BORING thing I’ve ever read. I promise you that it’s one of the most engaging pieces of non-fiction I’ve ever read. I mean, if you are looking for something super in depth about cadavers this probably isn’t super scholarly but you will walk away with all sorts of knowledge.

3. I got so many weird looks when I read this in public (the break room when I worked at Forever 21).  I think everyone thought I was super weird for reading about dead bodies. Okay, it’s kind of morbid in ways but not really. Yeah, sometimes there were some icky descriptions (I will never forget the decomposing part) but nothing that made me want to vom.

4. I’m kind of ticked at myself that I haven’t read her other non-fiction at this point. I love feeling like I learned something but was still entertained so I really want to read her other books. She’s got books about the science of sex, the afterlife, space and alimentary canal. SO INTERESTING.

Favorite Quotes:

“The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you. ”


“We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between we do what we can to forget.”



Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Tell me what you thought! Have you read any of her other books? Also, please recommend some interesting non-fiction for meee!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. Fun fact: The night of the first time I ever saw this cover of this book I had nightmares about being locked in a morgue. I don’t think I would be able to read it to this day because dead bodies scare me sooooo much. My stepmom used to work at a funeral home and she’d tell us all these stories about the corpses and just agh. You’re so brave for reading this one! haha

    • Oh god. THAT SOUNDS LIKE A TERRIFYING DREAM. It was a little strange to read about dead bodies at first but I can’t explain why it stopped being weird. Maybe her humor or the science aspect? I don’t know! And omg now I’m kind of curious about the stories but I could neverrrr work in a funeral home. CREEPS ME OUT.

  2. I read “Stiff” way back in 2004 and it profoundly influenced the way I thought about non-fiction writing. It was such a long time ago that if haven’t reviewed it for GeekyLibrary, but I love your idea of featuring past books.

    I was lucky enough to have Mary Roach sign my battered copy of Stiff ( pic: and I’ve reviewed her books “Packing for Mars” and the newest, “Gulp.”
    I’ve read all of them, but I can’t bring myself to write a review for “Bonk.” Too easily mortified…

    • Ah very cool you got to meet her! And hahahah I can only imagine how awkward it might be to review Bonk! What one would you say is your fave of all of them?

  3. Stiff is her best, but Bonk is very good. I coincidentally (on purpose?) read Bonk on my honeymoon. Spook and Packing for Mars were ok, but not her peak of awesomeness.
    I second Kallen that if you get a chance to see her speak, it is well worth it.

    Other interesting sciencey non-fiction: Panic in Level 4 by Richard Preston (umm, who doesn’t love a book about the scientists who study Ebola?), The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, and Better/The Checklist Manifesto/Complications by Atul Gawande (doctors and their decision-making)

  4. I love Stiff, so interesting! She writes the craziest books!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

  5. I’m listening to Stiff right now, and it’s definitely different but it’s also fun to listen to! I definitely forget I’m learning stuff about cadavers! I’ve never read anything by Sarah Vowell, but book riot recommended her as a good person to read if you like Mary Roach a few months back in their holiday episode. I’m definitely looking forward to reading some of her other books when I finish Stiff.

    I read Candyfreak by Steve Almond a while back, which is probably the closest quirky/non-fiction book closest to Mary Roach I’ve read. It’s not sciencey, but he does travel all over the country to different candy companies. It’s more about his candy obsession but there are bits and pieces of history thrown in.

  6. This reminds me a little of this book… which also looks like a good read: The Poisoner’s Handbook.

  7. I’ve read this one! I don’t read non-fiction often, but the cover caught my attention and I was sucked in after reading the pages aloud to my boyfriend. SUCH a fun book. I did try to read her Bonk book… but sadly I think it was lacking something. I just don’t know what though. I wasn’t as interested in it as Stiff.

  8. I haven’t read this one yet, but her others are FANTASTIC!

    I’m a big fan of non-fic – particularly microhistories, the history of just one thing. I flew my nerd flag proudly when I found a copy of The Secret Life of Lobsters for $1! And nothing – NOTHING – makes me happier than reading about terrifying deadly plagues. One of Richard Preston’s books has already been mentioned, but he has another: The Hot Zone, one of my all-time favorite books.

    Other awesome microhistories are: Banana, Color, Uncommon Grounds + The Devil’s Cup (COFFEE!!), The Professor and the Madman (the making of the OED), The Potato, The True History of Chocolate …I like my food bios. 🙂

  9. I like reading non-fiction sometimes, just because it’s so interesting when authors tackle real life things (and you learn a lot too!). That quote you included, the first one, is really intriguing! I might just have to check this one out, even though dead bodies kind of freak me out, honestly.

  10. My coworker is always recommending her books. They definitely seem both informative and interesting. And I’ve heard her research adventures are something to be envious about.

  11. YES! I LOOOOVED Stiff. Mary Roach’s books are the best. STIFF is the only one I own, but I recently read PACKING FOR MARS, and it was hilarious and so informative. (I don’t think I’ve ever be so excited to see a footnote on a page. Her footnotes are the BEST.)

  12. I’ve been wanting to read Stiff for a long time. Med student, dissections… it’s just such an appropriate book.