The July book selection for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Club is Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. This book by Mary Roach chronicles the compelling, and sometimes very humorous, use of the human body after one has passed on. For over two-thousand years, cadavers have been involved in some of science's greatest, and sometimes strangest, undertakings.
In this fascinating, ennobling account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and, in so doing, tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.
In her introduction to Stiff, Mary Roach remarks that "death makes us helplessly polite." Why is it that we're compelled to use polite language when discussing death? Why are we often afraid to discuss it in the way Roach has done here?
Many research studies that make use of cadavers raise questions about maintaining the dignity of the deceased. For example, a ballistics study might involve decapitating a cadaver or shooting one in the face--all for the sake of gathering data to ensure that innocent civilians who are hit in the face with nonlethal bullets won't suffer disfiguring fractures. Do you think that the humanitarian benefits of experimenting on cadavers can outweigh any potential breach of respect for the dead? Why or why not?
The heart, cut from the chest, can keep beating on its own for as long as a minute or two. This, Roach says, reflects centuries of confusion over how exactly to define death. Have modern scientific experiments on cadavers helped us to pinpoint the precise moment when life ceases to exist and all that's left is a corpse?
Roach says, "On a rational level, most people are comfortable with the concept of brain death and organ donation. But on an emotional level, they may have a harder time accepting it." Some organ recipients even worry that they will take on certain characteristics of their donors. What might this say about how we link the physical human body to the human soul?
Roach concludes that "it makes little sense to try to control what happens to your remains when you are no longer around to reap the joys or benefits of that control." Do you agree with her?
Let us know what you think of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.
Welcome to the KPL Book Club Blogspot
Welcome to the internet home of the Kilbourn Public Library (KPL) Book Club. The KPL Book Club meets at the library once a month. A book is chosen for each month and then members of the book club meet the last Monday and Wednesday of every month for lively discussion and treats. While we can’t offer you treats via the internet, this KPL Reads blog was designed for those of you who would like to participate in the book club but don’t have time to join us at meetings. Each month KPL staff will post discussion topics and questions to get you “talking”. Join in the discussion by adding a post to the blog. Click on the word comments below the post you want to "talk" about and write your comment. Be sure to check back often to see feedback and comments.