The best books about the enduring power of the dead in our lives

Why am I passionate about this?

I love zombie movies. I am also an Egyptologist. The dead affect us in profound ways every day, even without being semi-animated corpses searching for brains. I have always been keenly interested in the relationships we have with our dead, be it Halloween, Día de los Muertos, or an urn on a mantle. The dead are with us and inform our lives. The same was true in ancient Egypt. And to me, this made the ancient Egyptians feel very familiar and accessible. They, too, were anxious about death. They, too, grieved when loved ones were gone and developed practices and beliefs that kept the dead ‘alive’. 


I wrote...

Death, Power, and Apotheosis in Ancient Egypt: The Old and Middle Kingdoms

By Julia Troche,

Book cover of Death, Power, and Apotheosis in Ancient Egypt: The Old and Middle Kingdoms

What is my book about?

Death, Power, and Apotheosis in Ancient Egypt is not your typical book on ancient Egyptian burial practices. Instead, it asserts that the ancient Egyptian dead endured as (perceived) potent, social actors in the lives of the living. To paraphrase the Pyramid Texts, ‘they did not go away dead, but went away alive’—meaning, the dead continued to possess influence in the lives of the living, even after their corporeal demise. More specifically, Death, Power, and Apotheosis in Ancient Egypt uniquely considers how the ancient Egyptian dead were mobilized to construct, maintain, and challenge royal power before the New Kingdom (c. 1500 BCE) via apotheosis—that is the process of deification. As you know Hercules, after reading this book you will know Djedi, Kagemni, and Heqaib. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pet Sematary

Julia Troche Why did I love this book?

As one of King’s (self-described) most horrific books, Pet Sematary delves into issues of death, rebirth, and the lingering power the dead have on our lives. In this novel, King has found a way to get under your skin and a sense of unease lingers there long after it is over. The book also has a profound focus on place and belonging—one that echoes, emotionally, what I believe to be some lived experiences of ancient sacred spaces and tombs. 

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Pet Sematary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major motion picture! Stephen King’s #1 New York Times bestseller is a “wild, powerful, disturbing” (The Washington Post Book World) classic about evil that exists far beyond the grave—among King’s most iconic and frightening novels.

When Dr. Louis Creed takes a new job and moves his family to the idyllic rural town of Ludlow, Maine, this new beginning seems too good to be true. Despite Ludlow’s tranquility, an undercurrent of danger exists here. Those trucks on the road outside the Creed’s beautiful old home travel by just a little too quickly, for one thing…as is evidenced by the…


Book cover of Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt

Julia Troche Why did I love this book?

Few books have been as influential on my understanding of ancient Egyptian mortuary culture as Jan Assmann’s Tod und Jenseits im alten Ägypten, known in English as Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt. Assmann brings religious theory and ancient history together to argue that “death is the origin and center of culture.” 

By Jan Assmann, David Lorton (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Human beings," the acclaimed Egyptologist Jan Assmann writes, "are the animals that have to live with the knowledge of their death, and culture is the world they create so they can live with that knowledge." In his new book, Assmann explores images of death and of death rites in ancient Egypt to provide startling new insights into the particular character of the civilization as a whole.Drawing on the unfamiliar genre of the death liturgy, he arrives at a remarkably comprehensive view of the religion of death in ancient Egypt. Assmann describes in detail nine different images of death: death as…


Book cover of The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial

Julia Troche Why did I love this book?

I love teaching from this book because I learn something new every time I pick it up. This robust volume includes chapters that cover how death was understood in a wide range of cultural contexts, from antiquity (e.g. “Ancient Identities: Age, Gender and Ethnicity in Ancient Greek Burials” or “The Place of Veneration in Earl South Asian Buddhism) to the contemporary (e.g. “Contested Burials: The Dead as Witnesses, Victims, and Tools” or “The Archaeology and Material Culture of Modern Military Death”). At over 800 pages, this book may seem overwhelming, but each chapter can be excerpted on its own. My favorite is “The Powerful Dead of the Inca” because it parallels the questions and paradigms I tackle in my own work on ancient Egypt dead, some 3000 years and 7,800 miles away. 

By Sarah Tarlow, Liv Nilsson Stutz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial reviews the current state of mortuary archaeology and its practice, highlighting its often contentious place in the modern socio-politics of archaeology. It contains forty-four chapters which focus on the history of the discipline and its current scientific techniques and methods.

Written by leading, international scholars in the field, it derives its examples and case studies from a wide range of time periods, such as the middle palaeolithic to the twentieth century, and geographical areas which include Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia. Combining up-to-date knowledge of relevant archaeological…


Book cover of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Julia Troche Why did I love this book?

I am a historian who loves zombie lore, so this book was basically made for me. It was also written by the son of one of my favorite comedians, authors, directors, producers of all time—Mel Brooks. World War Z presumes that a zombie apocalypse occurred and that this book is being published as a record of the events, based on oral interviews with people who experience it, all across the globe. It is a great introduction to public history and oral history, through the lens of a zombie pandemic. What is not to love?

By Max Brooks,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked World War Z as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It began with rumours from China about another pandemic. Then the cases started to multiply and what had looked like the stirrings of a criminal underclass, even the beginning of a revolution, soon revealed itself to be much, much worse.

Faced with a future of mindless man-eating horror, humanity was forced to accept the logic of world government and face events that tested our sanity and our sense of reality. Based on extensive interviews with survivors and key players in the ten-year fight against the horde, World War Z brings the finest traditions of journalism to bear on what is…


Book cover of Living with the Dead

Julia Troche Why did I love this book?

Dr. Harrington offers an accessible yet meticulous overview of the role of the dead in ancient Egyptian society, with a general, but not exclusive, focus on the New Kingdom. Her book was published while I was just starting my dissertation and it was inspiring to see a project that dealt with similar themes being published. I admit, I also love this book because it was the first time someone ever made reference to me and my research in a footnote. It made me feel like my work was worthwhile and for that, I am eternally grateful to Dr. Harrington.    

By Nicola Harrington,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Living with the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Living with the Dead presents a detailed analysis of ancestor worship in Egypt, using a diverse range of material, both archaeological and anthropological, to examine the relationship between the living and the dead. Iconography and terminology associated with the deceased reveal indistinct differences between the blessedness and malevolence and that the potent spirit of the dead required constant propitiation in the form of worship and offerings. A range of evidence is presented for mortuary cults that were in operation throughout Egyptian history and for the various places, such as the house, shrines, chapels and tomb doorways, where the living could…


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Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

Book cover of Rip Current

Sharon Ward Author Of In Deep

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

Sharon's book list on mysteries set on a tropical island

What is my book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.

Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary. When a young internet influencer…

Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

What is this book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.
Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary.
Soon after a young internet…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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