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The Whole Death Catalog: A Lively Guide to the Bitter End

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  290 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
In the tradition of Mary Roach’s bestselling Stiff and Jessica Mitford’s classic exposé, The American Way of Death, comes this meticulously researched, refreshingly irreverent, and lavishly illustrated look at death from acclaimed author Harold Schechter. With his trademark fearlessness and bracing sense of humor, Schechter digs deep into a wealth of sources to unearth a t ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Ballantine Books (first published 2009)
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Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
This book is full of interesting facts, old advertisements, pictures, details and other crazy stuff people like me want to know. It covers topics like death in the movies, caskets and grave stones, plus lots more. A great afternoon read if your into this kind of stuff.
Cori Farris
Jul 07, 2009 Cori Farris rated it it was amazing
Very interesting - if you're into this kind of stuff - and I am.
Courtney
Jul 12, 2010 Courtney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: death-type-stuff
This book is more or less death, in easily digestible, bite-size pieces. What really made me a little nervous is that, in many of the sections of this extremely entertaining book, the author mentioned books and websites from which he got his information. It wasn't the mentioning that made me nervous. It was the fact that, much of the time, my reaction was, "Got that," "Read that," "That's on the bookshelf," or "I love that website." Or worse, "Oooo, that's cool. I want to read that!" and "Let me ...more
Vanessa
Apr 03, 2009 Vanessa rated it really liked it
An intriguing and comprehensive look at all things related to death, from gory to humorous. My only issue was that one of the bizarre deaths quoted from another book turned out to be an urban legend. Still, very well done.
Tara
Sep 13, 2009 Tara rated it liked it
This is one I really skimmed through. It is a pretty comprehensive catalogue and is a good source for a lot of serious questions. The book does handle the topic of death in a "lively" manner, but seriously addresses many aspects of death, grieving, what to tell the children, etc. I picked it up due to the cover and the amusing description. I could never have read it in depth, but I do recommend people look through it. The portions on the history of how cultures handle all aspects of death were v ...more
Ryan Mishap
Jul 04, 2009 Ryan Mishap rated it liked it
Shelves: guide-books
One of those crazy amalgations of facts, anecdotes, references, suggested readings, myths, funny asides, and so much more. I believe the title will tell you about what.
The sardonic humour is lively enough. Some of the information is even helpful, such as creating wills and living wills or dealing with grief. It isn't a depressed in the dark kind of death book, for sure, I just felt a little confused by why he made this. I think just for the oddity of it, like Rudimentary Peni's "Cachophony"--b
...more
Collin
Jan 05, 2012 Collin rated it really liked it
A very entertaining, broad overview of the business of death.

Though it didn't have a lot of what I really need for my personal research (information on older, foreign methods and rituals of death), most of the information is modern and helpful to those looking to understand the business of current American funerals. At least, I think it is. Not being an expert in that, I wouldn't know. But it did seem helpful.

It's written in a wry, no-nonsense tone that makes it enjoyable to read. Recommended i
...more
Marjanne
Jun 24, 2009 Marjanne rated it really liked it
This was a fun read. It's nice to feed my inner Goth once in a while. I found this book very interesting. I liked that the author managed to be serious but also had a sense of humor. There were some very light sections, but some very helpful sections too. I was able to discover that I am a 'taphophile'. Naturally, because this book is about death, some readers may find of the various discussions a bit unappetizing (such as the description of decay). I think I may actually add this to my wish lis ...more
Lisa
Oct 24, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it
Lively indeed, although I had pretty much already read or knew about the info HS presents. The ebook version is rather badly laid out (pics w/the captions on the next page, what are obviously boxed insets interrupting the narratve text, etc.) and I would have preferred a physical copy. On the plus side of the e version, there are a jillion fascinating links that you can instantly access. My personal favorite is Mummy Bear...don't ask, just read the book.
Valerie Hesslink
this book probably is better read in segments and not straight through. so maybe in book form but I don't suggest to read it on the Kindle. so although it was detailed there were points where the author repeated information. suffice to say It is the whole catalog because I offically do not need to read anymore books on the subject. Mary Roach's Stiff is still the best book to read because it is light hearted enough to enjoy the read.
Westerville
Jun 07, 2011 Westerville rated it really liked it
Shelves: adults, non-fiction
"I love these kind of books. Not death books, just ones that are filled with tons and tons of amazing and interesting factoids...It's written with a humorous bent, so beware if you take death too seriously." - Jessica, Adult Services Librarian

Reserve a library copy!
Jess
I love these kind of books. Not death books, just ones that are filled with tons and tons of amazing and interesting factoids. This social history covers death in all its cultural facets; mythological origins, ads that were posted for death clothes, funeral laws, etc. It's written with a humorous bent, so beware if you take death too seriously.
Jennifer Daniel
Jul 08, 2010 Jennifer Daniel rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a compilation of writings from other sources and I quickly discovered that I had already read a good deal of the information. This is somewhat alarming. It was a very insightful read if you have a dark and morbid fascination with death, dying and other such matters.
Jennifer
If you want to know everything about the funeral industry, the history of death rituals, and where to buy novelty chocolate coffins, this might be the book for you. Any book that has a chapter titled "Death Can Be Fun" is definitely unique.
Megan
Jun 06, 2009 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Creepy...duh.
Elizabeth Newell
Jan 25, 2010 Elizabeth Newell rated it liked it
A bit repetitive in parts, but full of amusing facts as well as potentially useful information.
Susan Mazur Stommen
Nov 20, 2009 Susan Mazur Stommen rated it really liked it
Indispensable reference book. Fun for the whole family.
Kpowers
Dec 13, 2010 Kpowers rated it really liked it
I have an interest in reading the macabre.
Scott
Oct 23, 2010 Scott rated it liked it
Shelves: reference
There is even a recipe on how to make an actual mummy.....the key ingredient is a freshest corpse.
Iroquois
creepy but really interesting
Jane
Jul 17, 2009 Jane rated it really liked it
Loved it!!
Trunatrschild
Mar 24, 2010 Trunatrschild rated it really liked it
A fun read and informative!
Emily
Jan 10, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, meridian
Dr. Schechter truly covers the gamut on this morbidly fascinating topic. Pieces on intriguing historical insights alternate with essays on the ethical implications of cremation versus burial and humorous anecdotes nestle next to rankings of “Ten Cemeteries to See Before You Die.” There's even a “recipe” for making your very own mummy. (No guarantees on the outcome of that one...) The Whole Death Catalog is an entertaining and, yes, “lively” one-stop source for all things dead and dying.

Each of t
...more
Laura
Feb 18, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Taking its cue from that 1970s Aquarian-age relic, "The Whole Earth Catalogue", Harold Schechter's "The Whole Death Catalogue: A Lively Guide to the Bitter End", may not cover all topics related to our inevitable demise, but this meticulously-researched book does an excellent job of covering a bundle of related topics, from strange obituaries to whacky wills, famous cemeteries, a behind-the-scenes look at the goings-on at a funeral home, death rituals in various cultures, mementos mori, and all ...more
Colona Public Library
Feb 25, 2015 Colona Public Library rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, ashley
This book is what the title suggests a whole death catalog. This book has everything you could want to know about and some bonus fun death related trivia! Reading it is like a series of short articles, which is nice for a brief explanations that the author gives credit for the original source in the article so you can read more on the subject. I was surprised though strangely there was no reference page at the end of the book.


If you are morbidly curious than this is a good source material to st
...more
Amy
May 03, 2014 Amy rated it liked it
I have to say, it never would've occurred to me to read this on my own. A coworker weeded it at work and it looked too interesting too pass up. Definitely worth the dollar I spent rescuing (hoarding?) it from our sale shelf. It's not nearly as depressing as one might think. Morbid, sure, but oddly fascinating at the same time. I will say it was a somewhat slow read for me.
Gloria
Mar 28, 2012 Gloria rated it it was amazing
After taking a death and dying course in college, I became obsessed with all things death. and I've been a big fan of Harold Schechter for quite some time. In this book, he encompasses all aspects of the death process from forensic science to the burial process. This in-depth look at a subject most of us shy away from is handled respectfully, yet candidly. A real eye-opener.
Hal
Oct 27, 2012 Hal rated it liked it
Everyone will eventually be faced with this topic either by accident or otherwise. This book takes a kind of whimsical approach in looking at endless topics related to this eventual demise.
Ken
Ken rated it liked it
Nov 16, 2014
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Aka Jon A. Harrald (joint pseudonym with Jonna Gormley Semeiks)

Harold Schechter is a true crime writer who specializes in serial killers. He attended the State University of New York in Buffalo, where he obtained a Ph.D. A resident of New York City, Schechter is professor of American literature and popular culture at Queens College of the City University of New York.

Among his nonfiction works are
...more
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