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Book Review: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

As medical students we are stigmatized: everyone thinks we are nerds who study only books related to the finer aspects of human biology. And without doubt, some of us are. I always feel a pang of horror, and even more than that, depression, when I see my friends carrying puny little bags filled beyond their capacity with the inestimably atrocious works of Guyton, Ganong, Keith L. Moore, Costanzo, and the all-time favorite BD Chaurasia. It is a source of inexpressible wonder to me how these people can cope with so much and not become Dr. Jekyll.
But medical students read other books too. At least some of them do. And among these, probably the best in business right now is Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. By now, you must be hardened enough (read dheet) not to whimper at the mention of a cadaver. Indeed some of you have already formed a long-lasting relationship of dissection with the rotting, eviscerated body lying all by itself in the Anatomy DH, giving off a putrid smell we all try to avoid.

Stiff is neither a textbook on dissection nor a fictitious tale with a Twilight-like ending. It is a book based on facts, but these gory facts are arranged in such a way that you will either die of laughing or start contemplating on gehri bateein.
It is sad that I can’t go chapter by chapter into the details. After all, I don’t want to bore you off, and plus, you can read all that up on the Internet. And the book. If you ever get the wit to do it.
From anatomy murders committed for the sake of providing bodies for dissection to public surgeries with an aura of uncomfortability (hem hem), Stiff has everything to shock you and surprise you. For instance, did you know that dead humans dipped in honey were actually fed to the sick to cure them?
No, I bet you didn’t. And you won’t know most of the other things this book has to offer. Read it, if you can. Beware!



  1. Finally! D breaks the silence and a good review,too! But why do I get the feeling that you have ended it rather abruptly,D? A couple more tidbits in a para or two would have added a nice 'academic' bulk to the review.


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