From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

by Caitlin Doughty

Other authorsLandis Blair (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2017




W. W. Norton & Company (2017), Edition: Illustrated, 272 pages


Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for the dead. In rural Indonesia, she watches a man clean and dress his grandfather's mummified body, which has resided in the family home for two years. In La Paz, she meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette-smoking, wish-granting human skulls), and in Tokyo she encounters the Japanese kotsuage ceremony, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved-ones' bones from cremation ashes. Doughty vividly describes decomposed bodies and investigates the world's funerary history. She introduces deathcare innovators researching body composting and green burial, and examines how varied traditions, from Mexico's Días de los Muertos to Zoroastrian sky burial help us see our own death customs in a new light. Doughty contends that the American funeral industry sells a particular -- and, upon close inspection, peculiar -- set of 'respectful' rites: bodies are whisked to a mortuary, pumped full of chemicals, and entombed in concrete. She argues that our expensive, impersonal system fosters a corrosive fear of death that hinders our ability to cope and mourn. By comparing customs, she demonstrates that mourners everywhere respond best when they help care for the deceased, and have space to participate in the process. Illustrated by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity is an adventure into the morbid unknown, a story about the many fascinating ways people everywhere have confronted the very human challenge of mortality.… (more)


(252 ratings; 4.3)

User reviews

LibraryThing member soradsauce
Awesome book. I love Caitlin's conversational and somewhat snarky tone throughout her work, and it does a good job of offsetting some of the truly disturbing things she writes about. This book was so interesting and made me want to sit and look up other cultures' death rituals at work all day.
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Sorry, IT guys, you'll be seeing some weird shit.
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LibraryThing member lisalangford
A fascinating tour of death traditions around the world, from Japan, where 99% of people are cremated to Indonesia, where a small segment of people keep the mummified remains of their loved ones with them for years to Mexico, where The Day of the Dead honors loved ones who have died to mountains in
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southeaster U.S., where there are (my favorite) plans for recomposition - turning corpses into compost.

Caitlin Doughty's main message is that we need ways to ritualize death and honor our loved ones who have died. Here in the U.S. we are not (generally speaking, of course) very good at this. Her world tour of death rituals allows the reader insight into other traditions, tacitly giving us permission to create our own and recognize what might work for us.
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LibraryThing member keylawk
As a former soldier, attorney, and now a chaplain and live human, I have had to give some thought to death and dying. My wife is always recommending books for me to read, perhaps with something more than her loving agenda as a helpmeet, and she places this book in my hands. "You talk about death;
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read this!"
Caitlin Doughty is a Californian mortician, and she writes this successor to her first book about domestic funerals ("Smoke gets in your eyes"), with a tour of "good deaths" in other parts of the world. With her keen focus, we visit the following: Colorado, Indonesia, North Carolina, Spain, Tokyo, La Paz (Bolivia), and the Joshua Tree in California, to compare customs and actually participate in the meaning-making rituals of death.
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LibraryThing member JaredOrlando
Mortician Caitlin Doughty traverses countries and cultures, researching the ways they care for their dead (so we don't have to). What comes from this is a sensational look at confronting death, and lessons that the West can adopt to make dying less scary and more beautiful.
LibraryThing member nicolewbrown
Caitlin Doughty's first book, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes dealt with her first job out of college working at a crematorium. It seems as though she had found her calling because she went back to school to learn the funeral sciences. Now she has her own nonprofit funeral home, Undertaking L.A.

In this
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book, she explores what people do with dead bodies. For example, villages in the area of Toraja in Indonesia, the families mummify or if they can afford it embalm the bodies of the loved ones of their family and then keep them in the house for an indeterminate amount of time (it could be months or years) until the ceremony ma'nene is held and they get their own resting place. At this ma'nene animals are sacrificed in order that their soul can be released. This doesn't mean that they don't bring them back out for celebrations and family get-togethers.

In Japan, the crematory rate is 99.9%. Until the current Emperor, the Emperors have all chosen a burial. They do have places where you can place your bones. In Japan, they see ashes as being unclean and they only keep the bones, which is done by the family at the crematorium by using chopsticks to place them in the urn. At Ruriden columbarium they have slots for your bones with Buddhas in front that light up. The entire place changes colors according to the season by the use of lights.

She also encountered a corpse hotel in Japan where different rooms are set up to your different tastes and needs. Some have showers, kitchens, and mats for people to sleep on which if you have out of town family members there for the funeral this would be a place to put them. You can have the room for up to four days. They will bring the corpse into the room whenever you want. At American funerals, you barely get to spend any time with the beloved before they are buried. In Japan, you get to truly say goodbye.

Doughty explores some ways in America that people are trying as means of disposing of your corpse after death. She also examines practices in Mexico dealing with Dios de los Muertos, in Spain where they keep the corpses behind glass and Bolivia where they have the belief in the natitas, the skulls of the dead who help others with problems they might have. This book was utterly fascinating and incredibly interesting. It will even give you ideas about what to do with your own body after its gone. It did for me. This book was just as good as her last book. I highly recommend it.
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LibraryThing member arielfl
This was an interesting looks at death rituals around the world. Definitely not good for people who are squeamish. From funeral pyres in Colorado, the Torjans in Indonesia who dig up their relatives every couple of years so they can snap a couple of pictures with them and hang out, the death
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culture of Mexico as depicted in the art of Frida Kahlo, to the composting of the dead in North Carolina all manners of curious customs are explored. This is like a travelogue of death. What is universal in all of the stories is the love people have for their family that passes and their need to be cared for in their time of pain. Although this book is unlikely to make anyone start keeping Grandma's skull on the shelf for luck it was a fascinating look at how different cultures approach the universal human condition of death.
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LibraryThing member cavernism
This book made me cry and it made me think about death and mourning a completely new way. It was also a surprisingly short read!
LibraryThing member AliceaP
Here I am talking about death again. Part of me worries that 'harping' on about this subject and these books will turn away the average reader to my blog but the larger part of me (and the one who runs things) believes that if I am going to be authentic with my reviews then I have to follow my mood
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with what books I voluntarily choose to read. That being said, I'm here to talk about Caitlin Doughty's second book From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. As the title suggests, this is a bit more of a travelogue piece about the death industry. This book explores in depth the way that death is viewed, celebrated, and treated in different countries and cultures. [A/N: I don't know that it needs to be necessarily spelled out but just in case: This book is not for those who shy away from talk of decomposition and graphic depictions of death in general.] Caitlin visits places both far-flung and just around the riverbend all in search of what she terms the Good Death. (For more info visit her website to see if you'd like to join her group.) She attended an open air cremation where the body is laid atop a pyre and the ceremony is experienced by all members of the community (Colorado). In Japan the families are brought in after the body has been cremated so that they can extricate the bones by chopstick to place them in an urn for safekeeping. She experienced Fiesta de las Ñatitas in La Paz and spoke to those who celebrate these saints by collecting and displaying shrunken skulls (and in some cases mummified heads). One of my favorite places that she described was the Corpse Hotel in Japan where you can visit your deceased family member in the comfort and splendor of an upscale hotel. Overall, From Here to Eternity is a fascinating look at the way that death is addressed by various cultures around the world. It serves as a sobering reminder that death is not accepted but rather feared here in America. If you are interested in the ways that others approach death and how they treat their dead (some cultures revisit the dead to clean and redress them as a sign of honor and remembrance) then I urge you to read this book. 9/10
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LibraryThing member tenamouse67
I won this in a GOODREADS giveaway. Gorgeous cover with drawings speckled throughout the book. This is a wonderful, humorous, but respectful expose of how death is treated in various cultures.
LibraryThing member Diana_Long_Thomas
requested this from the library as soon as it was available and wow did I have a wait time. Unlike her first book which focused on her job in the funeral industry this one was on various funeral practices around the world. I have to admit I didn't know there were a few official funeral pyres in the
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US, though only certain groups can use them. The death rituals around the world are fascinating and while some are not ones I'm sure I would be comfortable with they fit the areas they are from quite well. On a side note, I was in the middle of this book when our oldest cat, Isis, died at the age of 16. While I was extremely upset especially for the first few days, picking up this book and finishing it seemed to help me through that grieving process. I definitely recommend both of her books.
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LibraryThing member adzebill
Entertaining travelogue of funerary practices of the world with lovely illustrations.
LibraryThing member briandrewz
Los Angeles mortician Caitlin Doughty takes on a trip that spans the globe in search of death customs from other places. We go to Indonesia, Japan, Belize, Mexico, the United States, and Spain. At some points in the book, I admired the way some cultures handle death. At others, I was repulsed. The
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book is about a serious subject, but is written with a touch of humor to keep things light. I appreciated that immensely, otherwise it might have been a heavy book to read.
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LibraryThing member kmajort
She gives me a lot to think about.
My folks are aged (still very healthy, but I worry), and I realize they are quite comfortable with death, they have lived a full life, and see friend pass on before them. So my worries are for my grief and my reactions... Having a sterile, hands-off, two hour
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ceremony probably won't be very helpful.
That's what I need to consider: what will help me celebrate them, to honor and love and remember?

Mom & Dad have their plans, and I will comply... but there will need to be something more as well. Caitlin's book has been helpful.
(I need to make my own plans for myself.)

You should read this, but *definitely* read her first book "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes".
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LibraryThing member Stahl-Ricco
“In an impressively short time, America’s funeral industry has become more expensive, more corporate, and more bureaucratic than any other funeral industry on Earth.”

I picked this up because I thought it was a graphic novel drawn by Landis Blair, who’s art I very much enjoy. It turns out
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that it is a book book, with illustrations by Blair. And, it turned out to be a good book, on an interesting topic I’ve never spent much time considering! So, I came for the art, and stayed for the story!

Very interesting read on a topic I hadn't given much thought to! Doughty travels around the world and describes, sometimes in nauseating detail, the rituals that come from the event of death. She gives us stories in the U.S., Indonesia, Mexico, Spain, Japan, and Bolivia. We read about glass caskets, outdoor cremations, bones picked up by chopsticks, natural burials, composting bodies, and sky burial by vultures. It's a little morbid, but it's fascinating, and it really has me thinking about what I'd like to have happen when I die. Like the author, I think being put in a metal casket in the ground does not sound like my cup of tea at all. But thanks to the author, now I have a whole set of things to contemplate! A good read!
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LibraryThing member MontzaleeW
From Here to Eternity
Traveling the World to Find the Good Death
By: Caitlin Doughty
Narrated by: Caitlin Doughty
The author traveled around various countries and described the countries way of treating their dead, their thoughts on death, and how it may have changed. She compares these countries to
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the US. It was very interesting, a little strange from the view from an American. I do see how we have lost sight of the respect of the ritual of death and the big business of funeral homes have made it impersonal and costly. I love her books. I have read all three now and love her website. She did a remarkable job with the narration.
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LibraryThing member bookbrig
Look at me finishing books I started over a year ago. I AM SO FAST. Anyway, this is good and I liked it quite a bit, I just lost it in a pile of other things and recently found it again.
LibraryThing member ShannonRose4
An eye-opening look at something we spend our lives attempting to avoid.
Traveling the world with Caitlin, we discover that the James Bond film Spectre inspired The Dias de los Muertos (The day of the dead) parade in Mexico, that the fear surrounding death and the dead doesn't hold true throughout
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the world, and that we in the west have so sterilized the natural process of death that we have replaced both intimacy and rituals with distance and shame. This book is an heartfelt offering that sheds light on a dark topic with ease, humor and hope.
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LibraryThing member ShannonRose4
An eye-opening look at something we spend our lives attempting to avoid.
Traveling the world with Caitlin, we discover that the James Bond film Spectre inspired The Dias de los Muertos (The day of the dead) parade in Mexico, that the fear surrounding death and the dead doesn't hold true throughout
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the world, and that we in the west have so sterilized the natural process of death that we have replaced both intimacy and rituals with distance and shame. This book is an heartfelt offering that sheds light on a dark topic with ease, humor and hope.
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LibraryThing member tduvally
As always Caitlin Doughty brings real humanity and a respectful touch of humor to death.
LibraryThing member LibroLindsay
Honestly, I didn't enjoy this *as* much as Smoke, but it was still absolutely wonderful. I especially liked the chapters on alternative death practices and rituals here in the US...even though we're still heavily mired in the commercialization of the funeral industry and puritanical view of death,
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these few examples give me hope and definitely pique my curiosity into what else is out there (and will hopefully become available eventually...). Blair's sketches were quite a nice addition to the text. (Pro-tip: you can also follow Doughty on IG and see her own footage!)

These books (and now a whole new reading list thanks to Doughty's The Order of the Good Death website) have made a profound impact on me, and I'm looking forward to how my ongoing exploration will help me become more comfortable with death. I'm already contemplating how I can get more involved. Yeah yeah, I am a total Doughty fangirl now.

Many thanks to Goodreads and the publisher for providing me with this ARC.
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LibraryThing member smorton11
As someone who has lost their fair share of friends and family members, as well as pets, almost exclusively to cancer, I’ve never really come to terms with how we, in the US, process death. A friend, who is currently going to school to be a mortician/funeral director, introduced me to Caitlin
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Doughty, an L. A. based mortician and founder of the Order of the Good Death, a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping people come to terms with their mortality and make decisions regarding the care and keeping of their body after they die.

These facts, when the book club picked it, made me a bit wary – I’m still not entirely at peace with my grandmother’s passing in the fall. I don’t like to talk about death. I don’t like to talk about dead bodies. I have difficulty with viewings and other death-related occasions. But, with an open mind, I started reading, with the hope that Caitlin would help me develop a better relationship one of the only facts about our lives on earth – they will end.

My husband often says he wants a Viking funeral, or a Tibetan Sky Burial, and each time he brings it up, I ask him to stop. I can’t stomach it. But Caitlin has gone all over the world, and her own country, exploring different cultures’ death rituals. And maybe it’s her writing, maybe it’s the distance, but it is absolutely fascinating! I really could not put From Here to Eternity – the travel aspect also helped me stomach the content. And at times, I cried, but for good reasons – Caitlin expertly goes back and forth between being detached and un-emotional, to feeling all the things when listening to her coworker recount the circumstances of the loss of her unborn son.

People die all the time, and she also goes into why cremation has become such a large part of the modern funeral industry, as well as the monopolies, corruption, and out-of-date laws that govern the industry in the US. To say I learned something would be a massive understatement. I was freaked out significantly less than I anticipated being while reading Packing for Mars last month.
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LibraryThing member TobinElliott
This is one of those very few books that I would describe as life-changing for me. As I listened to this, there were many times I simply had to stop the playback and ponder what I'd just heard.

Doughty takes the reader through many ways of handling our dead, the various ways and means of saying
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goodbye (or not) to them, and considerations on what it means to respect the dead and treat both those that have passed, and those that remain, with dignity.

Everyone's got their own views on this, and I'll be damned if I'm going to foist mine on anyone. I'll just say that this is a really interesting book to read before considering what you would like done with your mortal remains.
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LibraryThing member Carolesrandomlife
This was such an interesting listen! I have been wanting to read this book since I learned of its existence. I find the way that we handle death as humans to be a topic that I never tire from. When I first picked up Caitlin Doughty's debut novel, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, I had my doubts but decided
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to read a few pages just to see what I thought. I couldn't put it down and it is a book that I frequently recommend to others today. I went into this audiobook with pretty high expectations and I am thrilled that the book was able to meet them.

In this book, the author travels the world to see how death is handled in a variety of cultures. It was a very eye-opening journey for me. I had no idea how little I actually knew about this topic. I thought that in the United States the options for dealing with a loved one's remains consisted of a choice between burial and cremation. I had no idea that in one community, residents have the option of an open-air pyre. Why don't we have this everywhere?

I was amazed by the variety of customs associated with dying. In this book, we see communities that keep the corpses of loved ones with them for rather long periods of time continuing their relationship with the deceased. There were a variety of rituals from around the world explained. Some of the scenes were quite vivid. While I don't think that I want to rush to practice some of the traditions explained in this book, I really liked being able to see how variations of how people around the world look at the process of death. In some ways, I think that a lot of cultures have a much healthier relationship with the dead. They prepare the bodies and care for the dead while in the United States, we are removed from the process leaving it to the professionals.

This book is narrated by the author. I think that she did a great job with the reading of this book. The book covers things and events that the author has seen so I think that she was able to deliver the story in a manner that nobody else would have been able to do. I thought that she had a very pleasant voice and I found it easy to listen to this book for long periods of time. I ended up listening to the entire book in a single day and found that I liked the narration more and more as I made my way through the book.

I would recommend this book to others. I love the way that this author is able to educate others on the process of death and dying in an entertaining manner. I found this book to be quite thought-provoking and I feel like I learned a thing or two. I could easily see myself reading this book again at some point in the future and I can't wait to check out some of the author's other works.
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LibraryThing member jetangen4571
Around the world in a fascinating study of the death and funerary practices in an assortment of cultures including the differences and new developments in the United States. Great book! There is so much to learn in it that it is best to just recommend and mention that it has so much fun in it
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(author loves to poke fun at herself).
I have the audio narrated by the author. It doesn't get any better than that!
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LibraryThing member ritaer
Doughty travels the world to find funeral practices that offer a better experience for mourning families than the commercial practices of most Western nations, especially the US.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

272 p.; 8.6 inches


0393249891 / 9780393249897
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