The best stories of death personified

Why am I passionate about this?

The 14th century had it all: the 100 Years' War, near-constant famines, and, of course, the Black Plague. As a medievalist studying the art of the time, I was struck by the representations of Death that emerged from this near-perfect storm of misery. Yes, Death was often portrayed accompanied by demons and devils, lumped willy-nilly with evil. But it was more often portrayed in the Danse Macabre as a skeletal partner, leading everyone—Pope and Emperor, Lord and Laborer—on a merry dance. I know it was meant as a warning, but I found the Danse Macabre to be oddly comforting, a vision of an ultimate democracy, with Death the final partner and companion to us all.


I wrote...

Book cover of Molly Molloy and the Angel of Death

What is my book about?

Death has never given much thought to life. For him it’s a placeholder, the time before he arrives to pluck the immortal spark. He’s not cruel, he just doesn’t have the experience that makes for empathy. Except one day, he makes the mistake of saving a life rather than taking it. Now, Molly Molloy can see him, talk to him. Say ‘no’ to him and make him question. The Powers that Be want him to fix his mistake but before he can, Death makes one more. He falls in love. 

“A quiet masterpiece.” - Adriana Anders, award-winning author of Whiteout. “Heartbreaking & humorous, as unexpected as it is gorgeous. I adored it.” - Josephine Angelini, bestselling author of Starcrossed.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Book Thief

Maria Vale Why did I love this book?

“I am haunted by humans.” I’ve read a lot of fiction and non-fiction set during WWII and it was hard to imagine a better choice to narrate this particular story than Death.

He knows, after all, what humanity is capable of. “Their great skill is their capacity to escalate,” he says, as humanity escalated misery to its zenith. With War leaning over Death’s shoulder constantly requiring new efficiencies, it is the single life of Liesel Meininger, the orphaned German book thief of the title that serves as Death’s touchstone, his reminder of humanity’s potential wonder.

Forced to steal away the stories written in life, Death watches Liesel steal stories written on paper with the understanding of a fellow biblioklept. 

By Markus Zusak,

Why should I read it?

29 authors picked The Book Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

'Life affirming, triumphant and tragic . . . masterfully told. . . but also a wonderful page-turner' Guardian
'Brilliant and hugely ambitious' New York Times
'Extraordinary' Telegraph
___

HERE IS A SMALL FACT - YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

SOME IMPORTANT…


Book cover of Keturah and Lord Death

Maria Vale Why did I love this book?

Leavitt’s story is a fairytale and like all good fairytales, there is a handsome prince except this one is played by Lord Death himself.

I love Keturah. She is brave enough not to be afraid and big-hearted enough to see beyond Death’s terrifying purpose to the underlying sadness of the feared and hated outsider. Through the course of the book, she also comes to appreciate the meaning he brings to life.

“It was Death who…made her see the sun in the blue sky and hear the trees in a spring wind. He made her see how much she loved her friends…Made her love the breath in her lungs. She knew she had never been truly alive as when she met him. Never so happy and content with her lot until she was touched by the sorrow of him.”

By Martine Leavitt,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Keturah and Lord Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

National Book Award Finalist

A young woman makes a bargain with Death himself-and only true love can set her free-in this spellbinding YA fantasy romance for fans of Robin McKinley.

For most of her sixteen years, beautiful Keturah Reeves has mesmerized the villagers with her gift for storytelling. But when she becomes hopelessly lost in the king's forest, her strength all but diminished, she must spin the most important of tale of life. With her fate hanging in the balance, she charms Death himself-a handsome, melancholy, and stern lord-with a story of a love so true that he agrees to…


Book cover of Death: The High Cost Of Living

Maria Vale Why did I love this book?

The older sister of Dream, Death of the Endless manifests as a perky goth girl, a fan of Mary Poppins.

The most powerful of the Endless, she is also the warmest and most caring. For one day out of every century, Death consigns herself to take on the form of a mortal fated to die in order to remember the value of the gift she is taking. This is the setting of The High Cost of Living, my favorite of the Sandman comics featuring Death. "It always ends," Death says when her day is over. "That's what gives it meaning."

By Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Mark Buckingham , Chris Bachalo

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Written by Neil Gaiman; Art by Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham, and Dave McKean From the pages of Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN comes the young, pale, perky, and genuinely likable Death. One day in every century, Death walks the Earth to better understand those to whom she will be the final visitor. Today is that day. As a young mortal girl named Didi, Death befriends a teenager and helps a 250-year old homeless woman find her missing heart. What follows is a sincere musing on love, life and (of course) death.


Book cover of Reaper Man

Maria Vale Why did I love this book?

We all know what happens when Death takes a holiday, but what happens when Death is given notice? 

Dismissed from the only job he’s ever known, Death must decide how to spend the time he has left. Taking on the random name “Bill Door,” he offers his talents scything hay, “one blade at a time, one time, one blade.” Death is a recurring character in Discworld and has the casually brutal forbearance of someone who has seen it all.

Seen, but not experienced and it is the dawning comprehension that I love most about Reaper Man: “[Death] wondered if he’d ever felt wind and sunlight before. Yes, he’d felt them, he must have done. But he’d never experienced them like this; the way wind pushed at you, the way the sun made you hot. The way you could feel Time passing. Carrying you with it.”

By Terry Pratchett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Reaper Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the "Discworld" humorous fantasy series. Death is missing. Dead Rights activist Reg Shoe suddenly has more work than he'd ever dreamed of, and newly-deceased wizard Windle Poons wakes up in his coffin to find that he has come back as a corpse.


Book cover of Under the Whispering Door

Maria Vale Why did I love this book?

What’s unique about Klune’s psychopomp, is that he is human.

Hugo Freeman is able to interact with the dead but unlike the usual eternal beings, he is alive, has a backstory, and the ability to empathize with the fears and regrets of his reluctant clients, most recently, the jerk-lawyer, Wallace Price.

The action is circumscribed, taking place entirely within Charon’s Crossing, which serves as a teahouse for the living and a waystation for the dead. And as any fan of Klune’s work will anticipate, the hearth that gathers a found family. 

By TJ Klune,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Under the Whispering Door as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.
Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop's owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.
But Wallace isn't ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo's help, he finally starts to learn about all the things he…


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Lap Baby

By Amy Q. Barker,

Book cover of Lap Baby

Amy Q. Barker Author Of Lap Baby

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Avid reader Nature lover Park ranger wanna be Best Nana ever

Amy's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A story you'll never forget about survival, forgiveness, healing, and love.

Twenty years ago. A plane crash. Three women survivors are inexorably connected by fate, destiny, and a cause. 

Julie Geiger, a flight attendant, told five sets of parents to place their babies on the floor of the plane when it was going down. Now, she must live with the consequences. Will changing the emergency rules bring her healing and forgiveness? And where does love fit into her life now?

Marie Stanley lost her baby boy on that flight. And she knows exactly who to blame. Julie. The problem is that vindictiveness festers. And eats into your soul. How will Marie learn to move past her hate and save her marriage in the process?

Paige Montgomery, the lap baby who survived the flight, would love to forget it ever happened. After all, she’s happy. And she’s on the cusp of a new relationship. How will she learn to forge her own path, one that integrates all the elements of her past, including the crash, the loss of her parents, and her subsequent adoption?

Lap Baby

By Amy Q. Barker,

What is this book about?

Twenty years ago. A plane crash. Three women survivors inexorably connected by fate, destiny, and a cause.

Did you know that lap babies (children under the age of two) are instructed to be placed on the floor of a plane during an emergency? Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

Julie Geiger, a flight attendant, told five sets of parents to do just that. Now she must live with the consequences. Will changing the rules bring her healing and forgiveness? And where does love fit into her life now?

Marie Stanley lost her baby boy on that flight. And she knows exactly…


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