Caitlin Doughty, known as something of a death and dying expert, has spent years in the funeral industry. She works as a mortician, a self-proclaimed death activist, and focuses on helping people look at death in a positive light. She even founded the “death positive movement” to help people view death as something natural, not something they should fear.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- 1. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
- 2. From Here to Eternity
- 3. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?
- Translations of Doughty’s Books
- About the Author
In addition to her advocacy group, the Order of the Good Death, Doughty hosts a successful web series called Ask a Mortician, with nearly 1.5 million subscribers. She isn’t afraid to talk about the subject most people avoid or answer the questions everyone has but no one will ask.
Given her penchant for all things death and dying, it only makes sense that this maven of the dead would write a book or two. Take a look at our list of acclaimed Caitlin Doughty books below.
1. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Doughty’s first of several books about death, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” takes a deep dive into her early life as a college grad turned crematory operator. After taking the job out of sheer necessity, she realizes that she loves what she does.
However, Doughty isn’t happy with the way the West treats the topics of death and dying. She looks at death head-on in this book with a blunt and frank appeal. She discusses the ins and outs of cremation and embalming and takes a look at why we do these things.
She answers questions about funeral traditions and how people handle the dead and gives insight into modern-day funeral practices. She also pulls back the curtain on what happens to our bodies after death.
This book became a nearly immediate New York Times bestseller. A word to the wise, however: Doughty doesn’t shy away from the sometimes gruesome realities that surround the funeral industry.
She goes into detail about the practices of cremation and embalming and talks about a number of the bodies she’s taken care of through the years. This book also isn’t for young readers and carefully consider whether a teen should read it.
If you want to read more about this book before you decide to pick up a copy, check out our “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” book review.
2. From Here to Eternity
Doughty’s second book, “From Here to Eternity,” was published just three years after her first. She realized that she disagreed with many, if not all, of our modern-day funeral practices, such as embalming, and the methods that funeral homes use to advise grieving families.
Doughty took off on a trip around the world to learn what she could about the ways other cultures and countries treat death.
The book follows her travels from Colorado to Indonesia to Bolivia to California and documents the way entire communities come together to honor their dead. You’ll learn how indigenous people celebrate the lives of those gone on, how one community in Colorado built a pyre for their townsfolk, and the reason why eco funerals occur outside of America.
During her travels and her reflections on American funeral practices, she asks hard questions and encourages others to do the same. She’ll challenge readers to look at alternative burial and cremation methods.
You’ll even come face to face with the option to control your loved one’s funeral — instead of a funeral director, mortuary owner, cemetery owner, or someone else.
You may want to read this book if you want a different perspective on what it looks like to bury, cremate, and bid farewell to the deceased. For audiences mature enough to handle it, the benefits outweigh the potential discomfort of facing death head-on through every page.
3. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?
The latest book by Doughty, “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?” examines how we approach death in a lighthearted approach.
A mortician who isn’t afraid to be asked the hard, awkward, and funny questions, she fields a ton this book. She answers some of the most amusing questions about death she’s ever gotten.
Doughty believes that as long as you talk about death, you make progress. However, rather than going to the adult population to gather questions for this book, she elicited questions from kids. Why?
Historically, they’re unafraid to ask the hard, weird, scary, and even obscene questions that most adults shy away from. The result? Thirty-four questions that range from the sublime to the ridiculous, the serious, and humorous.
She uses science to carefully answer questions such as:
“Can someone donate blood after they die?”
“Will my hair keep growing after I’m buried?”
“What happens if you die on a plane?”
“What happens if you die in space?”
“If I died making a stupid face, would it be stuck like that forever?”
She asks and answers the questions for adults, not kids, even though kids produced the questions she asks. A section at the end discusses how to talk about these concepts with kids. She suggests proceeding with caution if you want to hand this off to inquiring minds. If you do, get ready to discuss the concepts in this book so kids don’t ponder this subject on their own.
Needless to say, this witty, amusing, and slightly macabre read would make an interesting gift for funeral directors who enjoy reading.
Translations of Doughty’s Books
Doughty’s books have been translated into Portuguese, German, and Dutch. Unfortunately, at this moment, you can’t get all three books in Portuguese or Dutch. You can find the following at book retailers such as Amazon, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble.
Books in Portuguese
Two books have been translated into Portuguese:
- “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” available in e-book and hardback formats.
- “From Here to Eternity,” available only in hardback format.
Both books have title changes. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” has changed to “Crematorium Confessions: Lessons for Life.” “From Here to Eternity” becomes “For All Eternity: Understanding the World Hand in Hand with Death.”
You can find both on Amazon from hundreds of happy readers. Doughty currently has nearly 650 reviews for her Portuguese edition books and an average of 4.7 stars out of five for both.
Books in German
Two of Doughty’s books have been translated:
- “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?” — available in audiobook, hardback, and multimedia CD versions
- “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” — available in audiobook, paperback, and hardback versions
Just like the Portuguese editions, both books received German title changes. “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?” became “What Happens When I’m Dead: Big Questions from Little Mortals About Death.” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” becomes “Ask Your Undertaker: Lessons from the Crematorium.”
Both books have rave reviews.
Books in Dutch
You can find Doughty’s most popular book in the Netherlands, a paperback “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” though in Dutch, it reads “When the Smoke Clears from Your Head: Lessons from the Crematorium.”
You can’t read any ratings for the book on Amazon, but it should have great success, just like Doughty’s English, Spanish, and German versions.
About the Author
Caitlin Doughty has a dynamic author webpage continually updated with news and events, and she heads up the death positive movement over at the Order of the Good Death. You can find tons of resources for end-of-life decision-making and a host of interesting insights from the author on a wide range of death-related topics.
Facing Death Together
Doughty’s books help us all face the one topic we’re all rather squeamish about — death and dying. Her funny, enlightening writing will certainly help readers everywhere face the topic of death head-on so they can prepare for its eventual arrival.