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All That Remains: A Life in Death

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  4,306 ratings  ·  522 reviews
Sue Black confronts death every day. As Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology, she focuses on mortal remains in her lab, at burial sites, at scenes of violence, murder and criminal dismemberment, and when investigating mass fatalities due to war, accident or natural disaster. In All that Remains she reveals the many faces of death she has come to know, using key c ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 19th 2018 by Doubleday (first published April 15th 2018)
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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Dec 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
I've read over 100 pages. I've learned all about the author's teenage years working as a Saturday girl in a butcher's shop, about her grandfather's death and her uncle Willie's. And I am bored. Worse, I am totally irritated by the extreme and extended characterisation of death as 'She' whom we should get to know better so we can understand "her". José Saramago did this brilliantly in All the Names where she, Death, was a fully-fledged character and the linchpin of the story. The author has no su ...more
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A few years ago I saw that Desert Island Discs was interviewing Sue Black, Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Pathology at the University of Dundee... I read a lot of crime fiction, I've watched Bones and Silent Witness, I knew this was definitely going to be my cup of tea. [I urge you all to listen if you can].

The programme was even more fascinating than I could have imagined and helped me discover more about both the process of identifying human remains
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’m (yet again) finding it difficult to organise my thoughts surrounding this book. It’s an intense, sometimes clinical, portrayal of death in a very pragmatic and scientific way. It’s equal parts cold and without feeling in its descriptions of death, yet also simultaneously deeply emotive and moving. I found that at times I had to step away from it, because although fascinating, I found myself becoming too attached to the cases. I
I'm not going to lie, but this book made my spine tingle, profusely. A book based on the matter of death, probably shouldn't excite and intrigue a being as much as it has, but that day, earlier this year, when I bought this book in Waterstones, I had my Mum with me at the time, and although we have similar tastes, she has been known to raise that right eyebrow at some of mine.

Sue Black had me hooked from the first page, and hell, that woman can write. Black writes truthfully, and sometimes painf
Swaroop Kanti
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"in striving to stay alive for as long as possible at all costs, all we are doing is in fact prolonging our dying..."

Sue Black`s All That Remains: A Life in Death is more focussed on that one event which we all cannot avoid - `death`, however there is a lot about life and living. Infact, this interesting and engaging book has many life lessons, so it is as much about life and living as about death. The author gives us an engrossing account of her life, career and experience with death (dead peop
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
A mixture of Mary Roach's Stiff and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, this book discusses the author's personal interactions with the dead, but also what her work has taught her about what it means to be alive. This book is deeply poignant and Black writes very emotionally about humanity, but very scientifically about the field of forensic anthropology. It's beautifully done.
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's fascinating to read about Sue Black's work. The book is written well which makes most of it interesting to the lay person as well. How I wish she had left it at that. I could have read it with distance and be energised by it. Unfortunately she decided to bring in personal stories, how she experienced the death of her loved ones. I found this painful and upsetting because involuntarily I compared them with my own experiences. At some instant I even wondered if I should read on. I also had di ...more
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading memoirs by people I have never heard of before is something I very much enjoy. The thought that each and every human being on this planet is leading their own life which is unique and distinct from all others is an unfathomable idea and yet so fascinating.

This particular memoir is written by Sue Black who is a Scottish professor of forensic anthropology and anatomy. Through her field of expertise, Sue finds herself confronted with death all the time. In All That Remains, she tells her r
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
As is probably well established by now I love medical nonfiction so I was excited to pick this book up, especially because the publisher compares Black's writing to Caitlin Doughty and Mary Roach. When I think of Doughty and Roach the first word that pops into mind is "funny".

It's unfortunate because while this book is many things, it's not funny.

From the beginning it's clear that Black is not a forensic pathologist, determining causes of death via autopsy, nor an overly science-y person all tog
Briefly - fascinating, powerful and very well written. Without question this will be one of my best books of the year.

In full
Sue Black (Professor) is probably the country's leading expert in forensic anthropology. In this book she looks at her life in death. This is in part biography and in part an exploration of cases and events she has dealt with. She deals with "remains" - what is left when one of us die. Her expertise has been used in many a varied situations over the year. Murders and unkno
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Sue Black is a Scottish professor of forensic anthropologist and anatomy. This means she studies dead people.

Her actual case studies were quite interesting.

She gives us some backstory as to how she became interested in studying the anatomy of the deceased and also personal stories about deaths occurring in her family. She describes finding the bodies of missing people, how that is accomplished, how to pinpoint time and cause of death. Sometimes these people are known, sometimes they are not.

K.J. Charles
I'm not as blown away as many by this book. The accounts of anatomy and what happens after death are fascinating, and it's an interesting light on how to cope with a job that many people would find horrifying, but it's written in a very chatty way as many of these are--as if transcribed from a long talk in the pub rather than written--so a lot depends on whether the reader finds that endearing or otherwise. Generally I don't, The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London being ...more
All that Remains: A Renowned Forensic Scientist on Death, Mortality, and Solving Crimes

Fearless, except for rodent, I so enjoyed my time listening to Sue Black narrate her book All that Remains. The title for this book is the perfect description of what unfolds. She gives background on the profession and the day-to-day expectations in her various careers, combined with her roles as a mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and mentor.

I truly loved all the different parts of the tell
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was so interesting!!
Ruthy lavin
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This woman is an absolute inspiration!
If you have no aspirations to forensics or anthropology, or indeed anatomy, it matters not - Dame Sue Black is an inspirational person to all.
Driven, ambitious, remarkably stoical, and a wonderful writer, this is a brilliant account and brief introduction to her fascinating life.
It Raises many questions about mortality, science, crime solving and investigation.
Most of all though, it makes you think about life, death, and life after death.
This is an attitude
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book reviews on

All That Remains is an interesting, frank look at death, how this natural but much-feared process is treated by society, and her work as a forensic anthropologist spanning 30 years. I have to say, I never properly thought about the difference between forensic pathologists and forensic anthropologists until I read this this book.

All The Remains is intense and thought-provoking, and though some parts made me feel a little sad at times, and even uncomfortable, I
Black, a world-leading forensic anthropologist, was part of the war crimes investigation in Kosovo and the recovery effort in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami. She is frequently called into trials to give evidence, has advised the U.K. government on disaster preparedness, and is a co-author of the textbook Developmental Juvenile Osteology (2000). Whether working in a butcher’s shop as a teenager or exploring a cadaver for an anatomy class at the University of Aberdeen, she’s always been comfortab ...more
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly interesting read, particularly in tandem with watching episodes of 'History Cold Case' featuring Sue and colleagues. Recommended.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: four-star
An intriguing, often heartbreaking look at the fascinating work of forensic anthropology. As someone thoroughly interested in true crime, I can’t say I have ever given much thought to this area of the investigative process. This book taught me a lot and gave me a new found respect for the work that these professionals do. The amount of knowledge and skill they possess is mind-blowing.

Yes parts of this book are technical and can make for slightly tough reading if you aren’t from a scientific back
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it
A very matter of fact book from Sue Black, Forensic Anthropologist. She is a Professor at Dundee University, and an expert in her field. She explains what happens when someone chooses to leave their body to science, which was fascinating and incredibly respectful. It’s made me think about this as an option when I pop my clogs. Sue has also been lead investigator at the scenes of mass fatalities such as the 2004 Tsunami. She also worked on many tours of Kossovo, and the chapter describing her wor ...more
Nick Davies
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I struggled a little to decide whether to award this four or five stars, in the end my objectivity took precedence - this is a honest and interesting book, part memoir and part history of anatomy, written by the eminent Scottish forensic anthropologist, anatomist and academic, Dame Susan Black. Discussing both her professional life, and aspects of the field in general, I can completely understand why this has won such critical acclaim, and would recommend it to anyone curious about the subject o ...more
Review in English | Reseña en Español

I liked this book even though it was not what I expected. I think I misinterpreted the title and only read "forensics" and "solving crimes", because, well, that is me. This year I have been really into thrillers and true crime so I guess I just read what I wanted in the title and I was expecting to read about forensics in trying to solve crimes and cold cases. And sure, this book has its bits and pieces about how the work of the author has contributed to
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, passionate, and refreshingly frank, Dr. Sue Black’s respect for the dead and complete dedication to her subject is palpable.

At once sobering, bittersweet, funny, and thought-provoking, All That Remains dissects a life and career as a world leader in forensic anthropology. From friendly cadavers called Henry, to private meetings with the prime minister: From crippling rat phobias, to the horrors of war crimes in Kosovo. Each moment is explored with poignant honesty and great sensitiv
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss, nonfiction
For fans of Caitlin Doughty, Mary Roach, and CSI shows, a renowned forensic scientist on death and mortality.

Dame Sue Black is an internationally renowned forensic anthropologist and human anatomist. She has lived her life eye to eye with the Grim Reaper, and she writes vividly about it in this book, which is part primer on the basics of identifying human remains, part frank memoir of a woman whose first paying job as a schoolgirl was to apprentice in a butcher shop, and part no-nonsense but dee
Mommy Reads And Reviews
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this while in bed with stomach flu, which I don’t recommend at all! However I did find this memoir compulsive reading. I really enjoyed reading about Dr Black’s childhood, career and her musings around death. As a therapist I’m fascinated by people’s thoughts and beliefs around death and although this book focussed on the physical she did touch on society’s perception around death which she thoughtfully gave the pronoun ‘she’.
Interesting, slow & too many tangents. No drive to pick it up but after the first 167 pages I enjoyed it. ...more
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a book! Maybe not for the faint hearted, but a fascinating insight into the life and work of a world renowned forensic anthropologist. I was absolutely amazed and the evidence these clever people can ascertain from the remains of a corpse. I can not recommend this book highly enough utterly unputdownable!
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This was such a fascinating book- Sue Black's work and accounts of her experience in her field are just so awe-inspiring.
H.A. Leuschel
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you want to read a compassionate, beautifully written and honest book about death and what it takes to confront it on a daily basis, looked at from all its angles, fearlessly and without leaving any details out, in my view this book is a perfect start.

There is something incredibly disarming about the way the author describes her fascination as well as her deep respect for the many bodies she has had to dissect, try and make sense of to reconstruct as best she could who the person was and wha
Alice Mc
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
A confession... I am a new screaming fangirl of Dame Sue Black. I attended an event in Dundee where she spoke about this book, which is both a memoir of her real life experiences and her own reflections on living and dying. She was awesome , and what a role model.

As one of the UK's top tier of Forensic Anthropologists and Professor of Anatomy, her work is fascinating and she talks and writes about it with such insight, intelligence and straight-forwardness. Given the nature of the job some parts
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