We’ve culled the following books from hundreds on the subject. A variety of authors–academicians, medical professionals, anthropologists, and funeral directors–write about death from their varying perspectives. Among the non-fiction tomes, and true crime, you’ll also find the the occasional novel. If there is a book you’d like to call to our attention for inclusion on our list, please do.
Who’s More Qualified to Write About Death Than a Funeral Director Poet? The New York Times, November 26, 2019
Near the Exit– –Lori Erickson
Here’s a book we can totally get behind. Unlike some similar books, the subject matter is treated with the intelligence and dignity it deserves.
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.
Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality, Thomas Lynch
Day of the Dead – A Passion For Life – Mary J. Andrade
Death, American Style: A Cultural History of Dying in America – Lawrence R. Samuel
Embalming: History, Theory and Practice; 5th Edition – Robert G. Mayer, Editor
Funeral Customs – Bertram Puckle
Gardens of Stone: The Cemeteries of New York City from Colonial Times To The Present – Alexandra Kathryn Mosca
Grave Undertakings: Mortician by Day, Model by Night –Alexandra Kathryn Mosca
Healing: The Essential Guide To Helping Others Overcome Grief and Loss – Alicia King
History of American Funeral Directing – Robert W. Habenstein and William M. Lamers.
History of Embalming – Jean Nicholas Gannal
How We Die: Reflection’s on Life’s Final Chapter – Sherwin B. Nuland
A runaway bestseller and National Book Award winner, Sherwin Nuland’s How We Die has become the definitive text on perhaps the single most universal human concern: death. This new edition includes an all-embracing and incisive afterword that examines the current state of health care and our relationship with life as it approaches its terminus.
In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry – S. Nehama
Into the Hands of Strangers – Amber Lenore Wickler
My Father’s Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love, and Die – Kevin Toolis
An intimate, lyrical look at the ancient rite of the Irish wake–and the Irish way of overcoming our fear of death.
Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home – Sheri Booker
Sheri Booker was only fifteen when she started working at Wylie Funeral Home in West Baltimore. She had no idea her summer job would become nine years of immersion into a hidden world
Rest In Peace: A Cultural History of Death and the Funeral Home in Twentieth-Century America – Gary Laderman
In Rest in Peace, Gary 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, to the increasing subordination of priests, ministers, and other religious figures to the funeral director throughout the twentieth century.
Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America – Stanley Burns
Sleeping Beauty is coveted for having played a large role in the rediscovery of the normalcy of postmortem photography. In 1990, Dr. 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.
Sleeping Beauty II – Stanley Burns
The Day of the Dead and Other Mortal Reflections – F. Gonzalez-Crussi
The Escape Artist – Brad Metzler (novel featuring Dover Port Mortuary)
The Good Death: The New American Search to Reshape the End of Life – Marilyn Webb
The Good Death is the first full-scale examination of one of today’s most complex issues: the profound change in the way Americans think about and confront death.
The Good Funeral: Death, Grief and the Community of Care – Thomas Long and Thomas Lynch
Two of the most authoritative voices on the funeral industry come together here in one volume to discuss the current state of the funeral. Through their different lenses–one as a preacher and one as a funeral director–Thomas G. Long and Thomas Lynch alternately discuss several challenges facing “the good funeral,” including the commercial aspects that have led many to be suspicious of funeral directors, the sometimes tense relationship between pastors and funeral directors, the tendency of modern funerals to exclude the body from the service, and the rapid growth in cremation.
The Hour of Our Death – Philippe Aries
The Knife Man – Wendy Moore (biography of John Hunter)
The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade – Thomas Lynch
This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War – Drew Gilpin Faust
When My Yiayia Died – Marjorie Kunch
This uplifting hardcover picture book for ages 5-10 beautifully illustrates the steps a family takes when a Greek Orthodox Christian loved one dies as told through the perspective of a little boy.
Work of the Dead – Thomas W. Laqueur