The most recommended books about burial

Who picked these books? Meet our 21 experts.

21 authors created a book list connected to burial, and here are their favorite burial books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of burial book?

Loading...

Book cover of Greening Death: Reclaiming Burial Practices and Restoring Our Tie to the Earth

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?

A great anthropological read about the past 150 years of death care in this country. She discusses the ingrained traditions held so closely by the public over decades of death. There are so many destructive practices we cling to when someone dies. Suzanne unpacks the sack of societal behaviors that have been none-too-friendly on our precious environment. Our customary American demise practices, which include the procedure of embalming, hardwood and metal caskets, and concrete burial vaults and grave liners, only strengthen this saga.

By Suzanne Kelly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

We once disposed of our dead in earth-friendly ways-no chemicals, biodegradable containers, dust to dust. But over the last 150 years death care has become a toxic, polluting, and alienating industry in the United States.

Today, people are slowly waking up to the possibility of more sustainable and less disaffecting death care, reclaiming old practices in new ways, in a new age. Greening Death traces the philosophical and historical backstory to this awakening, captures the passionate on-the-ground work of the Green Burial Movement, and explores the obstacles and other challenges getting in the way of more robust mobilization. As the…


Book cover of Reimagining Death: Stories and Practical Wisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burials

Ashby Kinch Author Of A Cultural History of Death

From my list on re-imagining death, dying, and grief.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a literary and cultural historian who has been studying death for three decades. But I am, first and foremost, a human who has suffered the loss of loved ones and grief and found my immediate culture an inhospitable place to experience, transform, and share those emotions. We have an urgent need to “re-imagine” the way we prepare for our own deaths, as well as experience the deaths of others. I hope my work, both as a scholar and a public citizen, will inspire people to form communities of conversation and action that will reshape the way we think about death, dying, and grief.

Ashby's book list on re-imagining death, dying, and grief

Ashby Kinch Why did Ashby love this book?

I am so humbled and grateful for the death professionals of all stripes who help families with the transition of their loved one, whether it’s the hospice care doctors, nurses, and staff who think about the right cues and context or, as explored in this book, the folks re-thinking funerals and burial practices.

I have been to several in the last few years—a home funeral and a green burial stand out in particular—that have really deepened my sense of what we can do better. Reading this book opened up my imagination of what is possible for this crucial community experience. It triggered deep emotions from my personal experience, but in a way that helped me imagine a new path forward. 

By Lucinda Herring,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Honor your loved ones and the earth by choosing practical, spiritual, and eco-friendly after-death care

Natural, legal, and innovative after-death care options are transforming the paradigm of the existing funeral industry, helping families and communities recover their instinctive capacity to care for a loved one after death and do so in creative and healing ways. Reimagining Death offers stories and guidance for home funeral vigils, advance after-death care directives, green burials, and conscious dying. When we bring art and beauty, meaningful ritual, and joy to ease our loss and sorrow, we are greening the gateway of death and returning home…


Book cover of As I Lay Dying

Susan Scarf Merrell Author Of Shirley

From my list on that only get better with time.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer, a teacher of writers in the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton, and one of the founding directors of the novel incubation program, BookEnds. In the course of a year, I read as many as 125 novels. It can be tiring on the eyes, but I really love what I do. And each year, I make sure to return to some of my old favorites, the books that keep giving back to me more and more with each reading. Some of these books were tough to love at first, but over time, they’ve become the most important, loved novels in my library. Not everything or everyone needs to be easy to love!

Susan's book list on that only get better with time

Susan Scarf Merrell Why did Susan love this book?

I always try to find reasons to read William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, the painfully sad story of a family hauling their mother’s body to her hometown in order to bury her. Addie Bundren’s life has been sad and dreary, but the path to her resting place is even more so, replete with flood and fire, as well as a post-death monologue that contains one of the most psychologically complete rationalizations in literary history. Every time I read this book, I understand each of the Bundren family members more deeply, and have greater sympathy for the yoke their circumstance has harnessed them to.

By William Faulkner,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked As I Lay Dying as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The death and burial of Addie Bundren is told by members of her family, as they cart the coffin to Jefferson, Mississippi, to bury her among her people. And as the intense desires, fears and rivalries of the family are revealed in the vernacular of the Deep South, Faulkner presents a portrait of extraordinary power - as epic as the Old Testament, as American as Huckleberry Finn.


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.......


Book cover of Ancestors: The Prehistory of Britain in Seven Burials

Tina Zee Author Of Fires of Brigantia

From my list on romantic Celtic Britain: Druids, Romans and female warriors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love British history. I am fascinated by ancient roots; legends and myths arising from around the Roman invasion. Stories of Boudicca, Casswallen, Celtic legends, and Arthurian tales hold me in a world of imaginings and anticipation. These exciting stories have been told and retold, but Cartimandua, Warrior Queen of Brigantia is new to me. She, a Yorkshire lass like me – led the largest tribe in Britain. I have become absorbed into the iron-age lives and loves of her Brigantia. The interwoven links between known facts and fantasy intrigue me. My favourite books here encouraged my journey of discovery; the old birthing the new. The legends from Britain grow.

Tina's book list on romantic Celtic Britain: Druids, Romans and female warriors

Tina Zee Why did Tina love this book?

Because of my interest in the Iron Age and Celtic roots of Britain, I read this book hoping for insights and understanding on the funerary traditions of our ancestors at that time.

Prof. Alice Roberts has an easy style of writing that draws without sensationalism, and the unpacking of her seven burials helped me to visualise the likely realities of these ancient Brits. This book, like so many of her other books, makes a very professional subject accessible to amateurs like me. I never expected to enjoy reading this as much as I did. I highly recommend this fascinating read.

By Alice Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

An extraordinary exploration of the ancestry of Britain through seven burial sites. By using new advances in genetics and taking us through important archaeological discoveries, Professor Alice Roberts helps us better understand life today.

'This is a terrific, timely and transporting book - taking us heart, body and mind beyond history, to the fascinating truth of the prehistoric past and the present' Bettany Hughes

We often think of Britain springing from nowhere with the arrival of the Romans. But in Ancestors, anthropologist, broadcaster and academic Professor Alice Roberts explores what we can learn about the very…


Book cover of Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom: The Archaeology of Female Burials

Alejandro Jiménez Serrano Author Of Descendants of a Lesser God: Regional Power in Old and Middle Kingdom Egypt

From my list on Ancient Egypt from a peripheral perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

The Egyptology permits me to make an approach to the human past. Although there were many different cultures from which the current society is heir, the survival of innumerable written documents from ancient Egypt together with the good conservation of the archaeological material, give us the possibility to feel closer to the humans who lived in the Nile Valley thousands of years ago.

Alejandro's book list on Ancient Egypt from a peripheral perspective

Alejandro Jiménez Serrano Why did Alejandro love this book?

The study carried out by Grajetzki is truly original, since no one had carried out work on the burials of the elite of the Late Middle Kingdom.

In fact, this book uses a large number of archaeological finds, many of them made at the end of the 19th century, that have never been compared. Furthermore, Grajeztki carries out a synthesis to understand how funeral customs are changing in this period.

By Wolfram Grajetzki,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During the late Middle Kingdom (about 1850-1700 B.C.E.), ancient Egyptian women of high standing were interred with lavish ornamentation and carefully gathered possessions. Buried near the pyramids of kings, women with royal connections or great wealth and status were surrounded by fine pottery and vessels for sacred oils, bedecked with gold and precious stones, and honored with royal insignia and marks of Osiris. Their funerary possessions include jewelry imported from other ancient lands and gold-handled daggers and claspless jewelry made only to be worn in the tomb.
Extensively illustrated with archival images and the author's own drawings, Tomb Treasures of…


Book cover of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War

Evie Yoder Miller Author Of Shadows

From my list on the intertwinings of war, conscience, and religion.

Why am I passionate about this?

The main reason I care about the relationship of war, conscience, and religion is because I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. A country’s methods of pursuing its best interests, include the use of power and warfare. Religions, however, make central: love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. People need to develop a conscience about what principle matters most. In the Civil War, the old tenet, an “eye for an eye,” was used to justify killing others for reasons of advantage or revenge. But I want to be involved instead in creating peace and justice for all.

Evie's book list on the intertwinings of war, conscience, and religion

Evie Yoder Miller Why did Evie love this book?

Death is everywhere in war: on the battlefield, in a disease-ridden hospital, or in childbirth on the home front. Drew Gilpin Faust’s non-fiction book, This Republic of Suffering, brings eye-popping numeric data to the prevalence of death in war. But she never stops at the surface level of how many deaths, or how many unidentified soldiers or improper burials occur during the Civil War. I was caught up entirely as Faust’s words, riveting and respectful of all the pain and loss, showed how death became an ennobling transformation for many people, either in the cause of racial standing or of Union/secessionist preservation.

By Drew Gilpin Faust,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked This Republic of Suffering as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • An "extraordinary ... profoundly moving" history (The New York Times Book Review) of the American Civil War that reveals the ways that death on such a scale changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation.

More than 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in the American Civil War. An equivalent proportion of today's population would be six million. In This Republic of Suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust describes how the survivors managed on a practical level and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the unprecedented carnage with its belief…


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

Julia Troche Author Of Death, Power, and Apotheosis in Ancient Egypt: The Old and Middle Kingdoms

From my list on 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’. 

Julia's book list on the enduring power of the dead in our lives

Julia Troche Why did Julia 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 Being with the Dead: Burial, Ancestral Politics, and the Roots of Historical Consciousness

Timothy Recuber Author Of The Digital Departed: How We Face Death, Commemorate Life, and Chase Virtual Immortality

From my list on changing your thinking about death and dying.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a sociologist who has just written a book about the ways that we engage with death and dying online, and before that I wrote a book about media coverage of disasters. Macabre subjects have always fascinated me, I guess, not because they are macabre but because they reveal a great deal about the ways we live and our sense of the value of life itself.

Timothy's book list on changing your thinking about death and dying

Timothy Recuber Why did Timothy love this book?

I was blown away by this thought-provoking philosophical examination of the relationship between the living and the dead.

Burial, Hans Ruin points out, is the most ancient cultural-symbolic practice in all of human development. In burying the dead, and through the attendant rituals accompanying burial, we are caring for them and communicating about or with them. Ruin looks at a variety of ways that such care has been accomplished and debated over time, from prehistoric graves to ancient Egyptian pyramids to Sophoclean dramas from ancient Greece.

All of these examples are put to use as part of a larger meditation on what it means to live ethically; as he puts it “there is no social space entirely outside the shared space with the dead. To learn to live is to learn to inhabit this space in a responsible way. Life is a life after, as inheritance, ancestry, legacy and fate.”     

By Hans Ruin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Being with the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Philosophy, Socrates declared, is the art of dying. This book underscores that it is also the art of learning to live and share the earth with those who have come before us. Burial, with its surrounding rituals, is the most ancient documented cultural-symbolic practice: all humans have developed techniques of caring for and communicating with the dead. The premise of Being with the Dead is that we can explore our lives with the dead as a cross-cultural existential a priori out of which the basic forms of historical consciousness emerge. Care for the dead is not just about the symbolic…


Book cover of How Much of These Hills Is Gold

Morgan Thomas Author Of Manywhere

From my list on folks seeking genderqueer ancestry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to genderqueer histories searching for a reflection of myself that I couldn’t find in my immediate environment (the rural American South). Early on, I thought I’d found it—historical figures, both real and fictional, who shared my gender identity. But as I’ve continued to research, I’ve realized that the reflections of history are less a mirror image, more a reflection in water—fluid and distorting. Genderqueer people throughout history use different language for their identities, navigate different social and family systems, and express their gender in different ways. In the space created by this difference, I’ve begun to understand my gender as a thing that changes, too, across space and time.

Morgan's book list on folks seeking genderqueer ancestry

Morgan Thomas Why did Morgan love this book?

In this poetic, ranging novel, C. Pam Zhang reimagines an American western through the eyes of two siblings—Lucy and her younger sibling Sam, who packs with a half-carrot. We follow the two of them as they navigate natural disasters and Sinophobia in the American West circa the 1860s. In a time when I was working to steady my own sibling relationship, I found Lucy and Sam’s complicated, distanced, but nonetheless durable and caring connection deeply comforting. The book reminds us that family is complex and that there’s a lot of blurry ground between outright rejection and acceptance.

By C. Pam Zhang,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked How Much of These Hills Is Gold as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2020

LONGLISTED FOR THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE 2021

A BARACK OBAMA BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020

'The boldest debut of the year . . . It is refreshing to discover a new author of such grand scale, singular focus and blistering vision' Observer

America. In the twilight of the Gold Rush, two siblings cross a landscape with a gun in their hands and the body of their father on their backs . . .

Ba dies in the night, Ma is already gone. Lucy and Sam, twelve and eleven, are suddenly alone and on the…