April 10, 2011


I've had this on my TBR pile for a while.  I don't know what took me so long to read it.  It's right up my alley.  I love a breezy, fun non-fiction book in which the author is just indulging in satisfying her curiosity and taking us along for the ride.

Of course, Mary Roach was curious about what happens to dead bodies after they are donated to science so it's probably an either love it or hate it proposition as to whether you want to read this.

Subject matter aside, I love her style and will be reading her other books for sure. She does for scientific curiosity (and curiosities) what Sara Vowell does for American history.

Now I know you're wondering about the mix of her funny writing and the subject matter of dead people.  Is she disrespectful?  I didn't think so.  She often talked about if she would be comfortable or not either being the subject or having a family member be the subject of any given experiment.  She also discusses the great lengths many of the researchers go to keep everything as dignified as possible.

Then of course, beyond the humor and the interesting subject matter there's the scientific knowledge we're continually gaining from our dead fellow humans.  It's all amazing and worthwhile.  Safer car crashes, better body armor, better footwear for land mine sweepers, along with much, much more.

You don't have to donate your body to science, of course.  I'd be happy to, but that's an entirely personal decision.  I do, however, heartily wish everyone was at least an organ donor as a matter of course.  There's really no good reason not to and it's so needed.


C.B. James said...

I thought this book was an enjoyable surprise. It's serious enough, respectful enough, but also funny enough to make her the Sarah Vowell of science, as you say.

My grandfather donated his body to science, cancer research specifically. I'm not making any plans myself. Though I am an organ donor.

Victoria said...

I was thoroughly fascinated by this book. She had some great advice for people about how to deal with arrangements after the death of a loved one.
Personally I was fond of the mulch idea after being parted out. Michael leans toward body to science.

The Sarah Vowell of science, is a perfect comparison.

Jim Randolph said...


I'm glad you enjoyed it!


I like the mulch idea too, but don't think it's caught on yet. We'll see.


julie.rowles said...

I have read this book also! Roach presents such an interesting look at death and after death experiences for the living, as well.

I think it is great that you are not only interested in donating your body to science but also, it seems that you are interested in organ donation, too!

Though there are vast differences between organ donation and whole body donation, both are incredibly important to furthering medical research and education and in saving lives. I work for a whole body donation program, Science Care (www.sciencecare.com), and we are one of the few programs of our kind that allows organ donors to also be whole body donors. There are truly immense benefits to society of doing both and I hope more and more people begin to see the value in organ and whole body donation.

You can locate your state local organ procurement organization here: http://www.sciencecare.com/pdf/OPO_List.pdf.


Rebecca said...

I have this on my to-read pile for so long too. Glad to know it's worth a read!