I’d heard about this book long before I decided to pick it up. The deciding factor was being introduced to Caitlin Doughty’s youtube channel and her video series Ask a Mortician. I found myself fascinated by all topics she addressed in her videos, and knew I had to read her book – and soon! Opening my nonfiction reading for the year 2016, I decided to give the death culture a go. This was great! Compelling, fascinating, funny, and rewarding.
I think first of all, it helps that I love Caitlin Doughty’s personality. She’s great at getting to fresh angles, or creating parallels I’d never have made myself. Her writing is accessible and easy to get into, there’s a mixture of lightheartedness and seriousness making it I think easier for myself and others to really feel connected to the things she discusses. Of course this is a memoir, but it’s also discussing dealth culture and attitudes towards death in a more general sense. I liked how her personality shines through the entirety of the book, and makes it grounded, while not being in the way of embracing it for my own life – if that makes sense.
Basically, I really like her personality which is I think a big part why I enjoyed reading this so much. But I also found the actual topics – like her videos, very interesting. I learned about new things – like the actual process of cremation and embalming, or what can happen to a body that is given to “science”. Some things really fascinated me – like the professional mourners in China (which incidentally my father has told me about, but his stories were from Iran) or the general difference between death attitudes in the East and West world. Some things I had perhaps known but never quite understood yet was put into a different light – for example she talks about why so many people prefer embalming and burial to other rituals after-death.
I really liked the philosophical aspects of this book, the snippets of knowledge and traditions from other countries and cultures. And what I really liked the most about this book was that it made me think, to question where I stood on these topics. It forced me to think about things I had never considered or never thought of in the ways she puts them.
I don’t seem to be able to cohesively talk about this book. I just found myself really enjoying the experience of learning new things about a topic – death – I didn’t know I was this fascinated by, and I liked that it confronted me with questions I hadn’t given much thought to before, and to old questions in new ways. I highly recommend it.