Honestly, I can’t decide what I thought of this book. The information presented was really quite fantastic but the author (and her ceaseless personal commentary) drove me nuts throughout the story.
Stiff is full of information about what happens to bodies after death – ways they can be used or how they decompose. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of what happens to bodies after death – almost like a miniature story within the overlying story. I found myself thinking, numerous times while reading, “now that’s an interesting fact”. That being said, the facts alone weren’t enough for me to enjoy this book.
I was really unable to enjoy this book because the author drove me bonkers. She’s a little too sassy (for lack of a better word) for the non-fiction genre. While she might make a good journalist (in certain magazines), she’s a little too condescending for a non-fiction book about death. While there were times when her sassy commentary made me laugh, most of the time it came off as disrespectful and rude. For example, she writes (on page 95 or so) that “the Swiss prefer not to fight, but they are armed, and with more than little red pocket knife/can openers”. To me, the part about pocket knifes just seems condescending towards the Swiss. There were numerous times throughout the book that she makes personal judgments towards individuals when she doesn’t know more than a few facts about them, Sir Harold on page 90 (or so) being just one example.
The author also continually brings up “bathroom humor” as much of the humor in her book. Numerous times throughout the book she asks the scientists what happens to penile tissues (or, as happens on page 79, she looks it up on the computer at the local medical school library). When the scientists tell her what happens after death, she makes sure to pay close attention to all the cadavers she comes across to see if what the scientists said plays true. I found her fixation with the genetalia of dead men a little immature and annoying.
Bottom Line: I would give this book 5/10 stars. There was a lot of good information present throughout the book but the author writes in a very unappealing way that overpowers the book and makes it difficult to enjoy.