An Encyclopedic Overview of Death DyingOf the many books on death and dying that I ve read over the past six months, Kenneth Iserson s Death to Dust is by far the most comprehensive and enjoyable of the bunch Weighing in at over 800 pages, Death to Dust is truly an encyclopedic approach to the subject.
Iserson divides his discussion into fourteen chapters the shortest is about eleven pages the introduction , while the longest is a massive 80 pages the average chapter length is about 50 pages He adeptly covers all aspects of death, dying, grief, mourning, and post mortem activities and concerns He discusses practical matters, such as how to arrange a funeral, bodily transport across state lines, embalming, funerary rituals and etiquette, cremation, and advance directives Iserson even includes a helpful, ten page Body disposal Instructions and Discussion Guide, designed to help the living ease the inevitable burden their next of kin will face when they pass away.
However, Death to Dust is not simply a consumer guide Although he does offer a wealth of practical information, he also launches into esoteric and macabre discussions Some chapters are certainly not for the faint of heart If cannibalism, headhunting, corpse dismemberment, grave robbing, anatomical dissection, autopsies, or putrification give you the heebie jeebies, read with caution True to its encyclopedic nature, Death to Dust takes care to cover ALL aspects of death and dying particularly the unpleasant and morbid topics Iserson approaches these subjects with a dry sense of humor Although I thought that his witticisms spiced the book up and made his discussion entertaining, some audiences might be taken aback by Iserson s sometimes light tone.
It s obvious that Iserson or his editor spent a lot of time making the book easily navigable an especially important detail in a book this size Each of the fourteen chapters is further sub divided into lettered subsections usually 25 per chapter The subsections each have their own heading and read like short articles, so that readers can easily browse through the book and skim over desired sections The index and table of contents are also very detailed Finally, Iserson has gone to great pains to cite every single reference he consulted while constructing the book and there are many The typical chapter has hundreds of footnotes, which are conveniently included at the end of each individual chapter.
For the macabre among us, if you buy just one book on death and dying this year, look no further Death to Dust is it Those looking to arrange for their own post mortem plans might find the book helpful as well, although there are consumer guides designed specifically for advising individuals of wills, advance directives, organ donation, and corpse disposal Caring for the Dead Your Final Act of Love, by Lisa Carlson, is an excellent place to start I m not sure I d recommend Death to Dust to the newly bereaved, however some of the subject matter might prove a bit upsetting On the upside, it s easy to skip over these sections altogether, as the book is very organized.
My only gripe Iserson included WAY too many quotes from the self proclaimed poet mortician, Thomas Lynch who, I have determined, is a gawd awful poet with an exaggerated view of his own self importance I literally cringed every time Iserson included excerpts of his amateurish prose it s just that painful.
Consumer Text Covers How Time Of Death Is Determined, Autopsies, Embalming, Organ And Tissue Donation, Cryonically Preserving Heads Or Bodies, Shrinking Human Heads, Identifying Dismembered Bodies, Transporting Corpses, Cannibalism, Using Corpses In Research, Coffins, And Much Previous Edition C This is one of the most interesting nonfiction books I own It covers all sorts of aspects of death traditions and the funeral industry.
I picked this up in the medical bookstore for the university hopsital where I work With an interest in anthropology as well, it was one of the best books I have ever read A topic we must all deal with in our lives and few have the inclination to learn much about.
This book really should have been called Death and dying everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask In very clear and simple language this book fills you in on just about every aspect of death you could ever want to know From the legalities to burial at sea to the actual physics of decomposition and everything else in between, this book really has it all A must have From reading this, I now know just about everything about death and a little I didn t really want to know.
Highly informative and well put together.
Death The 500 pound Gorilla in the room People that are curious what happens to humans after death will want to read this book We love to live by not facing the final page of our lives This book is not for the faint hearted, people that think that enbalming will preserve the body forever, or people that are just naive about death Everybody dies, rots, stinks and disolves The womb shall forget you, the worms shall feed sweetly upon you and you shall no longer be remembered Job 24 20 Everything you EVER wanted to know about death and then some The only thing is that some of the questions were sort of redundant but overall, a great book that I finished within two days.