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From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

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Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty embarks on a global expedition to discover how other cultures care for the dead. From Zoroastrian sky burials to wish-granting Bolivian skulls, she investigates the world’s funerary customs and expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with dignity. Her account questions the rituals of the American funeral industry—especially chemical embalming—and suggests that the most effective traditions are those that allow mourners to personally attend to the body of the deceased. Exquisitely illustrated by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity is an adventure into the morbid unknown, a fascinating tour through the unique ways people everywhere confront mortality.

256 pages, Paperback

First published October 3, 2017

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About the author

Caitlin Doughty

9 books6,936 followers
Caitlin Doughty is a mortician and the author of Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? as well as the New York Times best-selling books Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity. She is the creator of the “Ask a Mortician” web series and founder of The Order of the Good Death. She lives in Los Angeles, where she owns and runs a funeral home.

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5 stars
16,079 (47%)
4 stars
13,086 (38%)
3 stars
3,957 (11%)
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297 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,103 reviews
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
436 reviews655 followers
December 21, 2017
OK, this might sound really weird....but I've been to a lot of funerals. And I mean a lot. As a very young girl, I used to go church on weekends with my grandparents, and they would always go to the funeral home after church. It was always the funeral home three day viewings followed by a church service and grave site service. Many, many years later a family member passed and was cremated. I thought it the oddest thing, completely unheard of. I had many long discussions with my husband about it as I was so confused. I didn't know there was anything different. This book was an eye opening experience to see different countries and cultures and their methods of burying the dead.

I found it fascinating to learn of so many different methods from an open air funeral pyre, to cultures who keep a body in the house for 5, 10+ years mummifying the body, to Indonesia where they prop up their bodies, to Japan where they have very ultra-modern places to sit with the deceased and where relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved- ones’ bones from cremation ashes, to homes that store skulls, and many more. Finally, to the one I found most fascinating....the FOREST. The Forensic Osteology Research Station in North Carolina. Here, bodies are placed on the grounds of a research facility and 'composted' providing a green burial. The author is a mortician and is fascinated by how people fear dead bodies. She is also quite rough on the American funeral industry and doesn't hold back. It is a huge area that makes tons of money. Your basic American funeral can start at around $20K and go up substantially from there.

I find it odd to say I 'enjoyed' reading this book, but I learned a lot about how many in the rest of the world view death and how they bury their dead. The book includes illustrations that show many of the rituals and images of Mexico's Dias de los Muertos. I have not read the authors first book but it is one I plan to pick up soon. I can't say this is for everyone. Some might find it quite macabre. I found it a bit educational and it's one that can lead to many in-depth discussions.
Profile Image for Petra X has her eye on the prize.
2,384 reviews33.9k followers
November 7, 2017
This is a brief tour of some of the world's strangest burial practices. In the epilogue, thanking people, Caitlin says, "Finally Landis Blair, who was an all-right boyfriend but is now a killer collaborator". And that feels like the key to this all-right, 3.5 star (at best) book.

It feels like flushed with the deserved success of first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, the author had decided to have a dual career as of funeral home proprietor and writer and had cast around for a subject to write about it. A tour of the world's more unusual funerary practices! It was so obvious.

There was a New Age funeral pyre in Colorado, the scraped-clean and dressed dead of Sulawesi brought out for their annual, communal party. Then in Bolivia, skulls it seemed everyone had in their home that they and bring offerings to ask favours of (and get blessed by the local Catholic priest). In another country graves are only rented and then the remains turfed out if the family fail to pay. The most interesting was Tibet where the recently dead are chopped up and mixed with flour and butter and offered to birds of prey who having filled up on the corpses fly off, and so it is known, poetically, as 'sky burial'.

I knew most of these funeral rituals so it wasn't that interesting. But one thing really caught my attention. We are schooled to think of Buddhism as some ideal spiritual philosophy, something peaceful that brings contentment, despite one of the world's most celebrated Buddhists and well known champions of human rights, Aung San Suu Kyi's support of the state persecution and violence directed at the Muslims in Myanmar.

But is this not modern thinking? This is what the Buddha thought of women:

"The ancient scriptures tell of the Buddha encouraging his community of male monks to take trips to the charnel grounds to meditate on women’s rotting bodies. The motive of these “meditations on foulness” was to liberate a monk from his desire for women; they were, as scholar Liz Wilson calls them, “sensual stumbling blocks.”

The hope was that charnel meditation would strip women of all their desirable qualities so men would realize they are merely flesh-sacks filled with blood, guts, and phlegm. The Buddha was explicit, claiming that a woman’s deception is not in her accessories, like makeup and gowns, but in her fraudulent garment of flesh, surreptitiously oozing grotesque liquids from its orifices."

That was enlightening. For that the author gets upped to 4 stars.

It's a good book, very readable, the insights and descriptions are very much of the popular science genre, not too deep, not too challenging, a quick read and light non-fiction. It does make you realise that a funeral is for the benefit of the mourners and the funeral directors. You might want to consider a ritual that is personal for the family, and less the killingly expensive pressure that benefits the funeral directors.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,687 reviews14k followers
December 26, 2019
Although a strange choice for Christmas reading, I found this book utterly fascinating. It seems that the United States may be the only country that avoids the subject of death. Other countries, not only have a different view of their dead, but treat their dead entirely different.

In the Torajan region of Sulawel in Indonesia, many live along side their dead. The mummified corpses are not buried, but remain part of the home. In Mexico, most of us have heard of the the Day of the dead, which actually lasts more than one day. The dead are invited back, tempted with their favorite foods, to come and visit with their loved ones.

Japan's dead are often cremated. In fact, Japan has a 99.9% rate of cremation, and the cremation is attended by 60% of their loved ones. They also have the highest longevity expected, for women, and they are healthy to boot. The different ways the dead are treated in this country is very interesting and makes remarkable reading.

Different ways of treating the dead are making a push in the United States. Making death a natural part of life, not something to fear, and a less abrupt way of dealing with this subject. Practices of old as well as the evolving role and costly practice of our current ways of handling death, are also discussed.

Truly fascinating, though not a subject I actually thought of before reading this book. All the same, the constant TV commercials trying to convince the elderly, or near elderly, to buy insurance so their family is not financially responsible for the significant costs of their deaths, is distasteful.

The author narrates her own book, and does a very good job doing so.
Profile Image for Henk.
797 reviews
March 21, 2021
Fun, interesting and sensible about our relationship with death and the rituals surrounding it
“Death avoidance is not an individual failing; it’s a cultural one. Facing death is not for the faint-hearted. It is far too challenging to expect that each citizen will do so on his or her own. Death acceptance is the responsibility of all death professionals—funeral directors, cemetery managers, hospital workers. It is the responsibility of those who have been tasked with creating physical and emotional environments where safe, open interaction with death and dead bodies is possible.”

From American initiatives to Barcelona, Mexico, Indonesia, Columbia and Japan, Caitlin Doughty takes us on a trip to various alternatives to dealing with death and have a more healthy and relaxed relation with our deceased loved ones. The Buddhist temple with a card chip that guides you to the urn of your loved one and high rise fancy funeral homes in Barcelona show that death doesn't have to be dreary but can be coupled to high-tech. The restrictions to alternative ways of funerals in the US are apparently quite extensive so new initiatives like an open air pyre and nature burial also get attention. In the end I found the so called Towers of Silence, used in Zoroastrian sky burials (for lack of a better world) most interesting and poetic, but From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death packs a lot to think about and is written in a very accessible and informative manner, really inviting the reader to positively engage with something we (or our loved ones) all will need to think about in the end.
Profile Image for Saajid Hosein.
128 reviews691 followers
August 27, 2020
Note that this isn't a review as much as it is a personal reflection. You've been warned.

This book made me think a lot about how we construct knowledge differently across the globe. What might seem gross and macabre for some of us might be a deeply important ritual of mourning and death observance for others. I like that Doughty is decentering Western ideas of how death should be conceived and observed, showing us that our own fear of death causes us to forget what we were biologically designed to do and that is to decompose back into the planet that fed us.

Growing up in the Muslim community of Trinidad, I was lucky to be exposed to a more naturalistic way burial. In my area we have one small Muslim cemetery where graves are reused. In Islam, the afterlife is more important than the mundane, the body is merely a vessel. We bathe it, no embalming, and the body is placed into the earth and left to decompose naturally. The body will sink over the years making the grave reusable once more, which is why the very small cemetery never runs out of space.

However, I've always had death anxiety and my religion never really helped me deal with it in a way that was positive. It's not the religion itself, but what Muslims choose to focus on. There's a lot of hellfire talk and all the punishments that people will face in the grave. I've had to bar these ideas from my head, not because I don't believe them, but because they've always been used to instill fear in ways that only bolstered my fear of death, rather than allowed me to come to terms with it.

It took a YouTuber/mortician from California to help me come to terms with mortality in a healthier way. Finding myself at the intersection of queer and Muslim is extremely difficult. You might ask "Okay Saajid, but what does death have to do with your queer Muslim woes?" EVERYTHING! Death marks the beginning of your journey into the metaphysical world, a world where evil and corrupt souls are subjected to divine retribution. When you grow up learning that your own natural desires and expressions as a queer person supposedly fall into the categories of evil and corrupt, death isn't a prospect to look forward to. As I journey through my faith, though, I've been working on decentering mainstream fundamentalist ideas that plague a religion which is a lot more historically and culturally diverse than we give it credit for. There's space for me in Islam, I just have to find it myself, inshaAllah.

Oh and one more thing: Naya Rivera (if you haven't heard, look it up). Her death affected me in ways I couldn't have imagine. I knew of her, was familiar with her work, but I wasn't a super fan or anything. I think the sheer suddenness and sadness of her death is what got to me. A young, talented, woman of colour, gone in a matter of minutes. Leaving her baby stranded on a boat, the last memory he will ever have of his mother is her disappearing into the waters. Naya's death reminded me of something I've always grappled to accept and that's that death can come anytime, anywhere. With that in mind, I realized what bothered me so much about her dying and that's that I've been conditioned into thinking that death doesn't suit someone like Naya. It's an odd match. I would go back and watch old interviews and clips of her singing and dancing and acting on 'Glee' and think so myself "How can SHE actually be dead?" She's too young, too healthy, too wealthy, too talented, too successful, too loved for death too have the audacity too take her away. But it doesn't work like that, now does it?

Bringing it back to this book. It looks at death practices and rituals across the world and how we shouldn't be absolutist with our knowledge of death. Not everyone on this planet is going to conceptualize death in the same way, the least we can do is respect each other's practices. But I think this book also prompts us to learn from those who have mastered the art of dealing with death in ways that honour dead body and the natural process of dying, instead of fear them.

Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un - Verily, we belong to Allah, and to Allah we will return (Qur'an, 2:156).
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,027 followers
September 30, 2017
I was sent this book by the publisher after responding to an email sent to a librarian email list; they had extras leftover from ALA, and I was #ALAleftbehind, so I asked for a few from their list.

I knew of Caitlin Doughty but never read her earlier book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, which talks about her experience running a crematory and funeral home. In this book, she visits several different places that deal with death differently, either from cultural differences or people thinking outside the mold.

From going through my father's death this past year, I certainly was well acquainted with the incredible costs of a burial, and my Dad was fortunate enough to have a gravesite and gravestone provided by the government because of his status as a veteran. But I witnessed price gouging and how funeral homes take advantage of grieving families who feel trapped. It isn't pretty.

I hadn't stopped to think of how it might be different other places, how the racket might be unique to our country or that other countries at the very least would have different rackets. Doughty explores some of the standard expectations of other places and I felt like I learned a lot, from the Japanese crematorium experience (where the family watches), to the corpses living with families on an island in Indonesia, to the idea that a burial plot is only as good as long as the body is decomposing in Spain (and not a permanent space as it is in the USA.) Doughty also tells the story of how the way a Mexican town honors their dead is healing to her friend who lost a baby.

Such a minor part, but I found myself fascinated by the pages about whales... how their poop feeds an ecosystem, how their decomposing bodies sustain life for half a year! These are the things I brought up during dinner conversation. I was surprised too, but the way she has written some of the details proves hard to forget.
Profile Image for Emily.
118 reviews569 followers
August 29, 2017
Caitlin Doughty has done it again: dragged us death-phobic Westerners into the light of what grieving and death could (and maybe should) look like. In From Here to Eternity, Caitlin travels the globe and shares her first-hand experiences of getting up close and personal with death rituals from around the world.

I found each section absolutely captivating, and although the Tana Toraja bit did give me a nightmare last night (seriously), I'm going to blame that on the arms-length (or maybe football field) distance we Americans prefer to keep from death. I still don't know what I'd like to happen to my remains after I die, but thanks to Caitlin Doughty, I have hope that we as a culture can move towards a more open-minded, natural approach to death that allows different preferences and options to be acceptable and attainable for everyone.
Profile Image for Emily.
296 reviews1,515 followers
May 3, 2018
I absolutely LOVED this. I cannot wait to pick up more of Doughty's work and to binge watch her YouTube channel "Ask a Mortician."

In this book, Doughty outlines all of the fucked up ways in which the US death industry is fucked up. She looks at expenses, dignity, and the seeming moratorium on public grief here in the states.

In contrast, Doughty takes the reader along with her as she travels the world learning about other cultures' death rituals and mourning practices. This could have very easily devolved into some gross, appropriative, fetishization of how beautiful and spiritual non-Western cultural traditions are. I mean, a white lady visiting Buddhist monks and remote Indonesian villages? I was ready to say, "No thank you, macabre Eat Pray Love." But now I have to eat my words! Doughty looks at different cultural traditions without a tinge of fetishization, and with a whole lot of respect. It's WONDERFUL. It's educational, it highlights how awful the corporatization of death is, AND it touches on the impacts of colonialism. I mean... I just could not have been more wrong. And I'm so happy about it.

Doughty's tone in this novel is great. She's informative, blunt, and funny. None of these seems in-line with how American's typically talk about death (which is pretty much the point of this book). She pulls back the curtain, gives you honesty and insight, and makes death a whole lot less scary.

Can't recommend this book enough!!
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,055 reviews30k followers
August 23, 2020
I read this about a year ago as a buddy read with Beth. I must have forgotten to formally review it. It’s a fascinating glimpse into customs and rituals from around the world after the death of loved ones. It reminded me of my undergrad studies in anthropology, and I learned a vast amount. Well-written and completely absorbing, I’ll definitely read all of Doughty’s other books.
Profile Image for Iben Frederiksen.
294 reviews167 followers
October 13, 2020
This is the second book Caitlin Doughty's published, and it is also my second read of hers.
In this book Caitlin, a writer and mortician, chronicles her meetings with other cultures death and burial traditions, in a very chill and humorous way.
It's interesting to say the least, how very different the ending of someone's life is dealt with around the world.

From Mexico to Japan, the business of death is quite different aross the globe, making the reader aware of practices that are so very unlike their own. Some of these practices and traditions may seem miles apart from what the reader considers "the norm", but Caitlin let's the representatives from burial companies around the word, explain in their own words how their traditions have come to be, making you consider and decide for yourself, which practices you can realate to the most, and which ones you just find too unusual.

Being danish myself, even the practices that are "the norm" to american Caitlin Doughty, are very different from the ones we have here in Denmark. I find things like embalming and open caskets, to be very different (and also slightly creepy) from the burials we have.

A fascinating and humorous read!
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,454 reviews2,319 followers
June 26, 2020
From Here to Eternity
Traveling the World to Find the Good Death
By: Caitlin Doughty
Narrated by: Caitlin Doughty
The author traveled around various countries and described the countries way of treating their dead, their thoughts on death, and how it may have changed. She compares these countries to the US. It was very interesting, a little strange from the view from an American. I do see how we have lost sight of the respect of the ritual of death and the big business of funeral homes have made it impersonal and costly. I love her books. I have read all three now and love her website. She did a remarkable job with the narration.

Profile Image for Lois Bujold.
Author 154 books37.5k followers
September 19, 2019
Three-and-a-half stars, really. Read in one fascinated day. The personal explorations by a young California mortician of funeral practices across the world.

My eye was first caught by her more recent work, the irresistibly titled Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions From Tiny Mortals About Death, but my library's wait list was too long, so I selected this one instead. Good value. Her others are certainly on my to-read list now.

Ta, L.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,293 reviews425 followers
November 30, 2020
My anticipated reaction:


My actual reaction:


This isn't bad, not by a longshot. It's also not the stunning masterpiece I'd lead myself to believe it would be. A lot of that is my fault because I've stalked Caitlin Doughty for about 4 or 5 years now and am up to date on all her YouTube videos. I often read articles about her or by her or those written for Order of the Good Death so not a lot of this information was new to me. While I expected such to be the case, I also expected to get a more in-depth anthropological/sociological analysis of the death rituals explored in each chapter and that is the source of my lackluster response. These read like interesting blog posts and I wanted more. MORE!
Also, the book is illustrated nicely but I wanted photographs or, in a perfect book, a mix of photographs and illustrations. That disappointment is solely on me and, yes, I did do a lot of Googling, as you're about to find out.

There are eight chapters in this book, each a compilation of Caitlin's (we're not friends but I'm calling her by her first name anyway. I'm older than she is and in some societies, that totally gives me the right to not be formal) experiences with community traditions surrounding death. I felt it was a little odd so much of this centers on American experiences - 3/8 chapters take place in the ol' US of A. I guess that could go to show that we're not as death squeamish as we think and that there is hope for progress among the pearl-clutchers but I wanted more glimpses of what other cultures do with their dead because I already live here and know what we do with corpses.
She starts out in Colorado (Represent!) and I'm going to go ahead and talk about what I thought of each chapter but I'll put it all under a spoiler tag in case you want to be surprised in regard to the places she travels and the things she sees!



So that's the book. And I liked it, obviously. I just didn't love it like I'd wanted.

Side note: I am interested to find out the title of her next book. She's covered a song lyric, a movie title...what's next? A dance move? Only time will tell.
Profile Image for Ross Blocher.
429 reviews1,336 followers
February 15, 2018
From Here to Eternity is the kind of exuberant, passionate non-fiction I live for. Caitlin Doughty has a deep fascination with death: she is a funeral director by trade and her knowledge, enthusiasm and good humor are clearly evident as she describes and de-stigmatizes cultural attitudes toward death around the world. Many of the stories revolve around her own travels to various parts of the world to witness ceremonies, crypts, crematoria, and columbaria (places where cremated remains are kept). In Colorado, one group has fought legal battles and intense suspicion to offer outdoor cremation. In Indonesia, families co-habitate with the bodies of their loved ones for many years: talking to them, applying preservatives, and bringing them out each year to walk the streets. In North Carolina, forensics facilities allow experimentation with human composting. In Japan, you might be given a pair of chopsticks to retrieve your loved one's bones following cremation, and a modern facility lets you hold up a keycard to trigger a colorful light display identifying their remains in one Buddha-shaped urn amongst hundreds. In Bolivia, some steal skulls from graves and keep them around to share advice and answer prayers. In Joshua Tree, California, a pilot program lets you be buried, sans embalming fluids, in a simple cloth four feet below the ground. In the mountains of Tibet, bodies are chopped up and fed to vultures: one of the faster returns to nature one might imagine (if one imagined such things). The book has wonderful illustrations by Landis Blair, which perform a crucial role: they let you visualize what is being described without the "yick" factor some might experience seeing photos. I, of course, did plenty of Google surfing to find the photos.

Along the way, Doughty shares numerous fun facts and thought-provoking commentary on our relationship to death. In the US, death has become a lucrative business, and bodies are whisked away and kept hidden, and there are only two options offered: embalming/burial or cremation. She advocates for a more diverse, nuanced approach to death that honors the dead in the way they have chosen and that allows family time and space to process the loss, and also for death not to worsen our ecological crises. At the same time, this can be accomplished without compromising the health or safety of the living.

I found myself jealous of many of the practices described here, and thinking about my own choices for my body after I die. I am an organ donor, and want any useful organs to go to people who need them. I'd love to donate my body to medical students or scientific study (my wife is against this, and she and I have had great conversations after reading this book together). In the end, I don't want to be embalmed, and would even prefer not to be burned - I'd love for my body to be returned back to the earth in the least invasive, time-consuming way, so my nutrients can go back into creating new forms of life. I'm hoping, by the time it comes to that, there will be more options available. If so, it will be thanks to efforts like this book, which I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Paul Lockman.
243 reviews6 followers
October 29, 2020
I am way out of tune with the majority here. This book just didn’t work for me. I am all for getting death and dying into the conversation more broadly and it's especially important to discuss it with your loved ones and find out exactly what sort of funeral or service they would like and what they want done with their body. I also agree with the author that time spent with the deceased person is very important before they are whisked away. She also makes valid criticisms of the funeral industry in that it is overpriced and needs an overhaul and different options and practices should be available. However, the author seemed to imply or make the broad generalisation that Western countries have it completely and absolutely wrong and that increased contact with and viewing of the deceased person is preferable and a more meaningful and healthier way to approach death and dying. I think it is a totally personal decision and choice and some people are perfectly OK with the way funerals are done in the West and may not be comfortable with the idea of their deceased body being available to friends and loved ones for too long. My Mum, for example, left explicit instructions that she didn't want a viewing or an open coffin. In my opinion you can be perfectly comfortable with death and dying but still find some of the practices from other cultures the author describes as a bit off-putting and not for them. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Another gripe I had - I am just not sure there was a book's worth of material here, it was more like a blog, or a handful of anecdotes or a travelogue of some of her travels and experiences with a few other cultures and communities and I found the writing was a bit disjointed and all over the place. It didn’t have much depth or historical or cultural context and I would have liked additional research on the funeral practices of a broader cross section of civilisations rather than this series of brief anecdotes. I just didn’t come away from this book as informed as I would like to have been but I did enjoy learning about a few death customs and practices that I wasn’t aware of.
Profile Image for Ilana.
598 reviews158 followers
March 19, 2021
I enjoy Caitlin Doughty’s books so much, I’m now sorry I’ve finished the third book she’s published so far because I could use more of her caustic humour on the facts of death and what happens to our bodies once life as we know it departs from them and other forms of life take over what’s left. Told in delightfully gruesome and funny details.

Here Doughty recounts her travels to different parts of the world to see up close what death rituals involve in different cultures. Japan has death hotels and buddhas with ambient light projections in a high tech funerary memorial. Bolivia has skulls covered in cute caps which bring otherworldly gifts to those who come seeking spiritual guidance. A small town—a very small town in the US allows a not-for profit funeral pyre provider to operate legally, a rare exception in the land where corporate funeral companies are willing to crush out competition even from Benedictine monks for maximum profits.

Doughty is a gifted storyteller and her delivery is casual and entertaining. Here’s hoping she’s already completing her next book project.
Profile Image for Ashley DiNorcia.
330 reviews537 followers
June 14, 2017
4.5
In her second book, Caitlin takes us around the world to take a look at how other cultures view and treat death. If you're already aware of how bizarre, detached and corporate-ified the US is about death, this will be a lovely trip through some truly beautiful rituals and cultures. If you aren't aware, well, this might be a bit jarring for you.

Caitlin approaches the topic with respect and just the right amount of humor. I can't recommend her writing enough, and would definitely recommend her first book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory if you'd like to learn a bit more about the way our current death care system works.

Also, moving to Colorado immediately because I WANT THE PYRE TREATMENT.
Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for providing me a copy for review.
Profile Image for Ammar.
441 reviews217 followers
May 3, 2018
fascinating book about the various cultures and how they interact with death, and the concept of the departed or loved one. were many non-western cultures perform more natural acts of burial, a non-industrial cremation. some use a pyre to lit a loved one, while others keep them mummified, and visit them often.

The Japanese use chopsticks to pluck their loved one's bones from the ashes.

Fascinating and written beautifully
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
1,962 reviews2,685 followers
February 28, 2020
3.5 Stars
This was an interesting non-fiction book that explored a variety of non-traditional burial practices (non-traditional by North American standards, at least). Even though this book dealt with the topic of grief, it was not creepy, but rather try to normalize the topic, taking out the fear that tends to surround dead bodies. I particularly liked the sections about fire burning in Colorado as well as the section on Japanese traditions.
Profile Image for Ria ♡.
901 reviews94 followers
January 31, 2018
This book was so interesting! It really got me thinking tbh. Recommend Caitlin's books to everyone they're so good!!
Profile Image for Carole (Carole's Random Life).
1,638 reviews449 followers
April 21, 2020
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This was such an interesting listen! I have been wanting to read this book since I learned of its existence. I find the way that we handle death as humans to be a topic that I never tire from. When I first picked up Caitlin Doughty's debut novel, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, I had my doubts but decided to read a few pages just to see what I thought. I couldn't put it down and it is a book that I frequently recommend to others today. I went into this audiobook with pretty high expectations and I am thrilled that the book was able to meet them.

In this book, the author travels the world to see how death is handled in a variety of cultures. It was a very eye-opening journey for me. I had no idea how little I actually knew about this topic. I thought that in the United States the options for dealing with a loved one's remains consisted of a choice between burial and cremation. I had no idea that in one community, residents have the option of an open-air pyre. Why don't we have this everywhere?

I was amazed by the variety of customs associated with dying. In this book, we see communities that keep the corpses of loved ones with them for rather long periods of time continuing their relationship with the deceased. There were a variety of rituals from around the world explained. Some of the scenes were quite vivid. While I don't think that I want to rush to practice some of the traditions explained in this book, I really liked being able to see how variations of how people around the world look at the process of death. In some ways, I think that a lot of cultures have a much healthier relationship with the dead. They prepare the bodies and care for the dead while in the United States, we are removed from the process leaving it to the professionals.

This book is narrated by the author. I think that she did a great job with the reading of this book. The book covers things and events that the author has seen so I think that she was able to deliver the story in a manner that nobody else would have been able to do. I thought that she had a very pleasant voice and I found it easy to listen to this book for long periods of time. I ended up listening to the entire book in a single day and found that I liked the narration more and more as I made my way through the book.

I would recommend this book to others. I love the way that this author is able to educate others on the process of death and dying in an entertaining manner. I found this book to be quite thought-provoking and I feel like I learned a thing or two. I could easily see myself reading this book again at some point in the future and I can't wait to check out some of the author's other works.

Initial Thoughts
This was really interesting. I think that there are a lot of problems with the way that death is handled in the US. I found some of the practices in other countries were very eye-opening. I am not going to sign up for a lot of the rituals described in this book but it did make me think about what kind of changes I would like to see closer to home. The author did a good job narrating the book.

Book source: Purchased
Profile Image for Z. F..
288 reviews97 followers
October 26, 2021
Four stars for the content of the book itself, which consists mostly of a handful of snappy and informative accounts of death-care practices around the world (Indonesia, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Bolivia, and two or three of the more avant-garde options available in the U.S., too), witnessed firsthand and commented on by our author. If you're familiar with Caitlin Doughty via, for instance, her Ask a Mortician YouTube series, you'll know that she always addresses funerary topics with un-fakeable passion, diligent research, an insider's practical know-how, and more than a little gallows humor. True to form, From Here to Eternity both educates and entertains, its pages flying by despite the potentially off-putting subject matter.

To the uninitiated Doughty's schtick may sound tacky, even offensive, but her mission is not simply to shock the sensibilities of squeamish Western readers with "exotic" anecdotes about dressing up exhumed corpses or watching loved ones burn on open-air pyres; instead, she uses the surprise (and often disgust) of the unfamiliar to question Americans' alienation from the bodies of our dead, and by extension from the inescapable reality of death itself. This alienation, Doughty insistently reminds us, has been manufactured or at least exacerbated by a predatory funeral industry, which empties the pockets of the bereaved for gaudy caskets and competitively-priced cemetery plots and wax-sculpture embalming regimens even as it prevents families from spending more than a few rushed and paid-for hours in the presence of their dead. Doughty has made herself into a sort of living memento mori, constantly reminding us that our time in these bodies is limited and that a little morbidity—aka honesty—is a lot more healthy in the long run than the alternative.

The result of all this is that—though Doughty herself maintains a casual, at times even flippant tone—you can't help starting to think more seriously about your own relationship to this most momentous of subjects: deaths and burials you've witnessed or know you will witness soon enough, funeral services either cathartic or dissatisfying, the solitude of grief without a socially-appropriate outlet, your own mortality and plans for your remains. An aunt of mine died during the course of my reading, and I saw firsthand the sterility of the funeral process and the struggle of relatives who clearly needed space for their grief but were not granted it. I cried during one of Doughty's chapters, about a Mexican-American woman who turned to Día de los Muertos rituals and the art of Frida Kahlo in order to mourn the baby she never had, and my book club's discussion of this book was the most personal and open one I've been a part of, with teary stories about lost loved ones and frank conversations about how we'd like to be sent off ourselves.

That sort of stuff transcends a simple star rating on Goodreads, and inspires me to recommend this book to everyone, no matter how disinterested in the subject matter you may believe yourself to be. Death, after all, is one of the few topics that absolutely no one has the privilege to ignore. Surely it's best to be on speaking terms with yours when it comes.
Profile Image for aza.
187 reviews18 followers
August 19, 2022
I knew this would be a banger because Caitlin's first book was also a banger. Her way of writing is so engaging and entertaining. I've looked up her youtube and patreons and it's not surprise she's as popular as she is; she's a lot of fun

In this book Doughty abandons her hard earned crematorium and travels the world to see some funeral and death practices that are at odds with the one familiar to her (and me) in the US

The purpose of this book is to ask her readers why the funeral practice they are familiar with exists today, and whether that norm is something that you, as a reader, actually want to happen to your body.

This is by no means a comprehensive account of all funerary practices and the book itself is not meant to provide encyclopedic knowledge - Doughty writes to entertain and to challenge modern norms. She has an agenda towards allowing families to touch, see, and spend time with their deceased, which is part of her Order of the Good Death movement.

Regardless of how you feel about the death industry, Doughty's personal experience in the field makes her argument all the more provocative. She knows how much the United States funeral industry makes on the 2 hour window with extravagant coffins and flowers and what have you. It's clear that money is an important factor keeping death so distant and terrifying to U.S. Americans.

In order to prove to us, the readers, that a human corpse is not the terrifying disease ridden vessel that we've come to think it is, Doughty tell us about cultures that interact with long dead people for years, though the most remarkable was:

The people in Toraja, Indonesia, who keep bodies in the home until the funeral, a period of time that can last years
"When I was a child, we had my grandfather in the home for seven years. My brother and I, we slept with him in the same bed. In the morning we put his clothes on and stood him up against the wall. At night he came back to bed."
Then the Toraja people dig up the family graves in a celebration called Ma'nene and spend time with their deceased loved ones.

The book winds down by showing less corpse-intensive rituals, that might showcase a future for the global funeral industry, or at the least, an option for what you might want for the future of yourself or your loved ones

Highly recommended read, it's fun, interesting, and reminds you to think about your future after the end of your life
Profile Image for Karyl.
1,668 reviews119 followers
October 18, 2019
This is an absolute must-read. Here in America, we are so separated from death. It is something to be feared, kept away from, hidden behind expensive caskets and embalming and services in a "multisensory experience room" (p. 234). Our dead are basically ripped from us, held in morgues and funeral homes, with little transition from the state of living to being buried in a cemetery or being resigned to the flames during cremation.

Doughty's point during this book isn't a tour of the world's strangest burial habits (and if this is what you take away from it, you've totally missed the point). Instead, it's to show how other cultures who are more in tune with death and how to process it and grieve can be seen as having a healthier relationship with death than we do in the western world. In Japan, the families are given special chopsticks with which to gather the bones of their loved ones after cremation. In Bolivia, certain skulls becomeñatitas, a liaison between living and the dead. In Indonesia, bodies are kept at home until they have their funerals (which can be years away), and then in certain rituals, the mummified bodies are taken out and cleaned, and the families spend time with them as they would any other family member.

These practices might seem barbaric to us, but then it's just a different way of dealing with the dead. It may behoove us to be more connected to our dead to allow us to grieve in a more healthy way. We've lost our intimacy with death, even though one day we will all pass away, and now it's an expensive proposition to die in America. Doughty wants us to think about how we can begin to fix the extortionist death industry in America, and perhaps open our eyes to other methods that may be cheaper and better for us emotionally.

Read this book with an open mind, and I can almost guarantee that you may change your mind about the way the death industry works in America.
Profile Image for Amanda.
840 reviews344 followers
October 16, 2017
This was not what I was expecting, which was a SGIYE part two. This is very much an informational nonfiction rather than a memoir, though there are memoir-esque elements about the companions Caitlin travelled with. This is a great overview of death rituals around the world, but not an in depth resource for death geeks. My favorite chapter was about Japan, as there were more details that helped me understand their rituals and culture. I wish Caitlin had been more present in the text as she was in SGIYE. I would still recommend this though and read anything else she publishes.
Profile Image for Georgia  Zarkadaki .
399 reviews98 followers
October 17, 2017
Η Caitlin Doughty είναι ιδιοκτήτρια ενός εναλλακτικού γραφείου τελετών και γνωστή Youtuber. Το κανάλι της στο Youtube ονομάζεται “Ask a mortician” και ανεβάζει εβδομαδιαία βίντεο. Το «From here to eternity» είναι το δεύτερο βιβλίο της, το πρώτο ήταν το «Smoke gets in your eyes», και σε αυτό το non-fiction βιβλίο της αφήνει πίσω την αυτοβιογραφική της διάθεση για μια πιο αποστασιοποιημένη αφήγηση.

Η Doughty αποφάσισε να ταξιδέψει σε διάφορες χώρες με σκοπό να γνωρίσει από κοντά τους διάφορους τρόπους με τους οποίους οι άνθρωποι διαχειρίζονται τους νεκρούς τους και τον θάνατο γενικά. Σίγουρα το κείμενο δεν είναι για τους λιγόψυχους αναγνώστες. Εκτός από το ότι αναφέρεται στον θάνατο – ένα θέμα που προκαλεί κρίσεις πανικού σε αρκετούς – η συγγραφέας συχνά μπαίνει σε αηδιαστικές λεπτομέρειες. Δυσκολεύτηκα στην αρχή αλλά μετά από ένα-δύο κεφάλαια βυθίστηκα στην ανάγνωση και το βιβλίο τελείωσε προτού το καταλάβω. Μου άρεσε πολύ που ταξίδεψα σε διαφορετικές χώρες και έμαθα τόσα για την κουλτούρα του κάθε λαού, επίσης με έσπρωξε να αποδεχτώ ότι αυτά που βρίσκω εγω αηδιαστικά άλλοι λαοί τα αποδέχονται σαν το πιο φυσιολογικό πράγμα.

Αναγνωρίζω πως δύσκολα θα καταλάβει κανείς γιατί μου αρέσουν τέτοιου είδους βιβλία. Δεν είμαι από τους ανθρώπους που θεωρούν τον θάνατο και την φυσική του εικόνα κάτι ενδιαφέρον, ούτε είμαι αναισθητοποιημένη στις σκληρές εικόνες. Θεωρώ όμως ότι διαβάζοντας τέτοια κείμενα ανακαλύπτω όλο και περισσότερα για τον εαυτό μου και νιώθω πως με βοηθάνε να αποδεχτώ την δική μου θνησιμότητα.

Η γραφή της δεν είναι τίποτα το σπουδαίο αλλά καταφέρνει να σε κρατήσει και αισθάνεσαι μέρος μιας φιλικής αφήγησης ενός ταξιδιού. Συμπαθώ πολύ την συγγραφέα και για αυτό το αγόρασα σε Kindle, και θα αγοράσω και ότι άλλο εκδώσει!
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
744 reviews1,109 followers
August 11, 2018
Who says death can't be fun? Well, maybe not death as in the process of dying, but a a good book about death? Sure, it can be lots of fun!
In "From Here to Eternity", Caitlin Doughty takes us to several countries around the world, detailing their practices with their dead. At times quite macabre (this is a book about death, afterall), it is nonetheless a most interesting book. Ms. Doughty mixes wit and sarcasm with fascinating details, making this one delightful book to read! Why is it each culture thinks their own way to handle the dead is the only right way, whilst all others are disturbing, disgusting, and disrespectful? Perhaps we in the West, especially in the USA where the death industry is just like everything else in this country -- capitalism gone crazy -- have something to learn from the way other cultures honor their dead. Perhaps we are too divorced from the process, stifling our healing and grief and fearing death in a way we need not.
We venture to Japan where the practice of kotsuage involves the mourners using chopsticks to gently place the bones of a partially-cremated body into urns. We visit Tana Toraja in Indonesia where they have a ritual known as ma'nene' where the dead are periodically pulled from their graves, cleaned and dressed, talked to, and given food and cigarettes. We visit Spain and Italy, Tibet and Mexico, Bolivia and the USA, learning about the customs, rituals, and attitudes concerning the dead.
Some people might find this book a little too disturbing. However, for those who can handle thinking about death and who have an open mind to other cultures and their practices, this is a most fascinating and fun read.
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