Monday, May 5, 2014

"You Guys Want to See a Dead Body?" A Book List About Meat Suits

(Supernatural joke...anybody? No? Okay....)

Guys. Guys. This is my 100th post. Hooray! Thanks for sticking with me, I really appreciate it. Here's to more :)

"Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" by Mary Roach I feel like this book covers almost every topic that you can imagine: grave robbing, autopsies, guillotines, organ donations, willed bodies, Christs crucifixion , etc etc etc. I'm not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination but everything that was discussed was presented in an informative and entertaining way. I'll highlight a couple of things that I found interesting.

Autopsies were taboos in many places, some places they were illegal. Grave robbery became a gory and illegal way to make some macabre money. However you didn't have to be dead or a grave robber to benefit. In Rochester New York in 1831 a man was paid 37 and a half cents when he sold his sons amputated leg. (So much ick in one sentence).

Donated bodies are often used to save lives. Some tests just have better results when using an actual body and not a manufactured stand in. In the 60s (and a little bit today) real bodies are used as "crash test dummies" to make cars safer. For example, for every cadaver used to develop safer air bags 147 lives were saved. Before the collapsing steering column was invented, many people were impaled through the heart in a car accident. Cadaver testing helped with this development as well. Another interesting use of cadavers was trying to develop safer footwear for soldiers who disarm landmines.

I could go on and on about all the interesting stuff in this book. The fun writing style, wide variety of topics, and yet normal page count make this a great read. I give it a 4 out of 5 rating!

Feel free to go to Toys Ru Us and buy this

"Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales" by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson

Have you heard of The Body Farm? It's the only place of it's kind (at least in the United States). It's associated with the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and basically it's a acre of land where scientists and anthropologists and biologists and several other -gists study what happens to bodies as they decay. It's helped with countless criminal cases (especially in determining time of death of victims).

Bill Blass is the one who started it all. He starts his career as an anthropologists digging up Indian graves in the Dakotas (this was in the 60s where people didn't really view this as a problem). But people knew his expertise in being able to identify a body's sex/age/race just by looking at the bones, and he began to get calls from law enforcement officials looking for help with cases. Before him and a few others there really wasn't such a thing as a forensic anthropologist.

The book was interesting because it's not often that you get to see a whole field of science develop like this. When Bill was starting he probably could have never dreamed about where the field would be now. I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars!


  1. You know... I have always wanted to read Stiff and just haven't yet. It sounds sooooooo good!! You made me want to read this book right now!

    1. It's such a great book, I feel like it should be assigned reading for science classes in high school, I know it would have made me enjoy class more. Also, sneak preview, another Mary Roach book shows up on the blog this week!


Thank you so much for your comment. I'd love to talk books with you!