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

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  305 Ratings  ·  36 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 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting - if you're into this kind of stuff - and I am.
Jul 12, 2010 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
Apr 03, 2009 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.
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting collection of information and facts about death and dying. I know that might not sound great to some people, but I thought it was fascinating.
Sep 13, 2009 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 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
Jan 05, 2012 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
Jun 24, 2009 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
Oct 24, 2012 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.
Jun 07, 2011 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!
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 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.
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.
Jun 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Newell
Jan 25, 2010 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 rated it really liked it
Indispensable reference book. Fun for the whole family.
Dec 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have an interest in reading the macabre.
Oct 23, 2010 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.
creepy but really interesting
Jul 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Loved it!!
Mar 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
A fun read and informative!
Jan 10, 2012 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
Feb 18, 2015 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 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
May 03, 2014 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.
Mar 28, 2012 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.
Jun 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was actually very interesting and informative
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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 about Harold Schechter...

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