Share 11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

Allison Tyler thinks a good book and a cup of tea help cure what ails you. If you're looking for her, she's probably painting in the woods.

Death. It happens to everyone. Knowledge is power, so we’ve created a list of books to introduce you to many of the curiosities that the “D” word has to offer. Each of these books approaches the subject of our demise with respect and candor and, although death isn’t a lark, there’s humor to be found, too. Pick one up, take a deep breath, and prepare for a walk on what lies just on the other side.


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
by Caitlin Doughty

Why would anyone choose to become a mortician? Caitlin Doughty explains in her hands-on, candid, often-humorous romp through her employment in a crematorium. If you’ve wondered what happens when a body is cremated, Caitlin will set you straight, and also give you myriad macabre conversation-starters for your next cocktail party.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Caitlin Doughty

Why would anyone choose to become a mortician? Caitlin Doughty explains in her hands-on, candid, often-humorous romp through her employment in a crematorium. If you’ve wondered what happens when a body is cremated, Caitlin will set you straight, and also give you myriad macabre conversation-starters for your next cocktail party.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

By Allison Tyler | October 22, 2015

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The American Way of Death Revisited
by Jessica Mitford

In 1963, Jessica Mitford pulled back the shroud and boldly threw open the heavy doors on the funeral industry, giving Americans, and the rest of the world, the raw truth of how our country deals with its dead—and how we might do better in the future. This newly revised edition is still a must-read decades years later.

The American Way of Death Revisited
Jessica Mitford

In 1963, Jessica Mitford pulled back the shroud and boldly threw open the heavy doors on the funeral industry, giving Americans, and the rest of the world, the raw truth of how our country deals with its dead—and how we might do better in the future. This newly revised edition is still a must-read decades years later.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

By Allison Tyler | October 22, 2015

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Curtains
by Tom Jokinen

While apprenticing with a third-generation undertaker, journalist Tom Jokinen called the gap between a person’s last breath and the reappearance of their body in a casket (or urn) as the time that “people pay us to keep to ourselves.” True as that might be, his honest account from inside the funeral industry is a thoughtful and informative read for those of us who’d rather know what goes on: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Curtains
Tom Jokinen

While apprenticing with a third-generation undertaker, journalist Tom Jokinen called the gap between a person’s last breath and the reappearance of their body in a casket (or urn) as the time that “people pay us to keep to ourselves.” True as that might be, his honest account from inside the funeral industry is a thoughtful and informative read for those of us who’d rather know what goes on: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

By Allison Tyler | October 22, 2015

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Working Stiff
by Judy Melinek, M.D., & T. J. Mitchell

The field of forensic pathology is laid out bloody and bare in Dr. Judy Melinek’s unvarnished memoir of her experiences as a young medical examiner in New York City, both before and after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Although at times grim, Dr. Melinek’s sense of humor remains intact, and her reverence for the dead she comes in contact with always shines through.

Working Stiff
Judy Melinek, M.D., & T. J. Mitchell

The field of forensic pathology is laid out bloody and bare in Dr. Judy Melinek’s unvarnished memoir of her experiences as a young medical examiner in New York City, both before and after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Although at times grim, Dr. Melinek’s sense of humor remains intact, and her reverence for the dead she comes in contact with always shines through.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

By Allison Tyler | October 22, 2015

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Mortality
by Christopher Hitchens

Throughout the course of his ordeal battling esophageal cancer, Christopher Hitchens, a confirmed atheist, adamantly and bravely refused the solace of religion. In this riveting account, he poignantly embraces the range of human emotions as cancer invades his body and compels him to grapple with the enigma of death.

Mortality
Christopher Hitchens

Throughout the course of his ordeal battling esophageal cancer, Christopher Hitchens, a confirmed atheist, adamantly and bravely refused the solace of religion. In this riveting account, he poignantly embraces the range of human emotions as cancer invades his body and compels him to grapple with the enigma of death.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

By Allison Tyler | October 22, 2015

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Knocking on Heaven's Door
by Katy Butler

Part memoir, part medical history, and part spiritual guide, this visionary book posits that the technological medical system, obsessed with maximum longevity, often creates more suffering than it prevents. Knocking on Heaven's Door is inspiring passionate conversations about lighting the path to a better way of death.

Knocking on Heaven's Door
Katy Butler

Part memoir, part medical history, and part spiritual guide, this visionary book posits that the technological medical system, obsessed with maximum longevity, often creates more suffering than it prevents. Knocking on Heaven's Door is inspiring passionate conversations about lighting the path to a better way of death.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

By Allison Tyler | October 22, 2015

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Being Mortal
by Atul Gawande
Modern medicine has transformed birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable, but in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine frequently run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, bestselling author Atul Gawande asserts that medicine can provide not only a good life but also a good end.
Being Mortal
Atul Gawande

In his 2016 commencement speech at Caltech, practicing surgeon Atul Gawande encouraged students to “[pursue] ideas with curiosity, inquisitiveness, openness, and discipline. As scientists, in other words.” He takes the same approach in his book BEING MORTAL, in which he argues that there should be more focus on how medicine can provide a comfortable and dignified end-of-life experience for patients and families.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Inspiring Reads for Recent Graduates

By Tolani Osan | May 22, 2017

11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

By Allison Tyler | October 22, 2015

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The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead
by David Shields

Mesmerized and at times unnerved by his ninety-seven-year-old father’s nearly superhuman vitality and optimism, David Shields undertook an investigation of the human physical condition. The result is a personal meditation on our flesh-and-blood existence and our mortal being that provokes us to contemplate the brevity and radiance of our own sojourn on earth.

The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead
David Shields

Mesmerized and at times unnerved by his ninety-seven-year-old father’s nearly superhuman vitality and optimism, David Shields undertook an investigation of the human physical condition. The result is a personal meditation on our flesh-and-blood existence and our mortal being that provokes us to contemplate the brevity and radiance of our own sojourn on earth.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

By Allison Tyler | October 22, 2015

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Grave Matters
by Mark Harris

Shoppers should be savvy, and that extends to the death industry. Mark Harris, an advocate for more environmentally friendly “disposal” choices, has written a highly detailed, organized, and informative volume that will be a welcome respite when the time comes that you, or your family, must make some hard choices.

Grave Matters
Mark Harris

Shoppers should be savvy, and that extends to the death industry. Mark Harris, an advocate for more environmentally friendly “disposal” choices, has written a highly detailed, organized, and informative volume that will be a welcome respite when the time comes that you, or your family, must make some hard choices.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

By Allison Tyler | October 22, 2015

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On Death & Dying
by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D.

This remarkable book was the first to explore the now-famous five stages of death and gives readers a better understanding of how imminent death affects the patient, the professionals who serve that patient, and the patient’s family, bringing hope to all who are involved.

On Death & Dying
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D.

This remarkable book was the first to explore the now-famous five stages of death and gives readers a better understanding of how imminent death affects the patient, the professionals who serve that patient, and the patient’s family, bringing hope to all who are involved.

MENTIONED IN:

11 Fascinating Books to Help Us Talk About Death and Dying

By Allison Tyler | October 22, 2015

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