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The Whole Death Catalog: A Lively Guide to the Bitter End [Kindle Edition]

Harold Schechter
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
You Save: $6.16 (34%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

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 treasure trove of surprising facts, amusing anecdotes, practical information, and timeless wisdom about that undiscovered country to which we will all one day travel. Topics include

• Death anxiety–is your fear of death normal or off the scale?
• You can’t take it with you . . . or can you? Wacky wills and bizarre bequests
• The hospice experience–going out in comfort and style
• Deathbed and funeral etiquette–how to help the dying and mourn the dead with dignity
• Death on demand–why the right-to-die movement may be the next big thing
• “Good-bye everybody”–famous last words
• The embalmer’s art–all dressed up and nowhere to go
• Behind the scenes at your local funeral home
• Alternative burial choices–from coral reefs to outer space

From the cold, hard facts of death to lessons in the art of dying well, from what happens in the body’s last living moments to what transpires in the ground or in the furnace, from near-death experiences to speculation on the afterlife, The Whole Death Catalog leaves no gravestone unturned.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Serial-killer biographer and mystery novelist Schechter’s compendium on the perpetually fascinating subject that is his stock-in-trade is enhanced by such browser-friendly features as recommended reading lists and sidebars recurring (e.g., “Death Fun Fact”—plenty of those) and singular (“Going Out Viking Style”), not to mention waggish, Gorey-esque illustrations. Useful facts and distinctions abound; for instance, the necrophilia section informs readers of the need to distinguish “necrophiliac homicide”—murder committed for the purpose of having sex with the corpse—from “regular necrophilia,” that being the “more socially acceptable” sex with corpses, the case cited being that of “a female embalmer who had sexual intercourse with 20–40 male corpses.” For the practical minded, Schechter mentions a Web site enabling devotees of life planning to preview epigraph options by creating virtual tombstones, and in “Corpse-napping: Ransoming the Dead,” he assesses the chances of success in that grisly enterprise. Do-it-yourself features include “You, Too, Can Be a Mummy (and So Can Fido)” and a how-to guide to “Victorian Postmortem Photography.” An entertaining if occasionally grim popular reference. --Mike Tribby

About the Author

Harold Schechter is a professor of American literature and culture at Queens College, the City University of New York. He is widely celebrated for both fiction and true-crime writing, including The Devil's Gentleman and The Serial Killer Files. He lives in Brooklyn and Mattituck, Long Island, with his wife, the poet Kimiko Hahn.

Product Details

  • File Size: 6318 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Original edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002C1Z44M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #416,134 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, informative, ghoulish--the perfect book!!! January 24, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I knew absolutely nothing about this book when purchased, and now it is my favorite. It is described perfectly on the cover "A lively Guide to the Bitter End." Contains web sites for additional reading on a topic, which I explored several. Also several virtual sites where you can tour famous cemeteries, the top 10 you must see before YOU die is especially entertaining. And who does not need to know the handy guide to putrefaction. The final chapter of the book is "Death Can Be Fun" and includes sections such as deaths in the movies, death's playlist, mortuary museums and finally The Last Word. I could continue about all the photos and definitions included but at some point I must stop, strongly urging a very fun read!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Whole Death Catalog August 31, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Harold Schechter 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.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating book that is now making the rounds of family members who were intrigued by my enthusiastic description. This truly does cover the subject of death completely, but is written in a conversational way so that technical details are enjoyable reading. The author includes much trivia and many references for other interesting books, magazines and articles on the subject, that piqued my interest even more, causing me to notate pages for follow-up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irreverent, Macabre, Ghoulish And So Much More October 21, 2012
I bought this about a year ago right around this time of year. There was a huge seasonal display at the book store and this one was impossible to put down. I guess the title was the hook for me. This book covers so many death related topics that you are bound to find answers to the questions you always wanted to ask and get information about things you never thought about.
For the most part, I'd have to say this is a funny book as well as an interesting one. It does make fun of death and funeral and burial practices, but it also entertains and informs and does it in a practical, factual way.
As we all will approach the final earthly frontier known as death at some point in time, it seems positive that instead of freaking out about an eventuality of life we embrace it in a positive and informed way. The laughs and guffaws are optional but welcomed when reading up on such a heady topic.
The author Harold Schecter often devotes himself to crime writing and this is, like his other books, a well-researched and written book that can be read anytime, but is particularly enjoyable at Halloween.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are dying and want to set up your funeral/disposal for your family, this book is for you. It is a guide book than anything else. If this is a topic you've read about at all, there will be nothing you haven't heard in this book. Interesting "last words" "funny grave stones" etc... are few and far between. For the morbid among you, give it a pass. I wish I had. Read Stiff instead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything it promises, and more! September 13, 2011
By Emilia
Format:Kindle Edition
All the facts are presented clearly, wrapped in intelligent humour, poignant art and poetry, in a welcoming conversational style perfect for approaching this sensitive subject. An absolutely fascinating read, brilliantly put together and surprisingly difficult to put down. One of the best books I've read in a long time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AWESOME BOOK October 9, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad introduction March 30, 2015
If you've not read very much about death before, then this is certainly a good place to start. If you're into death, then much of this book will not be surprising. Much as the title promises, this book covers the full range of things related to death. From means of disposing of the body to decomposition of it to funeral paraphernalia, this is a wide ranging look at the ways people die and memorialize. Schechter provides history of the funeral practices he discusses, as well as bizarre variations on common practices. Schechter certainly has a taste for the odd, and he has an excellent sense of humor. He laments the fact that death is now sanitized and secret; it has been taken out of people's lives, and people try to pretend it doesn't exist. This seems to be a common sentiment among those who are into death. In any case, this is a good introduction if you want a humorous look at death culture.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I love this book and have re-read parts of it again.
Published 6 days ago by Glenda R.
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh
Meh. Not as much info as I was loking for. Mostly anecdotes.
Published 2 months ago by Kyle
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by Sandra L. Derr
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book for the funeral director
Published 3 months ago by Iris
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Terrific service & item!
Published 3 months ago by M. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars A humourous and informative take on all things death
This book was a really interesting read. If you have ever wondered about all things death with a colorful and humorous take on things this is a must own. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Whitney Kuhn
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very readable book-pretty much tells you all you want to know about climbing that golden staircase
Published 5 months ago by J. Peterson
1.0 out of 5 stars Lame.
The sample I got for the Kindle made me purchase it right away. I was kind of disappointed after reading.. Read more
Published 17 months ago by KO
5.0 out of 5 stars Is Death Really Necessary?
The Whole Death Catalogue " designed to provide practical information on a wide range of mortuary-related matters... Read more
Published 19 months ago by D. Wayne Dworsky
5.0 out of 5 stars love this book
really satisfies your curiosity if you ever wandered about death and funerals. Also offers lists of other books if you want to read more.
Published 21 months ago by angela
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More About the Author

Harold Schechter is an American true crime writer who specializes in serial killers. He attended the State University of New York in Buffalo where his PhD director was Leslie Fiedler. He is professor of American literature and popular culture at Queens College of the City University of New York.Schechter is married to poet Kimiko Hahn. He has two daughters from a previous marriage: the writer Lauren Oliver and professor of philosophy Elizabeth Schechter. His newest book, The Mad Sculptor, (about a sensational triple murder at Beekman Place in New York City in 1937) will be published in February 2014.


"Ambitious, bold, and evocative, Schechter's storytelling grabs the reader in a similar manner to Capote's searing In Cold Blood." --Publishers Weekly

"Perfect for readers who enjoy the stories of the sensationalistic press of the 1930s and its crass exploitation of the details of horrific murders." - Kirkus

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