Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead

Additional Formats
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781591846710
  • 272 Pages
  • Current
  • Adult


Not too long ago, there was no coming back from death. But now, with revolutionary medical advances, death has become just another serious complication.

As a young medical student, Dr. David Casarett was inspired by the story of a two-year-old girl named Michelle Funk. Michelle fell into a creek and was underwater for over an hour. When she was found she wasn’t breathing, and her pupils were fixed and dilated. That drowning should have been fatal. But after three hours of persistent work, a team of doctors and nurses was able to bring her back. It was a miracle.

If Michelle could come back after three hours of being dead, what about twelve hours? Or twenty-four? What would it take to revive someone who had been frozen for one thousand years? And what does blurring the line between “life” and “death” mean for society?

In Shocked, Casarett chronicles his exploration of the cutting edge of resuscitation and reveals just how far science has come. He begins in the eighteenth century, when early attempts at resuscitation involved public displays of barrel rolling, horseback riding (sort of), and blowing smoke up the patient’s various orifices. He then takes us inside a sophisticated cryonics facility in the Arizona desert, a darkroom full of hibernating lemurs in North Carolina, and a laboratory that puts mice into a state of suspended animation. The result is a spectacular tour of the bizarre world of doctors, engineers, animal biologists, and cryogenics enthusiasts trying to bring the recently dead back to life.

Fascinating, thought-provoking, and (believe it or not) funny, Shocked is perfect for those looking for a prequel—and a sequel—to Mary Roach’s Stiff, or for anyone who likes to ponder the ultimate questions of life and death.


“A specialist in end-of-life care at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Casarett has produced a travelogue about as comprehensive as possible without actually dying… His guide to the process of hauling passengers back up the exit ramp is fascinating.”
—New York Times
“[Casarett] traces the colorful history of efforts to revive the dead with meticulous reporting and humor”
—Washington Post
“An exciting, firsthand account of scientific research whose implications are relevant to every living person.”
—THE FUTURIST magazine
“Entertaining, informative, and at times, electrifying.”
“Casarett accessibly reveals the work being done that may enable us to sleep far more, and so travel far further—in both place and time—than we ever dreamed.”
—Publishers Weekly
“With a keenly-honed sense of true curiosity and a killer wit, the author gamely goes from mortuary to museum and back to look deeply at how “dead” is maybe not really dead these days. He melds old-school myth with modern technology to see why lives are saved (or not), and his irreverent comments and hilarious observances give the title of his book a wicked double meaning… Death is a trip we’ll all take, and some of us will be lucky enough to return with minimal souvenirs. If you’re ready to laugh in the face of that, then reading “Shocked” should be your aim.”
—Terry Schlichenmeyer, “The Bookworm” in The Killeen Daily Herald
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