Books



History, Sociology & Anthropology

The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains – Thomas W. Laquer

No culture has been indifferent to mortal remains. Even in our supposedly disenchanted scientific age, the dead body still matters–for individuals, communities, and nations. A remarkably ambitious history, The Work of the Dead offers a compelling and richly detailed account of how and why the living have cared for the dead, from antiquity to the twentieth century.

 

Passed On: African American Mourning Stories – Karla FC Holloway

Holloway finds that ways of dying are just as much a part of black identity as ways of living. Gracefully interweaving interviews, archival research, and analyses of literature, film, and music, Holloway shows how the vulnerability of African Americans to untimely death is inextricably linked to how black culture represents itself and is represented.

 

Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Found – Frances Larson

From the Western collectors whose demand for shrunken heads spurred massacres to Second World War soldiers who sent the remains of the Japanese home to their girlfriends, from Madame Tussaud modeling the guillotined head of Robespierre to Damien Hirst photographing decapitated heads in city morgues, from grave-robbing phrenologists to skull-obsessed scientists, Larson explores our macabre fixation with severed heads.

 

Death and the Idea of Mexico – Claudio Lomnitz

Death and the Idea of Mexico is the first social, cultural, and political history of death in a nation that has made death its tutelary sign.

 

Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint – Dr. Andrew Chesnut

Dr. Chesnut offers a fascinating portrayal of Santa Muerte, a skeleton folk saint whose cult has attracted millions of devotees over the past decade.

 

Ghosts And The Japanese: Cultural Experience in Japanese Death Legends by Michiko Iwasaka

In this scholarly but accessible work, authors Iwasaka and Toelken show that everyday beliefs and customs–particularly death traditions–offer special insight into the living culture of Japan.

 

 

Over Her Dead Body: Femininity, Death and the Aesthetic – Elizabeth Bronfen

he conjuction of death, art and femininity forms a rich and disturbing strata of Western culture, explored here in fascinating detail by Elisabeth Bronfen.

 

The Potent Dead – Henri Chambert-Loir

The Potent Dead is a collection of studies by leading scholars of Indonesian culture, history, and anthropology that examines the death practices and rituals of tribal groups in Indonesia.

 

The Funeral Casino: Meditation, Massacre, and Exchange With the Dead in Thailand – Alan Kilma

Klima offers a strikingly original interpretation of mass-mediated violence through a study of funeral gambling and Buddhist meditation on death.

 

The Blood of Emmett Till – Timothy B. Tyson

This extraordinary New York Times bestseller reexamines a pivotal event of the civil rights movement—the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till—“and demands that we do the one vital thing we aren’t often enough asked to do with history: learn from it.”

 

Purified By Fire: A History of Cremation in America – Stephen Prothero

Purified by Fire tells the fascinating story of cremation’s rise from notoriety to legitimacy and takes a provocative new look at important transformations in the American cultural landscape over the last 150 years.

 

Death, Dissection and the Destitute – Ruth Richardson

In the early nineteenth century, body snatching was rife because the only corpses available for medical study were those of hanged murderers. With the Anatomy Act of 1832, however, the bodies of those who died destitute in workhouses were appropriated for dissection. At a time when such a procedure was regarded with fear and revulsion, the Anatomy Act effectively rendered dissection a punishment for poverty.

 

A Social History of Dying – Allen Kellehear

Kellehear takes the reader on a 2 million year journey of discovery that covers the major challenges we will all eventually face: anticipating, preparing, taming and timing for our eventual deaths.

 

African American Historic Burial Grounds and Gravesites of New England – Glenn Knoblock

This volume covers the burial sites of African Americans–both enslaved and free–in each of the New England states, and uncovers how they came to their final resting places.

 

The Corpse: A History – Christine Quigley

Throughout the centuries, different cultures have established a variety of procedures for handling and disposing of corpses.

 

Death in England: An Illustrated History – Edited by Peter C Jupp & Clare Gittings

This work provides a social history of death from the earliest times to Diana, Princess of Wales.

 

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War  – Drew Gilpin Faust

The Republic of Suffering reveals the ways that death on a large national scale changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation, describing how the survivors managed on a practical level and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the unprecedented carnage with its belief in a benevolent God.

 

The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Toward Death, 1799-1883 – Gary Laderman

This absorbing book explores the changing attitudes toward death and the dead in northern Protestant communities during the nineteenth century.

 

Death, Mourning, and Burial: A Cross-Cultural Reader – Edited by Antonius C. G. M. Robben

An indispensable introduction to the anthropology of death, readers will find a rich selection of some of the finest ethnographic work on this fascinating topic.

 

Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual – Peter Metcalf and Richard Huntington

A cross-cultural study of rituals surrounding death that has become a standard text in anthropology, sociology, and religion

 

Funeral Festivals in America – Jacqueline S. Thursby

Thursby explores how modern American funerals and their accompanying rituals have evolved into affairs that help the living with the healing process.

 

 

 

Funeral Industry

The American Way of Death – Jessica Mitford

Jessica Mitford’s exposé of the American funeral industry. When first published in 1963, this landmark of investigative journalism became a runaway bestseller and resulted in legislation to protect grieving families from the unscrupulous sales practices of those in “the dismal trade.”

 

Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home – Sheri Booker

A dazzling and darkly comic memoir about coming of age in a black funeral home in Baltimore.

 

 

 

Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death – Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson

Decades after Jessica Mitford stunned America with vivid accounts of corruption and abuse in the death industry, not much has improved – but a consumer movement is now awakening, and Americans are asserting their rights over a key part of life

 

The Law of Human Remains – Tanya Marsh

Tanya Marsh, a nationally recognized expert in the law of human remains and cemetery law, collects, organizes, and states the legal rules and principles regarding the status, treatment, and disposition of human remains in the United States so that attorneys and courts can more easily discover, understand, use, and ultimately critique and reform the law.

 

To Serve the Living : Funeral Directors and the African American Way of Death – Suzanne E. Smith

From antebellum slavery to the twenty-first century, African American funeral directors have orchestrated funerals or “homegoing” ceremonies with dignity and pageantry. As entrepreneurs in a largely segregated trade, they were among the few black individuals in any community who were economically independent and not beholden to the local white power structure. Most important, their financial freedom gave them the ability to support the struggle for civil rights and, indeed, to serve the living as well as bury the dead.

 

Rest in Peace: A Cultural History of Death and the Funeral Home in Twentieth-Century America – Gary Laderman

Laderman traces the origins of American funeral rituals, from the evolution of embalming techniques during and after the Civil War and the shift from home funerals to funeral homes at the turn of the century,

 

Cemetery Law: The Common Law of Burying Grounds in the United States – Tanya Marsh

The history, structure, and doctrines of the common law of burying grounds in the United States.

Facing Your Mortality

The Denial of Death – Ernest Becker

Winner of the Pulitzer prize in 1974 and the culmination of a life’s work, The Denial of Death is Ernest Becker’s brilliant and impassioned answer to the “why” of human existence. In bold contrast to the predominant Freudian school of thought, Becker tackles the problem of the vital lie — man’s refusal to acknowledge his own mortality. In doing so, he sheds new light on the nature of humanity and issues a call to life and its living that still resonates more than twenty years after its writing.

 

The Worm at the Core – Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszcynski

A transformative, fascinating theory—based on robust and groundbreaking experimental research—reveals how our unconscious fear of death powers almost everything we do, shining a light on the hidden motives that drive human behavior.

 

Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death – Irvin D. Yalom

Staring at the Sun is a profoundly encouraging approach to the universal issue of mortality.

Science and Medicine

After We Die: The Life and Times of the Human Cadaver – Norman L. Cantor

What will become of our earthly remains? What happens to our bodies during and after the various forms of cadaver disposal available? Who controls the fate of human remains? What legal and moral constraints apply? Legal scholar Norman Cantor provides a graphic, informative, and entertaining exploration of these questions.

 

Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies? –  Kenneth V. Iserson

Written for both laymen and professionals, this book gives answers the questions that everyone wants to ask in a question and answer format. What really happens to a dead body? What does our culture do with corpses and what have other cultures done? How does a body turn to dust?

 

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach

Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem.

 

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End – Atul Gawande

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.

 

From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums – Samuel J. Redman

In museum “bone rooms” a scientific revolution was unfolding that would change our understanding of the human body, race, and prehistory.

 

 

The Anatomical Venus: Wax, God, Death and the Ecstatic – Joanna Ebenstein

The Anatomical Venus intrigues and confounds, troubling our neat categorical divides between life and death, body and soul, effigy and pedagogy, entertainment and education, kitsch and art.

 

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime – Judith Flanders

In this fascinating exploration of murder in the nineteenth century, Judith Flanders examines some of the most gripping cases that captivated the Victorians and gave rise to the first detective fiction.

 

Working Stiff – Dr. Judy Melinek

Just two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. She threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation—performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, and counseling grieving relatives.

 

Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime – Val McDermid

McDermid uncovers the history of forensic science and the people who make sure that for murderers, there is no hiding place.

 

Human Body Decomposition – Jarvis Hayman, Marc Oxenham

Human Body Decomposition compiles a chronological account of research into the estimation of the time since death in human bodies found decomposed in order that researchers in the subject field can concentrate their thoughts and build on what has been achieved in the past

 

Bone Rooms: The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America’s Unburied Dead – Ann Fabian

Fabian paints a lively picture of scientific inquiry in service of an agenda of racial superiority, and of a society coming to grips with both the deadly implications of manifest destiny and the mass slaughter of the Civil War.

General Death

199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die – Loren Rhoads

A hauntingly beautiful travel guide to the world’s most visited cemeteries, told through spectacular photography and their unique histories and residents.

 

Looking at Death – Barbara Norfleet

This book, assembled from the archives of Harvard University, offers an unflinching look at death by violence, by suicide, by old age and disease. Essays by the author accompany the six sections, probing our responses and raising questions about the images on display in each section.

 

The Victorian Celebration of Death – James Stevens Curl

From humble working-class exequies to the massive outpouringof grief at the State funerals of Wellington and Queen Victoria herself, The Victorian Celebration of Death covers an immense canvas. It describes the change in sensibility that led to a new tenderness towards the dead; the history of the urban cemeteries with their architecture and landscapes; the ephemera of death and dying; State funerals as national spectacles; and the utilitarian reactions towards the end of the nineteenth century.

 

The Victorian Book of the Dead – Chris Woodyard

The Victorian Book of the Dead unearths extraordinary tales of Victorian funeral fads and fancies, ghost stories, bizarre deaths, mourning novelties, gallows humor, premature burial, post-mortem photographs, death omens, and funeral disasters.

 

The Morbid Anatomy Anthology – Edited by Joanna Ebenstein and Colin Dickey

The Morbid Anatomy Library hosted some of the best scholars, artists and writers working along the intersections of the history of anatomy and medicine, death and the macabre, religion and spectacle. The Morbid Anatomy Anthology collects some of the best of this work in 28 lavishly illustrated essays.

 

Mourning Animals: Rituals and Practices Surrounding Animal Death – Margo de Mello

Mourning Animals investigates how we mourn animal deaths, which animals are grievable, and what the implications are for all animals.

 

 

Grief and Memoir

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir – Roz Chast

In her first memoir, New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.

 

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

 

Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin – Sybrina Fulton, Tracy Martin

Trayvon Martin’s parents take readers beyond the news cycle with an account only they could give: the intimate story of a tragically foreshortened life and the rise of a movement.

 

It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand – Megan Devine

Devine reveals a path for navigating grief and loss not by trying to escape it, but by learning to live inside of it with more grace and strength. Through stories, research, life tips, and mindfulness-based practices, she offers a unique guide through an experience we all must face. Here she debunks the culturally prescribed goal of returning to a normal, “happy” life, replacing it with the skills and tools to help us experience and witness the pain of loss in ourselves and others—so we may meet our grief knowing it to be a natural step in the greater journey of love.

 

Picture Books for Children

 

Peach and Blue – Sarah Kilbourne

Learning how to make the most out of our time together is at the heart of this beautifully illustrated book.

 

The Heart and the Bottle – Oliver Jeffers

What happens when that special someone who encourages wonder and magic is no longer around? We can hide, we can place our heart in a bottle and grow up . . . or we can find another special someone who understands the magic. And we can encourage them to see things in the stars, find joy among colors and laughter as they play.

 

The Dead Bird – Margaret Wise Brown

One day, the children find a bird lying on its side with its eyes closed and no heartbeat. They are very sorry, so they decide to say good-bye. In the park, they dig a hole for the bird and cover it with warm sweet-ferns and flowers. Finally, they sing sweet songs to send the little bird on its way.

 

Saying Goodbye to Lulu – Corinne Demas

Lulu is the best dog a girl could ever hope for, but when she grows older and gradually becomes weak, the little girl must face the sad possibility of losing her dear friend, and inevitably, cope with the death of her canine companion.

 

Rosita y Conchita – Erich Haeger and Eric Gonzalez

Help Conchita celebrate the life of her dealy departed sister as she sets up a memorial altar for her on Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead).

 

Duck, Death and the Tulip – Wolf Erlbruch

Simple, unusual, warm and witty, this book deals with a difficult subject in a way that is elegant, straightforward, and thought-provoking.

 

Cry, Heart, But Never Break – Glenn Ringtved

Aware their grandmother is gravely ill, four siblings make a pact to keep death from taking her away. But Death does arrive all the same, as it must. He comes gently, naturally. And he comes with enough time to share a story with the children that helps them to realize the value of loss to life and the importance of being able to say goodbye.

 

 

Young Adult Fiction

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed

 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter – Erika L. Sanchez

Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

A tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

 

Ghosts (graphic novel) – Raina Telgemeier

As Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), approaches, Catrina must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister, who has cystic fibrosis, sake — and her own.

 

Esperanza Rising – Pam Muñoz Ryan

Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But then her father’s sudden death forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers.

 

History is All You Left Me – Adam Silvera

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes.

 

 

Photography

Rejoice When You Die – Leo Touchet

Rejoice When You Die  documents the lively history of jazz funerals in the heyday of the late 1960s, when they were still an honor bestowed only on jazz musicians.

 

Bizzarro Bazar Book Collection – Ivan Cenzi and Carlo Vannini

This stunning series explores Italy’s hidden and macabre wonders.

 

Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America – Jay Ruby

An exploration of photographic representation of death in the United States from 1840 to the present, focusing on the ways in which people have taken and used photographs of deceased loved ones and their funerals to mitigate the finality of death.

 

Beyond the Dark Veil: Postmortem and Mourning Photography From The Thanatos Archive – Jack Mord

A compilation of more than 120 extraordinary and haunting photographs and related ephemera documenting the practice of death and mourning photography in the Victorian Era and early twentieth century.

 

The Harlem Book of the Dead – James Van Der Zee

A poignant look at black history through Harlem death photography by the famous photographer James Van Der Zee.

 

 

Sleeping Beauty : Memorial Photography in America – Stanley B. Burns

Stanley B. Burns’ landmark publication Sleeping Beauty, Memorial in Photography in America, ushered in a new era of appreciation of the importance of these images.

 

Cities of the Dead: The Ancestral Cemeteries of Kyrgyzstan – Margaret W. Morton 

Architecturally unique, Kyrgyzstan’s dramatically sited cemeteries reveal the complex nature of the Kyrgyz people’s religious and cultural identities. Often said to have left behind few permanent monuments or books, the Kyrgyz people in fact left behind a magnificent legacy when they buried their dead.

 

Stiffs, Skulls and Skeletons: Medical Photography and Symbolism – Stanley B Burns and Elizabeth A. Burns

This work reveals the nineteenth-century fascination with the dead body and body parts. The classic visual iconography of postmortem, dissection, and bone photography is presented and expanded to include early autopsy images and X-ray studies.

 

 

Books by Order of the Good Death Members

Caitlin Doughty 

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty―a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre―took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.

 

NEW From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death (Pre-order! Release day is October 3rd)

Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. With curiosity and morbid humor, Doughty encounters vividly decomposed bodies and participates in compelling, powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in America. Featuring Gorey-esque illustrations by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity introduces death-care innovators researching green burial and body composting, explores new spaces for mourning― including a glowing- Buddha columbarium in Japan and America’s only open-air pyre― and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals. 45 illustrations.

 

 

Landis Blair 

NEW From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death (Pre-order! Release day is October 3rd)

 

The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry

The unbelievable true story of a father, a son, and remarkable journey from despair to enlightenment.

 

The Progressive Problem 

When a cat grows up and begins to have a problem, his owners make decisions that force the cat to confront mortality and the darker side of human indifference.

 

Landis also has a website featuring many other titles.

 

Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Afterlives: The Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages

The society of medieval Europe developed a rich set of imaginative traditions about death and the afterlife, using the dead as a point of entry for thinking about the self, regeneration, and loss. These macabre preoccupations are evident in the widespread popularity of stories about the returned dead, who interacted with the living both as disembodied spirits and as living corpses or revenants.

 

Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages

Nancy Caciola shows how medieval people decided whom to venerate as a saint infused with the spirit of God and whom to avoid as a demoniac possessed of an unclean spirit. This process of discrimination, known as the discernment of spirits, was central to the religious culture of Western Europe between 1200 and 1500.

 

Sarah Chavez (Troop) 

Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss (Contributing author)

This anthology of raw memoirs, heartbreaking stories, truthful poems, beautiful painting, and stunning photography from parents who have suffered child loss offers insight into this unique, devastating and life-changing experience—breaking the silence and offering a ray of hope to the many parents out there in search of answers, understanding, and healing.

 

Changing Landscapes: Exploring the growth of ethical, compassionate, and environmentally sustainable green funeral practices (Contributing author)

All the thought leaders in this collection have one central theme in common: finding ways to honor our commitment to ethical and compassionate funeral practices that nourish the relationships between families and providers, the profession and the public, and human beings and the Earth.

 

Colin Dickey

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the livinghow do we, the living, deal with stories about ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed, for whatever reason, haunted?

 

Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius

Cranioklepty takes us on an extraordinary history of a peculiar kind of obsession. The desire to own the skulls of the famous, for study, for sale, for public (and private) display, seems to be instinctual and irresistible in some people.

 

Afterlives of the Saints: Stories from the Ends of Faith

Essays that move through Renaissance anatomy and the Sistine Chapel, Borges’ “Library of Babel,” the history of spontaneous human combustion, the dangers of masturbation, the pleasures of castration, “and so forth” — each essay focusing on the story of a particular (and particularly strange) saint.

 

Joanna Ebenstein

The Anatomical Venus: Wax, God, Death and the Ecstatic

The Anatomical Venus intrigues and confounds, troubling our neat categorical divides between life and death, body and soul, effigy and pedagogy, entertainment and education, kitsch and art.

 

Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris 

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

At a time when surgery couldn’t have been more hazardous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the riddle and change the course of history. Eerie and illuminating, The Butchering Art celebrates the triumph of a visionary surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world.

 

Dr. Paul Koundounaris 

Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs

Koudounaris gained unprecedented access to religious institutions to reveal  skeletons, known as “the catacomb saints,” that were richly dressed in fantastic costumes, wigs, crowns, jewels, and armor, and posed in elaborate displays inside churches and shrines as reminders to the faithful of the heavenly treasures that awaited them after death.

 

The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses

Koudounaris photographed more than seventy sites for this book. He analyzes the role of these remarkable memorials within the cultures that created them, as well as the mythology and folklore that developed around them, and skillfully traces a remarkable human endeavor.

 

Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us

The astonishing story of how the dead live on in memorials and traditions across the globe, from Ethiopia and Nepal to Cambodia and Rwanda, told through arresting images and captivating narration.

 

Bess Lovejoy 

Rest in Pieces: The Curious fate of Famous Corpses 

From Alexander the Great to Elvis Presley, and from Beethoven to Dorothy Parker, Rest in Pieces connects the lives of the famous dead to the hilarious and horrifying adventures of their corpses, and traces the evolution of cultural attitudes toward death.

 

Beyond the Dark Veil: Postmortem and Mourning Photography From The Thanatos Archive – (Contributing author)

A compilation of more than 120 extraordinary and haunting photographs and related ephemera documenting the practice of death and mourning photography in the Victorian Era and early twentieth century.

 

Tanya Marsh 

The Law of Human Remains

Tanya Marsh, a nationally recognized expert in the law of human remains and cemetery law, collects, organizes, and states the legal rules and principles regarding the status, treatment, and disposition of human remains in the United States so that attorneys and courts can more easily discover, understand, use, and ultimately critique and reform the law.

 

Cemetery Law: The Common Law of Burying Grounds in the United States

The history, structure, and doctrines of the common law of burying grounds in the United States.

 

Dr. Judy Melinek 

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner

Just two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. Dr. Melinek takes readers behind the police tape of some of the most harrowing deaths in the Big Apple, including a firsthand account of the events of September 11, the subsequent anthrax bio-terrorism attack, and the disastrous crash of American Airlines Flight 587.

 

Various Authors 

The Morbid Anatomy Anthology – edited by Joanna Ebenstein and Colin Dickey and features pieces by Caitlin Doughty, Dr. John Troyer and Dr. Paul Koundounaris.

The Morbid Anatomy Library of Brooklyn, New York, has hosted some of the best scholars, artists and writers working along the intersections of the history of anatomy and medicine, death and the macabre, religion and spectacle. The Morbid Anatomy Anthology collects some of the best of this work in 28 lavishly illustrated essays.

Death Essentials

Our must-have list of  books for your death shelfies.

 

The Denial of Death – Ernest Becker

Winner of the Pulitzer prize in 1974 and the culmination of a life’s work, The Denial of Death is Ernest Becker’s brilliant and impassioned answer to the “why” of human existence. In bold contrast to the predominant Freudian school of thought, Becker tackles the problem of the vital lie — man’s refusal to acknowledge his own mortality. In doing so, he sheds new light on the nature of humanity and issues a call to life and its living that still resonates more than twenty years after its writing.

 

The Hour of Our Death: The Classic History of Western Attitudes Toward Death Over the Last One Thousand Years – Philippe Ariès

A truly landmark study, The Hour of Our Death reveals a pattern of gradually developing evolutionary stages in our perceptions of life in relation to death, each stage representing a virtual redefinition of human nature.

 

The American Way of Death – Jessica Mitford

Jessica Mitford’s exposé of the American funeral industry. When first published in 1963, this landmark of investigative journalism became a runaway bestseller and resulted in legislation to protect grieving families from the unscrupulous sales practices of those in “the dismal trade.”