I don't read a lot of proper ghost stories or other traditional Halloween fare, so I thought I'd take advantage of today's holiday to share instead three of the best books I've read related to death. If you can't get enough of the creepy, spooky, cryptic Halloween vibe, consider these a great way to extend your exposure to all things postmortem. If you're not a Halloween fan, turn off the lights, lock the door, and grab one of these to curl up with as you avoid the trick-or-treaters and other chaos tonight. They're well written, eye-opening, and fascinating - no matter when you read them!
The Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlyn Doughty
Now a licensed mortician, Doughty shares her first experiences working in the funeral industry at a crematorium. Full of fascinating stories, helpful information, and insightful reflections on attitudes towards death in America (and how they got to be what they are), this is a must read. Note: Doughty also runs a fantastic "Ask a Mortician" web series, which tackles very real and meaningful questions like why its illegal to have a viking-style funeral (you know, where they shove your body out into a lake in a burning boat) and whether or not coffins can explode (they can).
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
If you've ever looked at the back of your license and wondered what exactly you're agreeing to when you donate your body to science, this is the book for you. From medical school uses to crash test dummies, Roach gives readers a broad view of the many ways society (quietly) uses cadavers every day for a vast array of purposes. The tone is cheerful and the subject well handled, making this a good and worthwhile read.
Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by William Bass
This one is for everyone who has ever watched and loved CSI, NCIS, Bones, or any other forensics show! All that great information those forensics geniuses have about how long it takes for processes to happen, what order bugs infest a corpse in, what happens when a body is sunk in a river/frozen/left in a trunk... well, you get the idea... all that info comes from Bass and his body farm! The book tells the story of a "farm" on which bodies (legally donated to science, mind you) are intentionally placed in every conceivable position and environment, and then tracked while they decompose. The information is meticulously gathered, recorded, and translated into the timelines, chemical signatures, and other foundational information on which so much of modern forensics is based.
None of these books are particularly new, so your library should have them. (They're also available via Kindle if you prefer.) Enjoy!