Nonfiction About Death and Medicine in Mini-Reviews

July 30, 2015 non-fiction, Science 16

Nonfiction About Death and Medicine in Mini-ReviewsTitle: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Author: Mary Roach
Source: Bought
Links: Amazon|Indiebound |Goodreads
Rating: five-stars


It took Mary Roach giving a talk in Syracuse, NY to get me to finally pick up one of her highly praised books. I’m happy to confirm, it was as awesome as everyone says! Roach has an incredible talent for finding the interesting in the ordinary. She made me think about things I already knew in new ways and taught me more fun facts than I know what to do with. I was particularly impressed by her ability to pursue interesting digressions without derailing the story. I also thought she did a great job being funny, without being irreverent to the dead. I will strongly recommend against reading this while eating. It’s not for the faint of heart! The worst parts for me were some the animal experiments, which I did sometimes think included inappropriate humor. Everything else about this was wonderful though and I can’t wait to start her Packing for Mars for the Nonfiction Book Club this weekend!

Nonfiction About Death and Medicine in Mini-ReviewsTitle: Keep Out of Reach of Children: Reye’s Syndrome, Aspirin, and the Politics of Public Health
Author: Mark A. Largent
Source: LibraryThing
Links: Amazon|Indiebound |Goodreads
Rating: three-stars


I’m tucking this one in the middle, because it was a bit of a let down. Although the story of this devastating childhood illness was interesting, I felt as though the author got lost trying to capture our poor understanding of the causes. I appreciated that the author tried to convey the different theories about the illness. I liked that the didn’t try to pretend there was a clear cut answer. However, at the end, I wish there had been a clear message to the book and there just wasn’t. The story wasn’t told in a nice linear fashion. Transitions between topics could be choppy. And at the end, I just felt confused.

Nonfiction About Death and Medicine in Mini-ReviewsTitle: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Source: Gift
Links: Amazon|Indiebound |Goodreads
Rating: four-stars


Initially, I thought this book was going to be disappointing as well. The beginning mostly focused on the physical aspects of death. This didn’t bother me much but it was a little gross and not very interesting to me. Then, the author started to address the more philosophical side of death: how we view death, how we treat bodies, etc. This part was incredible. It was thoughtful without being too bleak, with a dark sense of humor aptly compared by one cover blurb to Six Feet Under. If you like the show, you’ll love this book!

16 Responses to “Nonfiction About Death and Medicine in Mini-Reviews”

    • DoingDewey

      I’m not especially brave about what I read, mostly skipping thrillers or horror, and I was able to get through them without too much trouble. The only thing that bothered me enough to really stick with me are the bits about animal experiments in Stiff. Overall, they’re not so bad 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      So far, the only nonfiction I’ve tried as an audiobook has been some author-read memoirs. I really like those in audiobook format, since you can get the author’s emotion that way. I’m not sure I’d like other nonfiction that way though. I found the science-y sections in The Martian a bit hard to follow as an audiobook and could see some nonfiction being the same way!
      DoingDewey recently posted…Review: SiddharthaMy Profile

  1. Naomi

    I love this post – did you read these all around the same time? I think learning about the history of death and how we have treated it over the years would be so interesting.

    I am going to attempt the Packing For Mars read-along this month (it sounds like a fun way to get in some non-fiction), but will be away for half the month, so we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, I will at least get it read. 🙂
    Naomi recently posted…Interview with Cinda Gault, author of This Godforsaken PlaceMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      No, like most of my mini-review posts, I read the books at random times and only intentionally connected the themes when writing my reviews! I would like to do more intentionally reading a lot on one topic though. Right now my reading has lots of breadth and little depth.

      I’m glad you’re attempting the read-along! I hope you have a great time travelling and have plenty of time for reading too 🙂
      DoingDewey recently posted…Review: SiddharthaMy Profile

  2. Jancee @ Jancee's Reading Journal

    I think I read Stiff – I know I’ve read at least one Roach book! I love how she makes things so interesting! I’ve also read Smoke Gets in Your Eyes…I read that one in October for the Halloween season and really enjoyed it!
    Jancee @ Jancee’s Reading Journal recently posted…Review – MosquitolandMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      It’s true! I’d read about nearly anything Mary Roach chose to write about it.

      Smoke Gets In Your Eyes seems like the perfect Halloween read 🙂
      DoingDewey recently posted…Review: SiddharthaMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, she does write about the quirkiest topics! But you can definitely tell your kids that you’re not alone in enjoying her books. I thought this was fantastic!

    • DoingDewey

      The topic of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was obviously very similar to Stiff and the author did also do a great job finding interesting stories to tell, the way Mary Roach does. The feel of the book was very different though – more thoughtful and less funny. There were funny bits, but not constant humor the way there is in Mary Roach’s books. We’re starting to make plans for Nonfiction November and I can’t wait!