Book: Stiff - The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Author: Mary Roach
Recently, I was accosted for being overly generous in my ratings. If I remember correctly, I believe the exact words were "man up." Hesitant and self conscious about handing out the mother of all letter grades to Mary Roach; I spent nearly an hour poring over "Stiff" in an almost desperate search for flaws lest I look like a sissy reviewer. Unless you're prone to squeamishness, (in which case I might skip it given the vivid descriptions of dead people's insides - pun intended) my search yielded no results. Hands down, it is one of the best books I have read all year.
Mary Roach is neither a scientist nor an embalmer. She simply got tired of not having a satisfactory answer to the age old question of "what happens to us when we die?" The answer is not that of immediate transformation into rose beds. The actual answer is gruesome and borders on "To Much Information." Were it not for the superbly hilarious writing she uses, there would be nothing to counter the gore. It was a totally bizarre experience reading about some elderly person's bones being freeze dried for preservation while laughing out loud at Roach's quirky and wry personal comments. This seemingly effortless infusion of "laugh out loud humor" into a topic that scores high on the morbidity scale is what rockets this into the category of perfection.
The research was painstaking and labor intensive (she crossed the country and back on more than three occasions for interviews). "Stiff" is stuffed to the brim with insanely compelling facts that make for awesome ice breakers in awkward social situations. People might look at you funny, but still - you broke the ice :)
I can't offer up the degree of praise it deserves, but I implore you to believe me when I say it's a must read!