We’re going to go back in time a little bit this week. I read this book last November, but it has stuck with me. I’m also surprised I never reviewed it here. I don’t usually like memoirs, but I discovered this author during a YouTube deep dive and have been hooked ever since. Caitlin Doughty’s channel talks about so many things, but all of them center around death. She talks a lot about death acceptance, death planning, eco-friendly burials, what happens behind the doors of funeral homes, macabre mysteries (probably my favorite videos), and iconic corpses. Her videos are extremely informative and her humor is awkwardly perfect for such tough subjects. Thinking about death used to send me into an instant panic attack. No joke, it was easily one of my biggest fears. After watching every video she has ever made, I am learning to accept death, and I can honestly say I am not very afraid of it any more.
This book is really an extension to everything I have already said. In Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Caitlin talks about the funeral industry and her experience being a part of it. Many of the stories are sad and a few are pretty graphic, but she knows when to throw in her humor and when to take a serious and sincere tone. She gets very candid about her own struggles with mortality too. She may be a death-positivity advocate now, but she was not always so sure of herself. The book never feels preachy, disrespectful, or too morbid. She balances teaching about the industry, interesting stories from her career, and self-deprecating humor pretty perfectly.
If all of this sounds interesting to you, I highly recommend checking out her YouTube channel first to see if you like her personality, humor, and content. If you are still on board, I recommend the audio book of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes which is read by the author. Caitlin’s second book, From Here to Eternity, would probably be the next step after that. I’m not saying that I’m completely drinking the Kool-Aid and making my own death plan to have a home funeral or that I am going to be buried naturally, but as a former thanatophobe, death acceptance is something I think the U.S. needs to work on a bit.