96 books like The Greatest People I Never Knew

By Eric M Daniels,

Here are 96 books that The Greatest People I Never Knew fans have personally recommended if you like The Greatest People I Never Knew. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of From 'Hear' to Forever

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Author Of Grave Undertakings: Mortician by Day, Model by Night

From my list on 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. 

Alexandra's book list on funeral directors and for funeral directors

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Why did Alexandra 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 Author Of Grave Undertakings: Mortician by Day, Model by Night

From my list on 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. 

Alexandra's book list on funeral directors and for funeral directors

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Why did Alexandra 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 Author Of Grave Undertakings: Mortician by Day, Model by Night

From my list on 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. 

Alexandra's book list on funeral directors and for funeral directors

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Why did Alexandra 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…

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 Author Of Grave Undertakings: Mortician by Day, Model by Night

From my list on 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. 

Alexandra's book list on funeral directors and for funeral directors

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Why did Alexandra 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…


Book cover of Funeral Customs: Their Origin and Development

Todd Harra Author Of Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt

From my list on aspiring funeral directors or with a morbid streak.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been in the funeral profession my entire professional career, and my family has deep roots in the profession too. My great-great-great grandfather was a cabinet maker, or “tradesman undertaker” in rural Milford, Delaware prior to the Civil War. In addition to being a funeral director and embalmer, I’m a certified post-mortem reconstructionist and cremationist, and the president of the Delaware State Funeral Directors Association. I’ve written five books on the subject of the funeral profession and am an associate editor for Southern Calls, “The Journal of the Funeral Profession.”

Todd's book list on aspiring funeral directors or with a morbid streak

Todd Harra Why did Todd love this book?

As I said before, I love history, and Puckle’s book gives the reader a great look into the why of our funeral customs. As in: why do we send funeral flowers? (To which Puckle offers the glib answer, “the half sovereign he paid for it save him from the mental exercise of composing a suitable letter of condolence” before offering a serious explanation). Sure, the book was published almost a century ago, but that has no bearing on the contents. It’s an evergreen book and a highly recommended read for serious funereal scholars or those considering a career in funeral service.

By Bertram Puckle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Puckle's "Funeral Customs" is one of the more in-depth looks at death ever penned. Created in the early 20th century, it casts a rational and skeptical glance at the superstitions of burial practices and cremation alike, and lists in some detail the customs of death over time and changes to them during the black death and then-modernity among other eras. Not just a European work, it delves into Hinduism as well as Egyptian and Zoroastrian practices from antiquity.

From the memento mori to funeral feasts, its pages are filled with interesting folklore, astonishing history, and more than a few bits…


Book cover of Twilight

Lee Rozelle Author Of Ballad of Jasmine Wills

From my list on contemporary Southern Gothic.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was lucky enough to land a job teaching English at the University of Montevallo, a small public liberal arts college where I have had the opportunity to explore my strange academic interests and teach classes with titles like “Am I Human?” and “Southern Neogothic II: Disability, Hicksploitation, Meat.” When I got tenure, I also had the time and freedom to try my hand at writing the kind of Southern Gothic, Bizarro, and Horror tales that I have always adored. From Mad Magazine to MaddAddam, I have always craved dark satire, body horror, and the grotesque. It’s in my blood. 

Lee's book list on contemporary Southern Gothic

Lee Rozelle Why did Lee love this book?

It’s fitting that the creepiest novel on my list begins with a wagon full of corpses and a rural graveyard pocked with exhumed caskets. William Gay’s Twilight revolves around the dreadful plots of Fenton Breece, a dapper, well-spoken mortician whose ghoulish habits will keep even the heartiest reader up at night. After witnessing the undertaker stealing a family burial vault, young Tyler and his sister Corrie discover that Breece has been mutilating the bodies of the people he buries. A blackmail plot ensues, an assassin hired. Then things get really, really bad. 

By William Gay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Suspecting that something is amiss with their father's burial, teenager Kenneth Tyler and his sister Corrie venture to his gravesite and make a horrific discovery: their father, a whiskey bootlegger, was not actually buried in the casket they bought for him. Worse, they learn that the undertaker, Fenton Breece, has been grotesquely manipulating the dead. Armed with incriminating photographs, Tyler becomes obsessed with bringing the perverse undertaker to justice. But first he must outrun Granville Sutter, a local strongman and convicted murderer hired by Fenton to destroy the evidence. What follows is an adventure through the Harrikin, an eerie backwoods…


Book cover of The American Way of Death Revisited

Madison Davis Author Of The Loved Ones: Essays to Bury the Dead

From my list on honest portrayals of death, grief, and mourning.

Why am I passionate about this?

Before I turned twenty-five, I lost my father to illness, my brother to a car accident, and a cousin to murder. Experiencing this string of tragedies so young profoundly changed me. As a writer, I’ve often worried that my naked grief on the page would come across as soft, cloyingly sentimental, and wholly without bite. Over the years, I have looked to examples of books that deal with death, grief, and mourning with a kind of brutal honesty. I sought out writing that conveyed the reality of loss in all its messiness. Reading these beautiful, honest accounts of grief have always made me feel less alone in mine.

Madison's book list on honest portrayals of death, grief, and mourning

Madison Davis Why did Madison love this book?

This book is a classic for a reason. It’s a sobering (and deeply entertaining) look at the industry of death.

With so few universal truths, one would imagine that humanity’s shared capacity to understand our own mortality would be a source of connection. Instead, it feels like the mechanics of death and everything surrounding it, get shoved under the carpet in our desperation to avoid the topic.

As Mitford lifts the veil on the funeral industry, it becomes apparent how important it is to shine a light on the things we’re most afraid of.

By Jessica Mitford,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The American Way of Death Revisited as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Only the scathing wit and searching intelligence of Jessica Mitford could turn an exposé of the American funeral industry into a book that is at once deadly serious and side-splittingly funny. When first published in 1963, this landmark of investigative journalism became a runaway bestseller and resulted in legislation to protect grieving families from the unscrupulous sales practices of those in "the dismal trade."

Just before her death in 1996, Mitford thoroughly revised and updated her classic study. The American Way of Death Revisited confronts new trends, including the success of the profession's lobbyists in Washington, inflated cremation costs, the…


Book cover of Good Mourning

Todd Harra Author Of Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt

From my list on aspiring funeral directors or with a morbid streak.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been in the funeral profession my entire professional career, and my family has deep roots in the profession too. My great-great-great grandfather was a cabinet maker, or “tradesman undertaker” in rural Milford, Delaware prior to the Civil War. In addition to being a funeral director and embalmer, I’m a certified post-mortem reconstructionist and cremationist, and the president of the Delaware State Funeral Directors Association. I’ve written five books on the subject of the funeral profession and am an associate editor for Southern Calls, “The Journal of the Funeral Profession.”

Todd's book list on aspiring funeral directors or with a morbid streak

Todd Harra Why did Todd love this book?

During the course of my work week, I get a lot of people telling me they currently are interested in the funeral profession, or if they are of retirement age, they were interested in their younger days. Which begs the question: how do you get started in the profession? Society-girl Meyer simply went in and asked for a job at an East-side funeral home after planning her own father’s funeral. The book details how she helped plan some amazing send-offs for the Big Apple’s rich and famous, and I think is a great how-to for “rolling your sleeves up and giving something a try.” I read somewhere that the experience motivated her to attend mortuary school. Fun read. 

By Elizabeth Meyer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Book cover of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

Elizabeth Anne Wood Author Of Bound: A Daughter, a Domme, and an End-of-Life Story

From my list on coping with the fact that we’re all going to die.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a little bit morbid since childhood. My father died when I was not quite 10 years old, and my mother was a huge fan of horror novels and scary movies. But I became seriously interested in death and dying when my mother got cancer and was facing the end of her own life. I acted as her medical advocate and participated in many aspects of her care. I'm also a sociologist who studies taboo elements of culture and I'm invested in creating a consciousness shift so that the United States is less death-phobic, allowing us all to live our lives more fully by addressing our mortality head-on!

Elizabeth's book list on coping with the fact that we’re all going to die

Elizabeth Anne Wood Why did Elizabeth love this book?

I could not resist this book partly because I was already familiar with Doughty’s, “Ask a Mortician” YouTube series. I loved the way that she used her own experience as a young crematory operator, weaving in details of her personal life along the way, to show us all the different things that happen to bodies after they die.

I loved the dark humor she brought to subjects like embalming, cremation, and funeral directing. The poignant stories about collecting bodies from the places where they died, cremating bodies, and talking to family members or loved ones, helped me see the deeply human side of death care, and I certainly came away understanding a lot more about the realities of different body preparation and disposition options!

By Caitlin Doughty,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Smoke Gets in Your Eyes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Armed with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre, Caitlin Doughty took a job at a crematory and turned morbid curiosity into her life's work. She cared for bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, and became an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. In this best-selling memoir, brimming with gallows humor and vivid characters, she marvels at the gruesome history of undertaking and relates her unique coming-of-age story with bold curiosity and mordant wit. By turns hilarious, dark, and uplifting, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes reveals how the fear of dying warps our…


Book cover of Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial

Elizabeth Fournier Author Of The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial

From my list on if you literally want to go green when you die.

Why am I passionate about this?

Saving the planet one death at a time is truly what the world needs now: to reduce our carbon footprint and go out in eco-friendly style. As the one-woman funeral service in the rural town of Boring, Oregon, I support the philosophy of old-school burial practices that are kinder to both humans, the earth, and our wallets. I have humbly been baptized the Green Reaper for my passionate advocacy of green burial, and as an undertaker and the owner and undertaker of Cornerstone Funeral, the first green funeral home in the Portland area. I love to devour all literature possible on green burial and environmentally friendly death care.

Elizabeth's book list on if you literally want to go green when you die

Elizabeth Fournier Why did Elizabeth love this book?

This is the book where it all began. Mark Harris opened up eyes and hearts to the beauty of burying our loved ones naturally and on our own terms. I had never read such a clear reality of the embalming process and how Americans morphed from simple home burial to the industrial Googleplex of the funeral business. Want to be buried in your backyard or with a sheet off your bed? Read this book! The author is a former environmental columnist with the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and his work has been featured in many fabulous places.

By Mark Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


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