Death + Dying Guide

Holy mackerel there’s a lot of out there. This guide gives a few places to start; definitely check the book catalog and article databases at your local library to find more, and on more specific topics. You can narrow your search by using and combining death-related terms. Especially get connected through a library if you need scholarly, peer-reviewed sources.

Reference: encyclopedias, handbooks, etc.
Articles: general interest
Journals: scholarly, peer-reviewed
Books: general interest
Videos
Websites

Reference

Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying(Macmillan) Encyclopedia of Death and Dying
(2003). Ed. Robert Kastenbaum.
New York: Macmillan Reference USA. 2 vols, 1017 pages.
Free: http://www.deathreference.com

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The online version of this encyclopedia is a tad mysterious. Though it appears to be the same as the print Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, publishing information is stripped from the pages. A rogue liberation of information, perhaps? It contains ads, unfortunately, but it is HUGE, with photos and illustrations, copious references, several articles of considerable length and quirky additions such as Elvis Sightings and Soul Birds. Great for a browse or to find leads elsewhere; should you need to cite anything, however, we suggest you track down a hard copy to verify.

Encyclopedia of Death and DyingEncyclopedia of Death and Dying
(2001). Eds. Glennys Howarth & Oliver Leaman.
New York: Routledge. 534 pages.
List of Entries

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Handbook of Death & DyingHandbook of Death & Dying
(2003). Ed. Clifton D. Bryant.
Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. 2 vols, 1088 pages.
Table of Contents

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Death to DustDeath to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies?
(2001). Kenneth V. Iserson.
Tucson, AZ: Galen Press. 821 pages.
Table of Contents

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A well-organized, uncomfortably humorous and happily bizarre resource about what happens to dead bodies, from decomposition to autopsy to final disposition, with piles of historical anecdotes and fascinating factoids. A great read for darksided writers and the morbidly curious. Meg devoured it cover to cover.

Articles

How Does It Feel to Die? (New Scientist, 13 October 2007)
This article describes the scientific processes of and physiological responses to various ways to die, including drowning, heart attacks, bleeding to death, decapitation, electrocution and more.

Never Say Die: Why We Can’t Imagine Death (Scientific American Mind, October 2008)
Jesse Bering proposes that the widespread belief in, or the uncertainty about, an afterlife stems not from religious beliefs or the fear of nonexistence, but as a “by-product of self-consciousness.”

Journals

Ironically, most journals about death are now dead. Here are a couple that are still active. You will need to be connected to a library that has access to these journals in order to view the full text of articles.

MortalityMortality
Routledge, 1996 –
Table of Contents

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This scholarly journal covers death studies from a wide range of fields, including anthropology, art, classics, history, literature, medicine, music, socio-legal studies, social policy, sociology, philosophy, psychology and religious studies.

Death StudiesDeath Studies
Routledge, 1977 –
Table of Contents

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Peer reviewed papers examine international and interdisciplinary topics in death studies, including bioethics, education and grief and trauma counseling for adults and children.

OmegaOmega: Journal of Death and Dying
Baywood, 1970 –
Table of Contents

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Interdisciplinary, referred papers explore death, mourning, funeral customs, suicide, crisis management and more.

Books

Below are a few general interest books. Need a more academic approach? Narrow your topic and attack your local library.

The UndertakingThe Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade
(1997). Thomas Lynch.
New York: Norton. 202 pages.

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History of DeathThe History of Death: Burial Customs and Funeral Rites, from the Ancient World to Modern Times
(2007). Michael Kerrigan.
Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press. 192 pages.

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On Death and DyingOn Death and Dying
(1969). Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross.
Various publishers and reprints.

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When We DieWhen We Die: the Science, Culture, and Rituals of Death
(1999). Cedric Mims.
New York: St. Martin’s Press. 384 pages.

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Brief History of DeathA Brief History of Death
(2005). Douglas James Davies.
Malden, MA: Blackwell. 184 pages.

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StiffStiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
(2003). Mary Roach.
New York: Norton. 303 pages.

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Wisconsin Death TripWisconsin Death Trip
(2000). Michael Lesy.
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 261 pages.

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First published in 1973, this one-of-a-kind book combines photos and news items from Black River Falls, WI, by Charles Van Schaik between 1890 and 1910. In addition to children in coffins, farm animals and stoic Scandinavians, pages are interspersed with copied newspaper clippings from local papers of the time. The news items are short and disturbing. The following is typical: “A woman was recently found wandering about the streets of Eau Claire with a dead baby in her arms. She was from Chippewa County and had lost her husband and was destitute.” All manner of death is summarized and reported in such a matter-of-fact tone it seems hard to believe they are real — but they are. And it will haunt you. (See also the film version.)

...Or Not to Be
…Or Not to Be: A Collection of Suicide Notes
(1997). Marc Etkind.
New York: Riverhead Books. 114 pages.

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A collection of suicide notes by both the famous and unknown. Includes last words by Kurt Cobain, Vincent Van Gogh, Diane Arbus, Sylvia Plath, and Virginia Woolf in addition to men and women of far less glamorous lives, but who nonetheless felt compelled to share their thoughts at the very end. A fascinating collection.

Videos

The UndertakingThe Undertaking
(2007). PBS: Frontline.
WorldCatFind in a library | Watch FREE online

Writer, poet and funeral director Thomas Lynch, author of the book of the same title, takes us into his Michigan funeral home for a behind-the-scenes look at the funeral business.

Wisconsin Death Trip
Wisconsin Death Trip
(1999). Dir. James Marsh.
Film website with info + reviews.

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Inspired by the Michael Levy book of the same name.

Websites

End of Life Issues (Medline Plus – National Library of Medicine)
Articles and advice from professional medical organizations about end of life issues.

Death & Dying Resources (New York University)
Art, film and literature related to death and dying, with lengthy descriptions and commentary.

U.S. Deaths and Mortality Statistics

The Death Category (Wikipedia)

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