My favorite books by funeral directors and for funeral directors

Why am I passionate about this?

I have worked as a funeral director for more than 35 years and write regularly about funeral service. Since I wrote my first book, Grave Undertakings, in 2003, there’s been a proliferation of books about funeral service. Funeral directors have many stories to tell, and some of the best are by those who have worked in the trenches and gleaned profound insight into the work that we do. I’m less enamored about the books that are written for sensationalism and excessively hyped. That said, I’m always on the lookout for a good book by a colleague who writes about the work that we do with sincerity and compassion. 


I wrote...

Grave Undertakings: Mortician by Day, Model by Night

By Alexandra Kathryn Mosca,

Book cover of Grave Undertakings: Mortician by Day, Model by Night

What is my book about?

These days, with enrollment in mortuary schools equally divided between men and women, most forget that female funeral directors were once a rarity. While the public face of funeral service was slow to change, when it did there was nobody more public than Alexandra Kathryn Mosca. Detouring from her chosen path to become a writer, Mosca found funeral service. Or, more accurately, funeral service found her.

Grave Undertakings is a memoir of Mosca’s singularly unique career. As a beautiful young woman immersed in a male-dominated, mostly family-owned industry, she also kept a foot in the glamorous worlds of acting and modeling. All the while her professional life in funeral service continued to flourish, and her writing career was born. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Greatest People I Never Knew

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Why did I love this book?

Funeral directors often wonder about the lives of those they serve. Obituaries offer clues, but are limited in scope. Funeral director Eric Daniels decided to learn more about some of the lives entrusted to his care. Wanting them to be more than a “body” Daniels delves into the lives of “ordinary people who lived extraordinary lives.” In the book’s prologue, Daniels writes that the people he chose were those “who made a lasting impact on me because of the difference they made in the lives of others.”

Writing the book, Daniels says, enriched his own life. It also left a lasting legacy for the families of those whose lives he chronicled. An added bonus for readers is that the book’s forward was written by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, one of the country’s foremost grief experts.

By Eric M Daniels,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Greatest People I Never Knew as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When you lose someone you love, you learn new things about them-often from strangers who were touched by the one you lost. This book is about how thirteen people touched the man who met them in his Funeral Home. Without ever knowing them personally-hearing their laughter or seeing their tears-Eric Daniels describes how he's come to understand and value the lives of those he tended to in death. In today's busy and uncertain world, the stories presented here are gentle reminders to appreciate the blessings of each day. They are also a source of comfort for those who've lost family…


Book cover of From 'Hear' to Forever

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Why did I love this book?

In 2018, Danny Jefferson was selected “Funeral Director of the Year” by his colleagues. That honor was more than just the culmination of many years of hard work. It was especially gratifying for Jefferson, whose success was hard-won. Hearing impaired since birth, he not only became licensed as a funeral director, but also realized his dream of owning a funeral home. In his book, Jefferson writes candidly about the unique challenges he faced, and overcame, along the way in both his personal and professional life. He hopes that by sharing his story, it will inspire others not to let their own challenges, whatever they are, hold them back from achieving their goals. His friend, and co-author Raymond Reid, a noted artist, helped choose the book's title and also created the cover.

By Danny Jefferson, Raymond Reid,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From 'Hear' to Forever as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Funeral Director's Triumph Over Adversity Danny Jefferson remembers being laughed at and bullied. He remembers talking too loud and too much. That's what deaf people do. His roller coaster journey through life will lead you from heartfelt tears to joyous laughter, as well as admiration for his many accomplishments along the way. Enjoy the ride!


Book cover of When My Baba Died

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Why did I love this book?

Marjorie Kunch was 13 when her grandfather died. She could not have known at the time that his death and funeral would become the catalyst for her to one day pursue a career as a funeral director. But it was a second funeral, that of her grandmother, which turned Kunch into an author. Having searched for a book to explain the funeral rituals of the Serbian Orthodox Christian church to her young children, she found none. So, Kunch wrote her own. The text is easy-to-read and illustrated with a number of photos. What’s more, because of her work in funeral service, the funeral terminology is precise. When My Baba Died is an excellent resource for families and a must-have for every funeral director's library. The book is also available in a Greek Orthodox version titled, When my YiaYia Died.   

By Marjorie Kunch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When My Baba Died as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

This hardcover picture book for ages 5-10 beautifully illustrates the steps a family takes when a Slavic Orthodox Christian loved one dies. We follow the progression from funeral home visitation and Pomen, witness the church ceremony, and conclude with the cemetery graveside service. Along the way, the most commonly asked questions children have about death and funerals are answered. Fears are alleviated by gently showing what to expect and explaining what the child will see. Most importantly, the comfort of the Orthodox Faith is affirmed. Extensive glossary with in-depth discussion of Slavic Orthodox memorial services and funerary terms. With foreword…


Book cover of Undertakings of an Undertaker: True Stories of Being Laid to Rest

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Why did I love this book?

In his book, funeral director Stanley Swan ponders the question, “Are we destined before birth to be what is planned for us?” In Swan’s case, that just may be so. He shares several childhood experiences that he believes may have foreshadowed his career. In one reminiscence, he recounts how he tenderly cared for the remains of a dead sparrow. In another, Swan describes watching the local undertaker conduct a burial in the small cemetery adjacent to his family’s dairy farm in upstate New York, where Swan often played and explored. Fifteen years later, he enrolled in mortuary school and soon after was serving as a funeral director for his community. In his 40-year career, Swan witnessed the public tragedies that were 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina as well as the deaths of many of the locals he knew as friends. He writes about them all and offers a window into how personal funeral service is in a small town.

By Stanley Swan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Undertakings of an Undertaker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Could these remains, yet to be identified, be one of the victims of Rochester's Genesee River killer? Did the mourner in the chapel with the casket and the deceased actually think there was an apparition present? Is it legal to bury a man with no pants? Would a man really drive his deceased wife to a mortuary instead of calling the authorities? Those ashes seeping from the fractured urn...imagined or real? The black cat visiting the deceased man's wake...a family friend or fiend? These are just some of the intriguing, unusual and funny stories to be found in Undertakings of…


Book cover of Mrs. Steffy: Our Mother, the Mortician

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Why did I love this book?

This book was given to me as a gift by a funeral director friend from Iowa. He told me he wanted to share the story of another pioneering/inspiring female in funeral service. And, indeed, that was what Mrs. Florence Steffy was. After the death of her husband, a beloved small-town funeral director, Steffy assured her community that the funeral home would continue to serve. And, along with help from her four children, serve she did for forty years. The book is a paean to Steffy, by her daughter, Doris, initially the only one of Steffy’s children reluctant to become part of the family business. She illuminates the challenges her mother faced at a time when women were seldom seen in funeral service, and how she faced them with strength and resilience.

By Doris C Steffy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mrs. Steffy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Florence Steffy's husband died in 1937 she was left with four children, almost no professional skills, and no license to continue the family's funeral business. In an era when people believed that a woman's place was in the home, she decided to go to embalming school and carry on the work her husband had begun. Doris Steffy lovingly chronicles her mother's journey from homemaker to funeral director in this moving memoir.

"It is my wish that this book will give renewed hope to those who have lost a loved one, a better understanding to those who have not suffered…


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Me and The Times: My wild ride from elevator operator to New York Times editor, columnist, and change agent (1967-97)

By Robert W. Stock,

Book cover of Me and The Times: My wild ride from elevator operator to New York Times editor, columnist, and change agent (1967-97)

Robert W. Stock Author Of Me and The Times: My wild ride from elevator operator to New York Times editor, columnist, and change agent (1967-97)

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

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What is my book about?

Me and The Times offers a fresh perspective on those pre-internet days when the Sunday sections of The New York Times shaped the country’s political and cultural conversation. Starting in 1967, Robert Stock edited seven of those sections over 30 years, innovating and troublemaking all the way.

His memoir is rich in anecdotes and admissions. At The Times, Jan Morris threw a manuscript at him, he shared an embarrassing moment with Jacqueline Kennedy, and he got the paper sued for $1 million. Along the way, Rod Laver challenged Stock to a tennis match, he played a clarinet duet with superstar Richard Stoltzman, and he shared a Mafia-spiced brunch with Jerry Orbach.

Me and The Times: My wild ride from elevator operator to New York Times editor, columnist, and change agent (1967-97)

By Robert W. Stock,

What is this book about?

An intimate, unvarnished look at the making of the Sunday sections of The New York Times in their pre-internet heyday, back when they shaped the country’s political and cultural conversation.

Over 30 years, Robert Stock edited seven of those sections, innovating, and troublemaking all the way – getting the paper sued for $1 million, locking horns with legendary editors Abe Rosenthal and Max Frankel, and publishing articles that sent the publisher Punch Sulzberger up the wall.

On one level, his memoir tracks Stock’s amazing career from his elevator job at Bonwit Teller to his accidental entry into journalism to his…


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