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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  34,215 ratings  ·  4,591 reviews
A young mortician goes behind the scenes, unafraid of the gruesome (and fascinating) details of her curious profession.

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallo
Published January 1st 2014 by Recorded Audio Books
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Jill Nonfiction. It's a interesting read but also heavy. If you have issues with the real bits of death you may want to proceed with caution.
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4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  34,215 ratings  ·  4,591 reviews

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Will Byrnes
There are many words a woman in love longs to hear. “I’ll love you forever, darling,” and “Will it be a diamond this year?” are two fine examples. But young lovers take note: above all else, the phrase every girl truly wants to hear is, “Hi, this is Amy from Science Support; I’m dropping off some heads.”
You have all seen The Producers, right? The version with Zero or Nathan, in the cinema, on TV, on the stage, whatever. Those of you who have not…well…tsk, tsk, tsk, for shame, for shame. Well
Petra CigareX
I finished the book. The first part is 2-star fluffy. The main part is 5-star interesting with lots of gems on what we really look like dead and how even dead premature babies get shaved of their lanugo and cosmetically-enhanced so they will look 'natural' for their viewing.

That was creey, right? But that's what makes the book so interesting, it's

creepy (view spoiler)
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of "Six Feet Under"
Ten months into my job at Westwind, I knew death was the life for me.

When Caitlin Doughty took a job at a California crematory, she learned more than just how to dispose of dead bodies. The daily exposure to death changed her thinking on the subject and turned her into a warrior fighting the good fight for the good death. While practicing the process of turning a former human into four to seven pounds of grayish ash and bone, Doughty's way of thinking on the subject began to evolve.

Corpses keep
Elyse Walters
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Call me morbid? ....ghastly?.....Bonkers?

Right after I finished reading the memoir "When Breath Becomes Air", by Paul Kalanithi- a 4th year medical student working at Stanford Hospital ...(only 30 minutes from my house), - who died this year of Lung Cancer.., THIS book arrives in my mail box the SAME day (just 'hours' after I wrote a review for Kalanithi's book)

Creepy! AND .....what's even more creepy ... is I don't know who sent me this paper back 'new copy'. Thank You to the Mystery Person!!
Debbie "DJ"
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I think this book gets the award for best opening line.

"A girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves."

So, yeah, I was pulled in from the beginning. Caitlin is 23 and lands her first job as a mortician. Why you ask? Well, turns out she is terrified of death. Has been ever since she saw a documentary that depicted death when she was very young. She is obsessed with thoughts of her, her family, and friends demise.

The beginning wasted no time in taking me right into the world of the mortici
Dec 21, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, death, meh
I saw this title on a few Best Of lists for the year, but I thought it was just OK.

Caitlin Doughty worked at a crematory in the San Francisco area. She said she had been both fascinated by and terrified of death since she was a little girl, when she witnessed a child's fatal fall in a shopping mall. This book is a combination of her stories about cremating bodies, her research into the history of death practices around the world, and tales of woe about her love life and attending mortuary school
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Smoke Shadow GIF - Smoke Shadow GIFs

Have you ever wondered just what happens to your body when you die? Many people avoid thinking about death altogether, uncomfortable as we are with our own demise and that of those we love. Others have a curiosity that is considered macabre and abnormal in our culture. I fluctuate between the two, leaning more heavily towards the latter. Like the author of this book, I think it is better to learn about what happens when we die in order to become comfortable with death. Or as comfortable as is po
Carole (Carole's Random Life in Books)
This review was also posted at Carole's Random Life

This was the best little book that I didn't even know that I wanted to read. I have to say that I would have probably never picked this book up for myself. I didn't even know that this book existed until it showed up at my house a couple of weeks ago. My initial impression of the book when I received was lackluster at best. I thought it was an advance copy of a book at first because the cover looks just so unfinished. Nothing about this book scr
Sandy Reilly
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
Amazing! Yes, it is about death, but not in the way one would typically think. It was difficult for me to describe this book to friends who asked what I was currently reading, as most would give me a funny look when I said it is about a woman who worked at a crematory. However, I can say with great confidence that Ms. Doughty has written one of the most interesting, thought-provoking pieces I have read in a very long time. She poses many questions and notions about death, and does something not ...more
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The meaning of life is that it ends."

This book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory is difficult to characterize. It's part memoir and part history of death customs; but it is also an advocacy for a much needed change in the way our society views death, the deceased and our own mortality. The author, Caitlin Doughty, describes herself as a 'death-positive' mortician. She also blogs about issues and attitudes regarding mortality and she has a web series called 'A
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve had more first-hand experience with death than just about anyone else I know in my age group. By the time I hit thirty, I’d lost three grandparents (five, if you let me count my high-school boyfriend’s grandparents; they lived with his family), a mother, two high-school friends, a former roommate, an uncle, a dozen great aunts and uncles, three dogs, and a small army of cats. I briefly considered becoming a grief therapist before realizing I was just too misanthropic to pursue graduate stud ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"Smoke gets in your eyes, and other lessons from the crematorium" is partly a memoir and also partly tells us the history behind death customs. Doughty is a mortician, and has a remarkably positive attitude towards death, and she questions the need for change in the way people view death and mortality in general. I found this all incredibly morbid, but it was really very interesting.

The subject matter contained within this book is gruesome and abrupt. If one is pretty squeamish, then maybe give
Jay Green
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes, I finished it on Halloween. Perfect! Except I would have been happy for it to have had another 100 pages to devour. I'm still on a kind of coming-to-terms-with-Dad's-death reading program, and since we followed his wishes and had him cremated, this book seemed like it would offer real insights into that process and help me understand what his remains went through. But it was better than that. Caitlin Doughty offers a down-to-earth but always matter-of-fact and everyday approach to death and ...more
Book Riot Community
A little bit morbid, a little bit gross, a whole lot empowering. That’s basically the only way I can describe this book. Caitlin Doughty has been obsessed with death her whole life, so it’s only natural she goes to work at a crematory. In her tales, she busts a lot of myths about the death industry, like, no, crematories don’t dump the day’s worth of bodies in and scoop out bits of ash for the families’ urns afterward. At least, reputable ones don’t. She ends on a philosophical look at life and ...more
Sonja Arlow
My fascination with the macabre and death is perhaps a case of staring at the boogeyman till he loses its power over me.

This book gave me the opportunity to stare very hard!

Part memoir, part research and full of the right intentions this book covers a range of death related topics:

1) Death rituals of other cultures and just how skewed the Western worlds desire to detach itself so completely from death and any reminder of its own mortality
2) Death through he ages – from medieval times to now
3) Co
May 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“What does not kill me makes me stronger.” – Nietzsche

I was thoroughly impressed by this memoir and social commentary on death and dying written by such a young woman. Caitlin Doughty, at the age of 23, has produced an impressive, well researched commentary on how we as a society perceive death, talk (or not talk) about death, and view the body and what happens post-mortem. She brings the death industry to light as well as the options available for burial or cremation. She speaks frankly and doe
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hace muchísimo tiempo que quería leer algo escrito por Caitlin Doughty, me encantan sus videos de Youtube y toda su propuesta acerca de ser más "death positive" me parece muy interesante.

Llegué a este libro sintiendo que yo ya era súper aceptante de la muerte y que es un tema del cual no me molesta hablar. ¿Cadáveres? He visto varios, pues durante un año -antes de entrar a mi carrera- estudié la carrera técnica de perito en criminalística. Como parte de mis clases tuve que participar en autopsi
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“A girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves.”

I sometimes think I’ve missed my life’s true calling. That of being a mortuary worker. But after reading this book I’m not so sure. I always thought the idea of working with people who didn’t talk back was a nice one, you know? No office politics, no grumpy personalities to tip-toe around, no one stealing your lunch and there’s never a lack of business. Sounds like bliss to me. Until I read this book which shattered those daydreams. There are
B. Rule
This is a quick read and a relatively light, frothy take on a dark subject. Doughty adopts the authorial persona of "cheerful goth" which largely works for her approach, combining anecdotal accounts of her time in the death industry with repeated polemics to bring death back into our daily awareness through proximity to bodies and decay, a la her "Order of the Good Death." There are some weird tonal shifts that I think may be evidence of clumsy editing (e.g., a single chapter digression about he ...more
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always been interested in the rituals surrounding death. W.W. Norton & Company grabbed my attention with this synopsis of Caitlyn Doughty's Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

"A young mortician goes behind the scenes, unafraid of the gruesome (and fascinating) details of her curious profession."

If you've ever wondered why anyone would become a mortician, work in a crematory or choose to help the living in the process of death, then this is the book for you. Ri
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, death, memoir
Did you ever read the first line of a book to see if it grabbed you? Well, this odd memoir grabbed me from the first sentence and wouldn't let go until the end of the source notes.

Most of us probably hold at least a little bit of morbid curiosity about what goes on behind the doors at your local crematorium. Your curiosity will be more than satisfied by Ms. Doughty's account of her years as a burgeoning mortician. In addition to details such as how they keep those darn eyelids closed during the
(3.5) Caitlin Doughty, a funeral director in her early thirties, is on a mission. Her goal? Nothing less than completely changing how we think about death and the customs surrounding it. Her odyssey through the death industry began when she was 23 and started working at suburban San Francisco’s Westwind Crematorium. She had spent her first 18 years in Hawaii and saw her first dead body at age eight when she went to a Halloween costume contest at the mall and saw a little girl plummet 30 feet ove ...more
“Today, not being forced to see corpses is a privilege of the developed world.”

3 stars. With humor, compassion and interesting facts about death-culture, Caitlin Doughty takes us with her into the crematorium. We learn about the embalming process, what happens to a body in a cremation oven, and why make-up on a corpse is more important than you think.

True, reading vivid descriptions of embalmed bodies, cut-off heads and burned body fat takes some getting used to – squeezy people should better
Erin Lee
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's kind of weird that in our culture, we'll talk endlessly about what might or might not happen to our souls after we die, but it's considered morbid or impolite to discuss what happens to our bodies when we die. If you're concerned about where your trash goes, or whether or not you can recycle that plastic salad container, maybe spare a thought or two to how you want your body disposed of when you're done with it.

I saw the author speak at a panel at a library conference, and I knew her book
Ross Blocher
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Caitlin Doughty is doing great work to educate the public about all aspects of death. In Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Doughty tells the story of the childhood event that first sparked her fascination with death, her experience working as a crematory operator, and her foray into mortuary science education that would eventually allow her to start a mortuary business in Los Angeles. Along the way, there's much to learn about how bodies are prepared for viewings, how they are transported, what happens t ...more
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. I totally agree with the author that society needs a very deep, very honest re-think of how we approach death, and how we deal with our dead bodies. Our current 'norm' of embalming/burial, or cremation, wasn't always the norm.

We are woefully ignorant of what the law actually does require regarding a dead body ... less than you probably assume. Death used to be handled by the family, in the home, and had more significance.

You can now order a cremation online ... yep, you
Melissa Chung
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
What an extremely well written and informative look on death and the behind the scenes of cremation and burial.

This is Caitlin Doughty's autobiographical account on starting her life in the death business. Going from a lonely cremation operator to licensed mortician.

Loved her sense of humor and was delighted in her unending NEED to make death less of an unknown. Fighting to bring mortality to the forefront and to squash the misinformation surrounding death in general from cremation to burial a
Clif Hostetler
This book provides a thorough description of bodily death and decomposition. Death is part of life. But it has been mostly hidden from our lives by modern western culture. So the material from this book is bitter medicine for most readers unaccustomed to these details. It's an unpleasant subject, but the reader is wiser for having read it.

The book is structured around the author's memoir of her several years working in the funeral business (i.e. body disposal business). This experience included
Death drives every creative and destructive impulse we have as human beings. The closer we come to understanding it, the closer we come to understanding ourselves.

I struggled with this book. It was very interesting and I especially found the idea that most of us are not in touch with our mortality and that we try and avoid death and everything related to it at all cost thought-provoking. On the down side I couldn't figure out if it was supposed to be a memoir or not, and it felt a bit like the b
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: four-star
Societally, death simultaneously intrigues and terrifies us; it is an ever present aspect in our lives and perhaps the one certainty we can all expect to encounter. This is an interesting, sensitively written account of how a young woman in her twenties finds herself caring for the dead whilst working within the walls of a Californian crematorium.

The author writes with a hefty dose of dark humour (really, is there any other kind suitable in this line of work?) but still maintains her compassion
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Deathlings: Death Books! 1 5 Oct 09, 2018 01:24PM  
Open Book Club: This topic has been closed to new comments. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes 2 8 Jul 26, 2018 10:44AM  
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Mortician Caitlin Doughty—host and creator of "Ask a Mortician" and the New York Times best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes —founded The Order of the Good Death. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs her nonprofit funeral home, Undertaking LA.
“Accepting death doesn't mean you won't be devastated when someone you love dies. It means you will be able to focus on your grief, unburdened by bigger existential questions like, "Why do people die?" and "Why is this happening to me?" Death isn't happening to you. Death is happening to us all.” 179 likes
“Sifting through an urn of cremated remains you cannot tell if a person had successes, failures, grandchildren, felonies. “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” 78 likes
More quotes…