The most recommended books with personification of death

Who picked these books? Meet our 18 experts.

18 authors created a book list connected to the personification of death, and here are their favorite personification of death books.
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Book cover of The Angel of History: A Novel

tammy lynne stoner Author Of Sugar Land

From my list on queer books across time & genre.

Who am I?

I’m a serial mover, living in 18 cities in three countries (so far) – though that has settled down (kinda) now that my lady and I find ourselves with three kids + a fish, kitten, and 100-pound dog. Wherever we land, we single-handedly support the entire local restaurant industry. My debut novel was lucky enough to do well and has inspired a short film, which will hopefully usher it down the long road to TV series… 

tammy's book list on queer books across time & genre

tammy lynne stoner Why did tammy love this book?

A few years ago we at Gertrude lit journal decided to answer the question that kept coming our way: What are some great books written by queer people with narratives that center on queer people? Before the pandemic made a mess of things, we ran GERTIE, a book club that chose two fabulous queer books every quarter. This was our very first book selection, and—like with many firsts, perhaps—it holds a special place.

The Angel of History takes place during one night in the waiting room of a San Francisco psyche ward when visits by the Devil and 14 Saints reveal the life of Jacob, a Yemen-born poet who was born in an Egyptian whorehouse. Yes, you read that right. 

By Rabih Alameddine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Washington Independent Review of Books, Literary Hub, and Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year



An Unnecessary Woman

won the California Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN Open Book Award and was a Best Book of the Year for the Washington Post, Kirkus, NPR, Amazon, Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, The Boston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal


Book cover of Death with Interruptions

M Dressler Author Of Our Eyes at Night

From my list on that will both haunt you and get you to think.

Who am I?

I am a writer of speculative novels, captivated by fictional worlds that resemble ours and don’t, stories that travel to places we find strange (sometimes even unsettling) but can’t look away from, tales we feel in our minds and in our guts. For me writing and reading, though they seem sedentary activities, are actually physical acts we experience with our entire being and body—before I became a writer I was a professional ballet dancer, and I’ve never lost the sense that stories are movement, making you feel like you’re flying even if you’re sitting still. I’ve written seven books, and love that my job is leaping with readers.

M's book list on that will both haunt you and get you to think

M Dressler Why did M love this book?

I’ve saved my “riskiest” pick for last—you might not like this one, or at least you might be wondering for two-thirds of the book what the heck is going on, other than that you are reading about a country in which no one dies. The book starts by earnestly (and sometimes humorously) asking and answering questions: what do you do with so many living people? What do you do with people who are say, gravely wounded in an accident but can’t die and also can’t recover? What are not just the logistical but emotional challenges of no one departing? Would people want to live in such a country? Or flee it? Saramago was a philosopher before he was a writer, and he loves pondering things... And then, all of a sudden, the book shifts, it switches into another gear entirely and becomes a beautifully moving story about Death taking a…

By José Saramago,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nobel Prize-winner Jose Saramago's brilliant novel poses the question—what happens when the grim reaper decides there will be no more death? On the first day of the new year, no one dies. This of course causes consternation among politicians, religious leaders, morticians, and doctors. Among the general public, on the other hand, there is initially celebration—flags are hung out on balconies, people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity: eternal life. Then reality hits home—families are left to care for the permanently dying, life-insurance policies become meaningless, and funeral parlors are reduced to arranging burials…


Book cover of The Merchant of Death

R. Ann Humphries Author Of Sedich: The Annals of Lusiartha

From my list on YA to satiate your travel bug.

Who am I?

I’m a YA fantasy writer, and I’ve been addicted to stories of adventure for as long as I can remember. My love of story filled me with a heart for other worlds and realms and a fondness of reading things that challenged my heart and mind here in the real world. Stories are what make us human, and we storytellers are tasked with challenging readers’ assumptions about how the world, life, love, and humanity works. My obsession with story-telling led me to write my YA fantasy series The Annals of Lusiartha

R.'s book list on YA to satiate your travel bug

R. Ann Humphries Why did R. love this book?

As a kid, I loved all kinds of fiction—sci-fi, fantasy, realistic, historical—pretty much anything I could get my hands on! D.J. MacHale’s Pendragon series magically captures the best of every genre. In The Merchant of Death, Bobby Pendragon, a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy, finds himself pulled into an alternate dimension ruled by a magical tyrant. Bobby learns he is a Traveler, someone gifted with the ability to travel between alternate dimensions (called Territories) and his destiny is much bigger than he could ever have imagined. The Merchant of Death is a thrilling start to a captivating YA adventure!

By D. J. MacHale,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Merchant of Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Bobby Pendragon is a seemingly normal teenager, swept into an amazing quest, and catapulted into the middle of an immense, interdimensional conflict. His success or failure will decide the course of human existence! The first book of this internationally best-selling series, each featuring a new and dangerous mission.


Book cover of Mort

D. H. Willison Author Of Harpyness is Only Skin Deep

From my list on warm and witty fantasy adventures.

Who am I?

I’ve adored fantasy adventures for as long as I could read. A good story is a mirror of life, and sometimes life can feel hard, cold, and impersonal. Yet life can also be an adventure, and like fictional heroes, the way in which we overcome our challenges is what makes us truly human. And sometimes it’s the actions of fantastical or inhuman creatures that show us true humanity. When a hero overcomes their challenges in a way that shows humanity, I stand up and cheer. When they do it in a way that’s creative or funny, I laugh. When an author can do both, I treasure it.

D. H.'s book list on warm and witty fantasy adventures

D. H. Willison Why did D. H. love this book?

While it’s hard to pick a single favorite among the Discworld series, Mort stands out for me as a mix of a bizarre concept, quirky characters you can cheer for, and unexpected plot twists.

It’s hard to imagine a book about death being so funny, but the outlandish premise sets a stage rife with opportunities for humor. And yet, it’s the characters that really carry the story. Characters of this world have a wide spectrum of moralities, and yet despite their flaws and mistakes, you find yourself cheering for them.

By Terry Pratchett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Cracking dialogue, compelling illogic and unchained whimsy' Sunday Times

The Discworld is very much like our own - if our own were to consist of a flat planet balanced on the back of four elephants which stand on the back of a giant turtle, that is . . .

Death comes to us all. When he came to Mort, he offered him a job.

Death is the Grim Reaper of the Discworld, a black-robed skeleton carrying a scythe who must collect a minimum number of souls in order to keep the momentum of dying, well . . . alive.

He…


Book cover of Death: The High Cost Of Living

Maria Vale Author Of Molly Molloy and the Angel of Death

From my list on stories of death personified.

Who am I?

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.

Maria's book list on stories of death personified

Maria Vale Why did Maria 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 Molly Molloy and the Angel of Death

Adele Buck Author Of Fake Flame

From Adele's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Romance author Cat snuggler Librarian Audiobook aficionado

Adele's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Adele Buck Why did Adele love this book?

This book is so very weird in the best possible way. It’s also gritty, unglamorous, tender, and impossibly beautiful.

Death isn’t some grand, scary figure, but rather a bit of a hapless rube. And his love interest Molly is doing the best she can under very trying circumstances. Seeing them come together and carve out a life is both heartbreaking and heart-healing. 

By Maria Vale,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


Death needs a do-over.

Azrael--Grim Reaper, Destroyer, Angel of Death--has messed up. Instead of taking Molly Molloy's soul, he accidentally saves her from death by chicken wing. Now this utterly unexceptional waitress at a New York City breastaurant can see him.

Touch him.

Talk to him.

Question him.

Make him doubt.

The Powers that Be are waiting for Death to fix his mistake. But before he can, he makes one more...

He falls in love.


Book cover of Gods of Jade and Shadow

Jody Bower Author Of Jane Eyre's Sisters: How Women Live and Write the Heroine's Story

From Jody's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Cultural mythologist Fantasy & sci-fi lover Writer Singer Hiker

Jody's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Jody Bower Why did Jody love this book?

This is a beautifully written and inventive fantasy novel, based on Mayan mythology and set in the Jazz Age in Mexico.

A spunky Cinderella-esque heroine is forced to accompany the deposed God of the Dead on his quest to regain his throne, and slowly realizes that his quest offers her a chance to escape her tiny village and experience the world she’s only dreamt of seeing. She comes into her own as she pits her wits against a variety of human and inhuman opponents.

I loved it so much, I re-read it as soon as I finished.

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Gods of Jade and Shadow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'This is historical fantasy at its best' S.A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass

Inspired by Mexican folklore, Gods of Jade and Shadow is a magical, wildly imaginative coming-of-age tale for fans of Katherine Arden, Naomi Novik and Helene Wecker.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but it's passing Casiopea Tun by. She's too busy scrubbing floors in her wealthy grandfather's house to do anything more than dream of a life far from her dusty, small town in southern Mexico. A life she could call her own.

This dream is impossible, distant as the stars - until the…


Book cover of Death's Merchant

Peter Martuneac Author Of Her Name Was Abby

From my list on with strong, admirable women.

Who am I?

I have an amazing daughter in my life, and I want there to be more books for her to read that feature strong, admirable, and good women in leading roles. That’s one of the things I keep an eye out for in the books I read as well as the books I write.

Peter's book list on with strong, admirable women

Peter Martuneac Why did Peter love this book?

This one is a long, very long, fantasy epic, so be warned! Despite the length of the work, it ended up being an incredible read. Trin is one of the main characters the story follows. She’s a young woman who ‘accidentally’ unleashed a curse that has doomed the world to a future of death and destruction, and she’s desperately seeking a way to break this curse. In so doing, she gets caught up in an ancient blood feud between gods and full-blown war between mighty empires. 

By Justan Henner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

1200 Pages of Epic Fantasy that reviewers are comparing to Malazan and Wheel of Time.

War between gods. Mortals are pawns.
Fate lays a curse to bring Death to the world.
A boy makes a list of people to kill. What could go wrong?

Jem just killed his father.
He should have done it five years ago, but kids don't always make good decisions.
Next on Jem's list is a military tyrant. Maybe the whole Legion.
With so many people to kill, Jem hopes to satisfy his hunger for vengeance... and obtain redemption too.

Trin is cursed by Fate to…


Book cover of Duck, Death and the Tulip

Dana Wulfekotte Author Of Where Is Poppy?

From my list on picture books about loss when you need a good cry.

Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author-illustrator who loves picture books that can tackle difficult topics in a unique way. Along with Where Is Poppy?, I’ve also illustrated The Remember Balloons, written by Jessie Oliveros, which helps to gently explain Alzheimer’s and memory loss to kids without sugarcoating the realities of the illness. I think books can be a great tool for helping kids understand and process ideas that can be a little heavy or overwhelming, even for adults.

Dana's book list on picture books about loss when you need a good cry

Dana Wulfekotte Why did Dana love this book?

This is another book about death that will also make you laugh.

I appreciate how direct this book is while still managing to be tender and sensitive. And the artwork matches the tone of the text well. Death looks both friendly and a little creepy.

It may not be for every family, but I love how oddly funny and heartbreaking this book is. 

By Wolf Erlbruch,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Duck, Death and the Tulip as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From award-winning author and illustrator, Wolf Erlbruch, comes one of the world’s best children’s books about grief and loss.

In a curiously heart-warming and elegantly illustrated story, a duck strikes up an unlikely friendship with Death. Duck and Death play together and discuss big questions. Death, dressed in a dressing gown and slippers, is sympathetic and kind and will be duck’s companion until the end.

“I’m cold,” she said one evening. “Will you warm me a little?”
Snowflakes drifted down.
Something had happened. Death looked at the duck.
She’d stopped breathing. She lay quite still.

Explaining the topic of death…


Book cover of The Books of Magic

Opal Edgar Author Of Voice from the Dead: A Young Adult Portal Fantasy in the Afterlife

From my list on young adult set in the afterlife.

Who am I?

I grew up with the cartoon Beetlejuice, fascinated by the composed Lydia running around a bright and insane afterlife. Any cheerfully gothic story I would latch on with glee. Perhaps this is why fantasy has always been my favourite genre, and why I cannot help but mix dark and light, and why my first novel naturally took place in the afterlife. I wrote my first book for my brother, because he was as interested as me in all the weird in the world, but unlike me, he had dyslexia and hated reading. He received the story in instalments and to my amazement and pride, he just gobbled them up. 

Opal's book list on young adult set in the afterlife

Opal Edgar Why did Opal love this book?

Like all of Neil Gaiman’s works, this comic book is haunting and meaningful. Laced with DC references, philosophy, and nightmares, we lose ourselves in its strange world, or should I say, worlds? We follow Tim, a 13-year-old on the brink of becoming one of the greatest magic wielders of all time. But magic comes at a cost, and perhaps he should know that, or at least that’s what the four unlikely guides of our hero believe. And here starts the trip into magic and its many worlds, including a great meeting with Death herself in the afterlife.

This must be my favourite personification of Death ever, managing to be both fun and kind. This is a great meaty adventure comic that really makes you travel and gives you an experience like no other. Don’t expect childishness here, and don’t put it in the hands of too young an audience as…

By Neil Gaiman, John Bolton (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What do two dead boys and a normal 13-year-old have in common? The ability to save the world. Charles and Edwin are dead. They re also detectives. Tim Hunter is alive. He could be the world s greatest mage once he masters magic. And that s just the beginning. Readers can now enjoy The Books of Magic #1-32, The Children s Crusade #1-2, Vertigo Gallery: Dreams and Nightmares #1, Vertigo Preview #1, Vertigo Visions - Doctor Occult #1, Who s Who #15, Arcana Annual #1, Mister E #1-4, and The Books of Faerie: Auberon s Tale #1-3 all in one…