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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From The Crematory Hardcover – Sep 16 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton (Sept. 16 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393240231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393240238
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.3 x 21.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #62,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Caitlin Doughty takes you to places you didn’t know you wanted to go. Fascinating, funny, and so very necessary, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes reveals exactly what's wrong with modern death denial. — Bess Lovejoy, author of Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses

Alternately heartbreaking and hilarious, fascinating and freaky, vivid and morbid, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is witty, sharply drawn, and deeply moving. Like a poisonous cocktail, Caitlin Doughty's memoir intoxicates and enchants even as it encourages you to embrace oblivion; she breathes life into death. — Dodai Stewart, deputy editor of Jezebel.com

[Doughty’s] sincere, hilarious, and perhaps life-altering memoir is a must-read for anyone who plans on dying. — Katharine Fronk (Booklist, Starred review)

Caitlin Doughty is best known for her YouTube series Ask a Mortician, and she brings the same charisma and drollery to her essay collection Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Think Sloane Crosley meets Six Feet Under. — Kevin Nguyen (Grantland)

Entertaining and thought-provoking. — Julia Jenkins (Shelf Awareness)

Demonically funny dispatches. — O Magazine

Morbid and illuminating. — Entertainment Weekly

A book as graphic and morbid as this one could easily suck its readers into a bout of sorrow, but Doughty—a trustworthy tour guide through the repulsive and wondrous world of death—keeps us laughing. — Rachel Lubitz (Washington Post)

Doughty reels you in with wonderful anecdotes about her work. Intermixed with the humor is a love of life that will make you reconsider how our culture treats the dead. — San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

Caitlin Doughty is a licensed mortician and the host and creator of the "Ask a Mortician" web series. She founded the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death and cofounded Death Salon. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Originally found Caitlin Doughty online with her Ask a Mortician series, which we absolutely LOVE! Found out she had a book, took it out of the library and loved it enough to want our own copy. It is a very realistic portrayal of death and the funeral industry so not for the overly squeamish, though that said, my mother (who is EXTREMELY squeamish) picked it up at my house and started reading it....and almost took it with her back across 3 provinces! It is both eye opening and endearing as it is a very personal take on an interesting person's life as well as showing the details of an industry currently cloaked in some level of secrecy. Included some interesting information on other culture's death rituals which was truly fascinating. Also full of humour; I found myself laughing quite often while reading it, though I don't recommend delving in while eating lunch, which is what I did.
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Format: Hardcover
I knew nothing about this book so I opened it and did what I call ‘a random page test’. Which is, just that. I turn to any page and give a paragraph a read; I was hooked instantly.

The author, Caitlin Doughty seems to have a natural affinity to connect with the reader. Her writing seems effortless and I had to stop and check and see if this really WAS her first book (which it is). Excellent writing and a story that is told one on one.

Doughty starts off sharing what its like to be her, with imperfections and all. She takes us from her upbringing in Hawaii to the mainland and her new home in the death industry. This book reads like a novel and is filled with anecdotal funny parts as well as poignant bits that really make you think about, well, your life and your death.

She writes warmly about her friends in the funeral home and how they teach her the ins and outs of the trade. Its really a terrific read and one of my favorite reads so far this year.

Pros: Read it if you like, rich, semi-autobiographical, funny, quirky, cute reads about life and…. death. This is a great book to read for fun or if you are grappling with questions around care of a loved one that is close to the end.

Cons: None for me. It isn’t a textbook on the death industry or a “Do it yourself cremation: How to bury at home for less” guide. It isn’t technical but it is subjective. Doughty shares her opinion on the death industry in North America - it may be different than your own.

Big thumbs up! Buy it for a good read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
In this wonderfully sincere and touching memoir, the author recounts her life in the world of dead bodies. She gives details on collecting them, preparing them, embalming/cremating them and disposing of them. Along the way, the reader learns of fascinating and often disturbing death rituals in other cultures both past and present. The author pulls no punches about the appearance of the deceased prior to “preparing” them for a viewing, pointing out that the relatively serene appearances of “corpses” that we see on TV dramas are a far cry from reality; she gives plenty of details to support this.

Although the main bulk of the book is on the author’s professional life, some space is devoted to her personal life as well as on her evolving philosophical attitudes towards death and dying.

The prose is friendly, lively, often humorous and witty and quite captivating; I found this book to be an easy, quick, enjoyable read. This book should appeal the most to those who are curious about how our bodies are dealt with after we pass away (and are not afraid to read about the often gory details).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There aren't many books I can think of that would rate five stars, but for a number of reasons this is one of them.

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" pretty much stands on its own: there are books about life, books about death, and many authors attempt a little humour along the way. It is rare to find a book in which these very human experiences blend so effectively.

Perhaps it helps that my own post-secondary academic flirtation was in the field of mediaeval studies, and that prior to discovering the author's own interests, I started reading the book with a glass of wine in one hand, while listening to the music of John Dowland (if you know a little about Renaissance death culture, you'll get that comment).

Other readers doubtless were drawn by Caitlin Doughty's wonderfully refreshing "Ask a Mortician" series on You Tube.

Either way, the reader discovers--or rediscovers--an eloquent writer of great wit, a person one can relate to.

However our personal fantasies may go, "Six Feet Under" and "Dexter" might open up the public consciousness on matters of death, but they are more directed at breaking taboos for the shock value.

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" does seem to borrow a bit from that genre of gallows humour, but the author's desire to educate and reform comes through clearly, raising it above voyeurism in a tasteful yet entertaining manner.

North American society might not be psychologically ready for the revolution that Caitlin Doughty is trying to mobilize. We've had nearly two centuries of fear-based formula religion. We've been shell-shocked by armed conflicts, and numbed by violence. Our response as a society has not been healthy.
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