29 January 2005

6. Stiff by Mary Roach

This was an interesting book about a topic I hadn't really given a lot of thought to: what happens to you after you die? 300 pages, pretty informative, funny at times, and thought-provoking.

Each chapter explains a path that your body can take, or could have taken had we lived in a different age: anatomy lab, victim of grave robbery for some anatomist's experiments, organ donation, taken to a Tennessee university where they study body decay (they basically dump the bodies on the side of a hill and see what happens to them) for police departments, cremation, used in ballistic tests, car crash tests, airplane tests, cannibalized, and even used as compost.

The writing is funny at times (I almost said "lively."), and the author can't resist a few good (and a few bad) puns. Right up my alley.

While I was reading the book I was thinking about what I want for my dead body. Right at the end of the last chapter Roach talks to a funeral director who makes the pitch that the survivors should decide what is going to happen to the body because they are the ones who have to live with the consequences. Say I tell my wife and kids I want to be cremated and scattered, but they want to bury me and visit my grave - a conflict they are going to feel bad about forever, no matter what course they take. It's a good point, but I still want to have a say.

Donate my useful organs, cremate the rest, and scatter them in some large body of water. BUT, if that proves to painful for the survivors, then whatever. I just don't think getting buried, whole, in some gaudy, expensive box is a good use of time or real estate.

I recommend it if you need a nonfiction that will teach you something totally not normal.

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