Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary RoachW.W. Norton & Company, 2003
Nonfiction; 303 pgs
I couldn’t resist picking up and reading Stiff. The author is someone I’ve come to know through Reader’s Digest, her little articles about daily life making me laugh out loud and nod my head in understanding. With all the suspense/thriller and mystery books I read, gory fictional death scenes and dead bodies don’t give me much pause anymore [Ha! Not so true anymore, says my 2014 self]. So with a bit of morbid curiosity mixed in with wanting to read more by journalist Mary Roach and the high praise I had heard in regards to this book, I took a chance. It was well worth it.
Mary Roach is a layperson who takes on a difficult and not often thought of subject. Her humor throughout is tasteful and respectful. I do wonder what the scientists and professionals thought and said after her visits though! I especially was interested in the historical bits she included in the book, often reading passages to my husband and coworkers much to their chagrin. I found myself shaking my head in wonderment at some of the experiments or ideas tested, laughing at the absurdity of some, and cringing at others. There were also moments when I had no doubt of the good accomplished by some of the trials cadavers are put through. Stiff has given me much to think about in regards to the life of my body after death. I never realized just how many uses there are for a cadaver.
The Mind at Night: The New Science of How and Why We Dream by Andrea Rock
Basic Book, 2004
Nonfiction; 224 pgs
I first heard about this book in a newsletter and the subject matter intrigued me. I have always been interested in dreams, including the how and why. While some of the research covered in this book was a review from my undergraduate days, I found this book fascinating just the same. The Mind at Night focuses on the science of dreaming, much more so than analysis or interpretation of dreams, although there is some mention of that as well. The current theories regarding dreaming tend to evolve around the significance of dreams during memory and learning processes. The emotional significance demonstrated in dreams was discussed at length, including how they impact individuals during their waking hours. Also, the current advances and theories in the uncovering of consciousness were touched upon. I came away from this book with more admiration for the brain and it’s complexities than ever before. The brain is an amazing organ. I look forward to seeing what further research reveals in this area down the road. The Mind at Night was well written and interesting over all.