My Death Library (part 1)

One of the first things I knew I wanted to do after creating this blog was to catalog all of the books on my death shelves. After I started taking them down from my shelves, I realized I had more books than I thought and sectioning them off became quite the challenge. So for part one I am highlighting all of the books that are not related to: (current) true crime, grief/loss or e-books. I have read the majority of those books and want to create a separate post going more in depth about those topics (with the exception of e-books which will get their own post, but not necessarily a deep dive like grief/loss will).

Part one features all of the books that I am most excited for because I haven’t read the majority of these. The books that I have read from any of these categories have been italicized. My favorites are in both bold and italics (spoiler alert: the paranormal section is my favorite and I’m on the hunt for more books in that category). The book that I am currently reading from this list: Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum

Death Professionals

  1. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh
  2. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
  3. Driving with Dead People by Monica Holloway
  4. A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard
  5. The American Way of Death (Revisited) by Jessica Mitford
  6. Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab by Christine Montross
  7. The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield
  8. Modern Death: How Medicine Changed the End of Life by Haider Warraich, M.D.
  9. Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life by Ira Byock, M.D.
  10. The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sara Krasnostein
  11. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek M.D. & TJ Mitchell

Paranormal

  1. Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey
  2. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
  3. The Paranormal: An Encyclopedia of Psychic Phenomena by Brian Inglis
  4. The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed & Lorraine Warren by Gerald Brittle
  5. Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death by Deborah Blum

History – Medicine & Crime

  1. The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime by Judith Flanders
  2. Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine & Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker
  3. The Knife Man: Blood, Body-Snatching and the Birth of Modern Surgery by Wendy Moore
  4. On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss
  5. Anatomies: A Cultural History of the Human Body by Hugh Aldersey-Williams
  6. Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 by Elizabeth A. Fenn
  7. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
  8. The Red Market: On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers by Scott Carney
  9. Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
  10. Murder by Candlelight: The Gruesome Crimes Behind Our Romance with the Macabre by Michael Knox Beran
  11. The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris

Cultural Practices/Biographies

  1. Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses by Bess Lovejoy
  2. The Portable Obituary: How the Famous, Rich and Powerful Really Died by Michael Largo
  3. Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die by Michael Largo
  4. The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs and the Perverse Pleasure of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson
  5. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
  6. Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation’s Leaders by Brady Carlson
  7. Eat Me: A Natural and Unnatural History of Cannibalism by Bill Schutt
  8. From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death: Caitlin Doughty
  9. Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre – How We Dignify the Dead by Sarah Murray
  10. Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums by Samuel J Redman
  11. The Victorian Book of the Dead by Chris Woodyard
  12. Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs by Douglas Smith
  13. The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present by Ronald Hutton
  14. The Witches: Salem 1692 by Stacy Schiff

Have you read any of the books from my death shelves? Which ones sound interesting to you? Do you have any recommendations for books to be added?

And remember “death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it” Haruki Marakami

-Keeley

I’m obsessed with death

*a portion of my death shelves

Like most people, I’ve had a fascination with death since I was a teenager. What started as a morbid curiosity with mortality led to midnight walks in the park, which turned into checking books out of the library on the paranormal, which developed into a mild obsession with true crime and horror movies. But when most people my age grew out of their deathly habits, mine continued.

In college I enrolled as a psychology major eager to learn about the worst parts of the human mind. What happens before people decided to hurt others or themselves? How does the brain develop a belief that you are already dead like Cotard’s Syndrome? What really happened to those who were forcibly locked into asylums and how did the public develop an obsession with “the insane” ?

I spent countless hours in the library at college looking through books on religion, spirituality, medicine, funeral practices in other cultures, mental health, and the paranormal. Each book leading me down another rabbit hole where I became determined to find out the origins of this fear or that practice or that set of beliefs. By my senior year I had a small library building in my off-campus apartment of books on the paranormal, eclectic religious practices, memoirs from paranormal investigators, and biographies of people like Aleister Crowley. Popularity for books by morticians or medical examiners had not yet grown but I was finding comfort in the writings of Dr. Bill Bass and Ann Rule who covered the darkest parts of life.

I graduated in 2013 and since that time I have cultivated quite a collection of what I’m now referring to as my death shelves. These shelves encompass a collection of books ranging in topics like grief and bereavement, end of life care and aging, suicide and loss. But they also include books on those topics that first peaked my interest like true crime, historical books on medicine and surgery, case studies of medical anomalies, a handful of books from first responders, medical examiners and morticians, books on the history of the investigation into the paranormal, plagues and disease epidemics and the origins of criminal justice in Scotland Yard. I’m pretty sure I’m leaving some out, but I think you get the idea.

I decided to create this blog to catalog my journey reading these books and researching more about death and how it impacts life. One thing you should also know about me is that my favorite book of all time is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Not only do I collect editions of Frankenstein but my entire right arm is slowly being covered in tattoos dedicated to this glorious piece of literature. If there was ever a book that resonated with me, it’s Frankenstein. When I first read it in 12th grade it blew me away and each time I re-read it I am reminded of how much of an impact it’s had on my life. For a woman to be so comfortable writing about death and for that book to then become as popular as it has, has been confirmation to me that my obsession with death has never been as weird as I thought. Death is a normal part of life and the only guaranteed experience that every living creature will face.

So welcome to my new blog! I hope you will join me on my journey as I make my way through the rest of my death shelves and continue to add to them. I am always looking for new books to add to my to-be-read list so recommendations are greatly appreciated!

and remember “To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death” – Victor Frankenstein

-Keeley