Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Morbid Curiosity: Books about death, funerals and undertakers

Death is both ordinary and unimaginable.  Everyone living will eventually die, but for individuals it marks the end of their entire existence.  No wonder people are both fascinated and frightened by things related to death.   I was a big fan of the HBO series Six Feet Under, which followed the lives of a family running an independent funeral home.  Every episode begins with a different person kicking the bucket.  The show did a nice job of portraying both the commonness of death and the devastation it causes.  Likewise, I'm also a big fan of Edward Gorey's wonderfully morbid illustrations. Perhaps I just gravitate to works with a hint of macabre.  Below are a list of books relating to different aspects of death and dying, most books on the list have a slight sense of humor to them. 

The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford.
338.4736375 MIT 
A classic piece of investigative journalism, this is a funny and biting send up of the business practices in the funeral industry.
Find it in the catalog!

Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker in Training by Tom Jokinen
363.75 JOK
Jokinen was a radio producer in Winnepeg who decided to quit his job to work at a funeral home.  Laced with humor, this book explores the grunt work required to prep the dead for their funerals as well as recent changes and trends in the funeral business.
Find it in the catalog! 

Grave Expectations: Planning the End Like There's No Tomorrow by Sue Bailey.
393 BAI
Plan your own dream funeral with the help of this witty and upbeat funeral guide.  You can find out all the details you should think about before filling out your own pre-need funeral plan. Also a fun read for creepy nerds who just want to find out more about funeral/ burial practices (it's okay, I understand).
Find it in the catalog! 

This Will Kill You: A Guide to the Ways in Which We Go by HP Newquist and Rich Maloof.
614.4 NEW
A wonderful trivia book on dying.  Includes a variety of different causes of death, ranging from the common (stroke) to the bizarre (pufferfish).  Each cause of death entry is loaded with useful information including how long it takes to kill you, lethality ranking, and notable victims.
Find it in the catalog! 

After the Funeral: the Posthumous Adventures of Famous Corpses by Edwin Murphy.  
920.02 MUR
Find out all about your favorite celebrities...postmortem.  Did you know that Moliere's grave doesn't really contain his body?  Or that labor activist Joe Hill's ashes were found 70 years after his execution by a archivist sorting old post office records?  Apparently they had been returned to sender.  Creep your friends out with morbid trivia!
Find it in the catalog! 

The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years through our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds by Marilyn Yalom
929.5 YAL
Photos and stories from different cemeteries and graves across the United States.
Find it in the catalog!