Best for: Anyone – from 10 to 100 – who has questions about death.
In a nutshell: Mortician and author Caitlin Doughty answers some of the most interesting and pressing questions from tiny humans.
“Sometimes death can be violent, sudden, and unbearably sad. But it’s also reality, and reality doesn’t change just because you don’t like it.”
“Technically, per the laws of the state of California, I am not allowed to slip [your dead hamster] Hammibal into your pocket, even if he’s just a small pouch of cremated remains. I’m not allowed to ‘bury’ an animal in a human cemetery. Would I do it anyway? Umm, no comment. (tiny paw extends from your suit pocket)”
Why I chose it: I’ve read both of Doughty’s previous books, and enjoyed them very much. I also attended one of the Order of the Good Death conferences (held in Seattle), which was fascinating and well-done.
Caitlin Doughty is a talented author. She has a way of making death feel less terrifying and more another interesting part of life. I find her to also be hilarious (come on, that paragraph about the dead hamster? That’s funny shit!). And in this book she takes her skill at demystifying the scary and uses it to help our younger friends better understand what happens to our bodies when we die.
Covering everything from fluid leakage, to burial laws, to how a death in space would be handled (along with, of course, whether fluffy is going to go to town on your dead body), Doughty finds a way to keep the reader entertained without ever being disrespectful. That’s a narrow line to walk, but she does it effortlessly. The book also has fantastic illustrations accompanying each question.
What more can I say? Go check it out, and while you’re at it, pick up her other two books if you haven’t already: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death.
Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it: