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History, Sociology & Anthropology

Vanitas portrait with book, skull and pink flowers

The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains

By 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

By 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

By 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

By 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.

Chinese American Death Rituals

By Sue Fawn Chung and Priscilla Wegars

Chinese American funerary rituals and cemeteries from the late nineteenth century until the present in order to understand the importance of Chinese funerary rites and their transformation through time.

The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery

Micki McElya

In revealing how Arlington encompasses the most inspiring and the most shameful aspects of American history, McElya enriches the story of this landscape, demonstrating that remembering the past and reckoning with it must go hand in hand.

Skull Wars

By David Hurst Thomas

The 1996 discovery, near Kennewick, Washington, of a 9,000-year-old Caucasoid skeleton brought more to the surface than bones. The explosive controversy and resulting lawsuit also raised a far more fundamental question: Who owns history?

The Eye of the Beholder

By Laura Anderson Barbata

A chronicles of how artist Laura Anderson Barbata led the repatriation and burial of Julia Pastrana, a 19th-century indigenous Mexican woman exhibited in life and death for her excessive hair.


By Allison Meier

Grave takes a ground-level view of how burial sites have transformed over time and how they continue to change.

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 My Dead Body: Unearthing the Hidden History of America’s Cemeteries

By Greg Melville

A lively tour through the history of US cemeteries that explores how, where, and why we bury our dead.

Illustration of giant skeleton attacking men from

Making a Killing: Femicide, Free Trade, and La Frontera

By Various authors

The essays examine the social and cultural conditions that have led to the heinous victimization of women on the border—from globalization, free trade agreements, exploitative maquiladora working conditions, and border politics, to the sexist attitudes that pervade the social discourse about the victims.

Death and Funeral Practices in Portugal

By Rafaela Ferraz Ferreira

A broad look at the evolution and current status of Portuguese funerary practice.

Over Her Dead Body: Femininity, Death and the Aesthetic

By Elizabeth Bronfen

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

Death and the American South

By Lorri Glover (Editor)

The authors explore topics from the seventeenth century to the present, from the death traps that emerged during colonization to the bloody backlash against emancipation and civil rights to recent canny efforts to commemorate—and capitalize on—the region’s deadly past

American Afterlives

By Shannon Lee Dawdy 

A mesmerizing trip across America to investigate the changing face of death in contemporary life

The Potent Dead

By 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.

Grave Injustice

By Kathleen S. Fine-Dare

The powerful story of the ongoing struggle of Native Americans to repatriate the objects and remains of their ancestors that were appropriated, collected, manipulated, sold, and displayed by Europeans and Americans.

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

By Alan Kilma

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

Dying from Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody

By Sherene H. Razack

Razack argues that, amidst systematic state violence against Indigenous people, inquiries and inquests serve to obscure the violence of ongoing settler colonialism under the guise of benevolent concern.

The Blood of Emmett Till

By 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

By 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.

Hanging Bridge: Racial Violence and America’s Civil Right’s Century

By Jason Morgan Ward

Ward’s haunting book traces the legacy of violence that reflects the American experience of race, and death from the depths of Jim Crow to the emergence of a national campaign for racial equality.

Death, Dissection and the Destitute

By 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

By 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

By 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

By Christine Quigley

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

The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail

By Jason De Leon

Anthropologist Jason De León sheds light on one of the most pressing political issues of our time—the human consequences of US immigration policy.

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.

Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits

By Chip Colwell

Who owns the past and the objects that physically connect us to history? And who has the right to decide this ownership, particularly when the objects are sacred or, in the case of skeletal remains, human?

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War

By 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.

Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty

By Dorothy Roberts

Killing the Black Body exposes America’s systemic abuse of Black women’s bodies.

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

By 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.

Dying of Whiteness

By Jonathan M. Metzl

Many lower- and middle-class white Americans are drawn to politicians who pledge to make their lives great again. But as Dying of Whiteness shows, the policies that result actually place white Americans at ever-greater risk of sickness and death.

Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual

By 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

By 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.

Making All Black Lives Matter

By Barbara Ransby

Employing a range of creative tactics and embracing group-centered leadership models, the visionary young organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement, many of them women, and many of them queer, are not only calling for an end to police violence, but demanding racial justice, gender justice, and systemic change.

Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession

By Alice Bolin

Bolin examines the widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories.

Still Life With Bones

By Alexa Hagerty

In Still Life with Bones, anthropologist Alexa Hagerty learns to see the dead body with a forensic eye.

Living With the Dead

By Vibeky Maria Viestad & Andreas Viestad

Taking us on a journey around the world and into the past, the Viestads explore how the deceased are honored and cared for, cremated, and buried.

Funeral Industry

The American Way of Death

By 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

By Sheri Booker

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

Photo of Sheri Booker with her memoir

The Law of Human Remains

By 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

By 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 importantly, 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

By 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

By Tanya Marsh

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

Facing Your Mortality

Katsukawa Shunsho, Edo no Hana Mimasu Soga, 1783, The Art Institute of Chicago

The Denial of Death 

By 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

By 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

By Irvin D. Yalom

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

With the End in Mind: Dying, Death, and Wisdom in an Age of Denial

By Kathryn Mannix

With insightful meditations on life, death, and the space between them, With the End in Mind describes the possibility of meeting death gently, with forethought and preparation, and shows the unexpected beauty, dignity, and profound humanity of life coming to an end.


By Rachel E. Menzies and Ross G. Menzies

Mortals examines how the fear of death shaped human society.

Science and Medicine

After We Die: The Life and Times of the Human Cadaver

By 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?

By 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

By 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

By 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.

Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums

By 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

By 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.

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

By 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

By 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

By 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

By 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

By 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

By Loren Rhoads

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

With the End in Mind: Dying, Death, and Wisdom in an Age of Denial

By Kathryn Mannix

Mannix makes a compelling case for the therapeutic power of approaching death not with trepidation, but with openness, clarity, and understanding.

Looking at Death

By 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.

Reimagining Death: Stories and Practical Wisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burials

By Lucinda Herring

Reimagining Death offers stories and guidance for home funeral vigils, advance after-death care directives, green burials, and conscious dying.

The Victorian Celebration of Death

By James Stevens Curl

From humble working-class exequies to the massive outpouring of 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

By 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.

A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death

By B.J. Miller and Shoshana Berger

A clear-eyed and big-hearted action plan for approaching the end of life, written to help readers feel more in control of an experience that so often seems anything but controllable.

The Morbid Anatomy Anthology

By 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

By Margo de Mello

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

The Care We Dream Of

By Zena Sharman

The Care We Dream Of offers possibilities – grounded in historical examples, present-day experiments, and dreams of the future – for more liberatory approaches to LGBTQ+ health and death care.

Everything is Temporary

By Iris Gottlieb

Everything is Temporary is a beautiful, illustrated reflection on death and what it means to be human.

A is for Arsenic

By Chris Woodyard

A is for Arsenic a guide to the basics of Victorian mourning with whimsical poems, “death-initions,” and stories resurrected from 19th-century newspapers, brought back to life through the evocative art of Landis Blair.

Grief and Memoir

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

By 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.

Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality

By Sarah McBride

Informative, heartbreaking, and profoundly empowering, Tomorrow Will Be Different is McBride’s story of love and loss and a powerful entry point into the LGBTQ community’s battle for equal rights and what it means to be openly transgender.

Lead Me Home: An African American’s Guide Through the Grief Journey

By Carleen Brice

When a loved one dies, we embark on a journey that is marked by anguish, confusion, fear, and loneliness. For African Americans, the grief journeys often includes more complicated and painful emotions. Here are practical tips for making difficult passage, as well as spiritual inspiration.

Handbook of Social Justice in Loss and Grief

By Darcy L. Harris, and Tashel C. Bordere

The Handbook entices readers to interrogate their own assumptions and practices while increasing, chapter after chapter, their cultural literacy regarding important groups and contexts.

When Breath Becomes Air

By Paul Kalanithi

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

By 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

By 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.

30 Things to Say Other Than “I’m Sorry” When Someone Dies 

By Joe’l Anthony

Do you become completely stuck and unsure of what to say when someone dies? Does your mind go blank and “I’m sorry” becomes the first and only words able to come out of your mouth? Are you a professional who desires to build confidence through learning to use the power of words to connect with those you serve?

The Light of the World

By Elizabeth Alexander

Alexander faces the unfaceable topic of loss—and almost convinces us—and herself—that despite her terrible grief, she is grateful for the life and love that preceded it.

Grieving While Black

By Breeshia Wade

An exploration of grief and racial trauma through the eyes of a Black end-of-life caregiver.

Black Grief/White Grievance: The Politics of Loss 

By Juliet Hooker

How race shapes expectations about whose losses matter.

Finding the Words 

By Colin Campbell

Readers will learn how to actively reach out to their community, perform mourning rituals, and find ways to express their grief, so they can live more fully while also holding their loved ones close.

Picture Books for Children

Peach and Blue

By Sarah Kilbourne

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

The Funeral

By Matt James

This story will guide young readers to ask their own questions about life, death and how we remember those who have gone before us.

Where Do They Go?

By Julia Alvarez

A beautifully crafted poem for children that gently addresses the emotional side of death.

The Heart and the Bottle

By 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. We can encourage them to see things in the stars, find joy among colors and laughter as they play.

The Dead Bird

By 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 goodbye. 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

By 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

By Erich Haeger and Eric Gonzalez

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

Hamza Attends a Janaza

By Shabana Hussain

A gentle introduction to attending an Islamic funeral, told from a child’s perspective.

cover of WE Need to Talk About Death featuring an illustration of a young boy embraced by a man depicted as a transparent figure

We Need to Talk About Death: An IMPORTANT Book About Grief, Celebrations, and Love

By Sarah Chavez

Death is an important part of life, and yet it is one of the hardest things to talk about—for adults as well as children. Author Sarah Chavez is determined to create a book that sparks wonder and curiosity about dying, instead of fear and shame.

Duck, Death and the Tulip

By 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

By 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.

The Bug Cemetery

By Frances Hill

It doesn’t take much to start a bug cemetery – a dead ladybug or inchworm, a pitcher of lemonade, and a few tears for a show of proper respect. But when a beloved pet suddenly dies, funerals are no longer any fun. A bug is one thing, but how do you mourn a special friend?

Young Adult Fiction

The Hate U Give

By 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

By 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.

The Astonishing Color Of After

By Emily Emily X.R. Pan

A story about a girl who has just realized that her mother has died by suicide. This book follows her suffering with the loss of her mother, who she is also seeing in the shape of a bird.

Ghosts (graphic novel)

By 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

By 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.

The Beauty That Remains

By Ashley Woodfolk

We’ve lost everything . . . and found ourselves.

Loss pulled Autumn, Shay, and Logan apart. Will music bring them back together?

The Red Pencil

By Andrea Davis Pinkney

After losing nearly everything, Amira needs to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. She begins to lose hope, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind—and all kinds of possibilities.

Long Way Down

By Jason Reynolds

Fifteen-year-old Will, immobilized with grief when his older brother Shawn is shot and killed, slowly comes to mull The Rules in his head.

History is All You Left Me

By Adam Silvera

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

Santa Evita

By Tomas Eloy Martinez

Part fact, part fiction this book examines Eva Peron’s death and the role legacy and the influence of politics played in relation to her corpse.

Who I Was With Her

By Nita Tyndall

A novel about grief, acceptance and finding yourself.

Goodbye Days

By Jeff Zentner

Stirring story examines the power of friendship, grief, and art.

Under the Whispering Door 

By TJ Klune 

An uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.


Rejoice When You Die

By 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

By Ivan Cenzi and Carlo Vannini

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

Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America

By 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

By 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

By James Van Der Zee

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

Sepia toned photo of a viewing from James Van Der Zee's

Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America

By 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

By 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

By 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 Founding Order of the Good Death Members

Art by Dianné Ruz

By 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.

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

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.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?

Best-selling author Caitlin Doughty answers real questions from kids about death, dead bodies, and decomposition.

By Landis Blair

The Envious Siblings

Comics artist Landis Blair interweaves absurdist horror and humor into brief, rhyming vignettes at once transgressive and hilarious.

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

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.

A is for Arsenic

A guide to the basics of Victorian mourning with whimsical poems, “death-initions,” and stories resurrected from 19th-century newspapers, brought back to life through the evocative art of Landis Blair.

Landis also has a website featuring many other titles.

By 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.

By Sarah Chavez

We Need to Talk About Death: An IMPORTANT Book About Grief, Celebrations, and Love

Death is an important part of life, and yet it is one of the hardest things to talk about—for adults as well as children. Historian and museum curator Sarah Chavez is determined to create a book that sparks wonder and curiosity about dying, instead of fear and shame.

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.

By Colin Dickey

The Unidentified

Colin looks at what all fringe beliefs have in common, explaining that today’s Illuminati is yesterday’s Flat Earth: the attempt to find meaning in a world stripped of wonder.

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the living—how 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.

By 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.

Death: A Graveside Companion

The ultimate death compendium, featuring the world’s most extraordinary artistic objects concerned with mortality, together with text by expert contributors, including Founding Order members Dr. John Troyer and Elizabeth Harper.

By 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.

By 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.

By 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.

By Dr. Judy Melinek (with co-author T.J. Mitchell)

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.

By Chanel Reynolds

What Matters Most

What Matters Most inspires readers to get their ‘affairs in order’ before the unthinkable (or inevitable) happens.

By Megan Rosenbloom

Dark Archives

Rosenbloom seeks out the historic and scientific truths behind anthropodermic bibliopegy—the practice of binding books in human skin. Dozens of such books live on in the world’s most famous libraries and museums. Dark Archives exhumes their origins and brings to life the doctors, murderers, innocents, and indigents whose lives are sewn together in this disquieting collection.

By Dr. John Troyer

Technologies of the Human Corpse

The relationship of the dead body with technology through history, from nineteenth-century embalming machines to the death-prevention technologies of today.

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.