The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

The American Way of Death Revisited

"Mitford's funny and unforgiving book is the best memento mori we are likely to get.  It should be updated and reissued each decade for our spiritual health."--The New York Review of BooksOnly 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 journa...

Details The American Way of Death Revisited

TitleThe American Way of Death Revisited
Release DateJan 4th, 2000
Number of pages296 pages
GenreNonfiction, Death, History, Sociology, Science

Reviews The American Way of Death Revisited

  • Lisa
    Letting Them Dig Their Own Graves: Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death Revisited “You may not be able to change the world,” Jessica Mitford said, “but at least you can embarrass the guilty.”Embarrass them she did, and the ways she did so in The American Way of Death Revisited comprise either the most forehead-slapping no-brainer approach to investigative journalism or the result of some serious immersion in/regurgitation of the ...
  • Lynn
    This is a patchwork of the original and it shows. You never whether she is talking about the 1960's or the 1990's, and the pricing is useless because $100 in 1960's or is over $500 in the 1990's when it was written.I trust morticians about as much as I trust lawyers, but I came away from this book thinking Mitford can't be trusted either. She thinks the solutions all require help from politicians and government yet is constantly documenting how t...
  • Erik
    Though the subject matter is dry and depressing, I was fascinated with this exposé of the funeral industry. Not a "page turner" by any means, but I was interested from beginning to end.
  • Jay
    A very important book in several regards.1) It made me confront my own inevitable mortality like few others.2) It shows how seemingly innocuous, mutually beneficial, capitalistic transactions (like arranging a funeral) can be and are corrupted by hard-selling, manipulation of guilt and covetousness, grief, greed, and monopolies. It also shows how good free-market, macro-economic principles are twisted to destructive purposes in micro-economic sit...
  • Boorrito
    I ended up reading this book because it's a book I'd hear of about the funeral business and my grandfather recently died. Difficult situation? Read a semi-related book about it! It was really funny, in a morbid way. Mitford doesn't even have to say much, the undertakers' own words are adept at tripping them up, although she's very good with her words. Fine piece of mud-racking, and it's not surprising it got the attention it did on its first rele...
  • Judi
    Eh? After reading The American Way of Death some time ago, I found this book a bit redundant. Dated. As I wend my own way closer to the grim reaper and my loved ones are dropping over like flies, my dealings with undertakers and graveyards are becoming increasingly commonplace. Cremation seems to be the primary choice these days. Certainly is practical.
  • Jays
    If you're ever going to die, you should read this book. Also good for people who like watching a diminutive englishwoman who was a former communist bitch-slap the funeral industry over the course of 30 years.
  • Mimi
    This was a fascinating book about how funeral practices in the United States have evolved. It is mainly a scathing critique of the industry. I found it to be very educational. The author can also be humorous with her wit. Her sarcasm made me laugh a few times. After reading this book, I believe that there are more funeral homes in the country than needed. And instead of having a free market that naturally winnows the number to a sustainable amoun...
  • Lynn
    This book caused a sensation when it was released in its original form in the 1960s. These days, I can't imagine anyone would find it as shocking. Surely, we all must know that the American funeral industry, like other industries, is out to make a buck however it can, exploiting all possibilities to increase profits. Likewise, I don't think many people would be shocked to find that this industry has been aided by its friends in government or by a...
  • Amanda
    I just have to say...Jessica Mitford is insane. It is horribly obvious that never in her life did she work with an honest funeral director and all of her opinions are based on the stories of people she knows who hit the crappy mortician jackpot. While I am not denying that some funeral directors are awfully shady, there are a lot of honest ones who don't take advantage of those in grief and don't push for them to buy a lot of pointless crap that ...
  • Elizabeth Desole
    It's pretty shocking just how funny this book is. And it's not even written in a jokey "Mary Roach" kind of way. The funniest passages are lifted right from mortician's professional literature. I already knew some of the abuses and distortions put out by American morticians but this book really laid it all out (no pun intended). I even personally know people who were hoodwinked into believing that certain things were required "by law by the state...
  • Ana
    I'd been looking forward to reading this as I've recently had first hand experience of a pretty badly done funeral.But as some others have stated, this book might have been shocking in the 1960s, but now even the 1990s update seems severely outdated.Some of the figures became confusing and it was hard to tell exactly how much something actually cost in the present time (1990s).Still, after reading this book, I think I can safely say that I'd disc...
  • Koa
    So very dull. I've read many books about the funeral/memorial/death business and this was by far my least favorite. It was one of the first of its kind though when originally published in the 60s so I wanted to be sure to read it. It probably was shocking when it came out, but in today's world nothing that was said was unexpected. At times it became frustrating when trying to figure out if what Mitford was quoting was from the 60s or the 90s when...
  • Stephanie
    It's really interesting to me how the American version of death is such an elaborate event. Expensive decisions are asked to be made at the most vulnerable time of a person's life, and in some cases, for completely unnecessary items. I think it's important for anyone to be educated about the funeral industry, as it will directly impact your life at some point in time. Good read.
  • Theresa
    I work in my family-owned monument business, so I've always enjoyed reading about the 'death industry.' And I've always enjoyed not having to sell coffins.
  • Kelly
    Surely the dead must be rolling in their proverbial graves!In "The American Way of Death Revisited," journalist and muckracker Jessica Mitford presents a searing exposé of the "death-care" industries, particularly funeral homes/directors and cemeteries. She potently argues that many death-care workers, rather than looking out for their customers' best interests, are more concerned about their bottom lines; that the FTC has failed to curb manipul...
  • Kimberly
    I would not have rated this book so highly on the caliber of the writing alone, although Mitford is an excellent writer, but I found the subject matter sufficiently compelling to bump my rating up to five stars. I don't believe there is another book quite like this. A witty book about funeral/burial customs seems like an oxymoron, but that is precisely what this book offers. Mitford's initial volume, published in 1963, garnered widespread attenti...
  • M. Milner
    A blistering expose of the bloated funeral industry, Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death Revisited is a bunch of things: infuriating, illuminating, interesting and very funny. Back in the 60s, Mitford wrote a book about the rise of the funeral industry and it's many shady practices. They ranged from salespeople exploiting grieving families by price gouging to unnecessary practices like embalming or specialized clothing for the deceased. H...
  • Rebecca
    I grew up going to funerals. My parents never kept this macabre portion of life from me, although it was the "sanitized" version critiqued by this book. I spent time with cousins playing around the caskets of relatives during viewings; I touched the deli-cold hand of my embalmed grandfather with the intrepid caution of a curious fourteen-year-old; I overheard adults repeating the oft-heard refrain, "We only see each other at weddings and funerals...
  • Jandae
    An update would generate five stars. Oh, how unfortunate that Jessica Mitford is no longer with us to update this work. I wholeheartedly agree that this is a work that needs an update for every decade. Originally published in 1961, The American Way of Death made waves. Tsunami-type waves battered the infrastructure of the American mortuary industry. It influenced everyone in America from individual families of less-than-ideal means to federal leg...
  • Sam
    This book was on my list of non-fiction books I could read one summer in high school. I remember the rest of the books on that list bored me with their descriptions, and this one had "death" in the title, which was better than what else was there. So, I read it. Not because I was some goth kid looking for something to encourage angsty hatred for mainstream culture, just because I had to read something. So, I chose it and read it. And it blew my f...
  • Alex Reborn
    Planning a funeral requires great care if one wants to avoid excess and overpriced services. A highly informative book, despite being written more than 50 years ago (first edition). This version is updated with information up to 1996, but I think there are still many changes and innovations in this area since then. I can’t say I’m all that surprised with the things I’ve learn about undertakers and their business of death, but I have a new d...
  • Antonio Nunez
    Jessica Mitford's "The American Way of Death" picks up were Waugh's "The Loved One" ended. Her main point is that "funeral homes" and "funeral directors" are all humbug, dedicated to fleecing the grieving by taking advantage of a very trying time. She believes a tasteful funeral should not require expensive caskets or make-up work, and in fact did not require it until very recently. She is uniquely qualified to make these points, for she brings t...
  • Ruby Duvall
    I'm not old enough to have read the original American Way of Death. Unlike other reviewers, I didn't find it at all difficult to understand when Mitford was talking about pricing or industry developments in the Sixties or the Nineties. Any prices not specifically called out as being "as of 199?" were obviously Sixities prices.However, the Revisited version really could have done so much more to update the original content. The book is overwritten...
  • Karyl
    Just... wow. I guess I can't afford to die. I had always assumed that the cost of a funeral was mainly due to being buried, and since neither my husband nor I understand the point of sticking a dead body into the ground, we'd both decided we should be cremated. But even there we are not immune to the shenanigans and corruption of most of the funeral homes in America.And why in America do we do things like this? Why is it all about show? Does it m...
  • Kathy
    One certainly cannot call "The American Way of Death" and "The American Way of Death Revisited" journalism. Mrs. Mitford has an opinion and the facts are gonna fit that opinion. I guess that's what expose means - it's not an unbiased reporting, but an opinion. Some things were not setting right with me. And in chapter 17 "England Then and Now" I was confused about why English funeral customs were so much better than American customs. Aside from e...
  • Jerry Smith
    I am not sure how I even came across this book to be honest - probably here on Goodreads somewhere as usual! This is an update on the 60s original, but still showing its age as this edition was published in the mid 90s. Sadly Mitford is no longer with us although I suspect her influence is still being widely felt in the undertaker business niche.As a Brit living in the US I have long found the funeral arrangements here somewhat strange, at least ...
  • Jaclyn
    This book is a little old and it's not the lightest topic which is why I didn't rate it that highly. I also found it a bit long and repetitive in places. That being said, I found it amazing, and incredibly sad, how easily Americans are manipulated by marketers and worse how little the government does about it. It goes without saying that people aren't exactly in the "shop around" frame of mind when a loved one passes away. However, this book real...
  • Kelly Stacey
    Even though this book was initially published the year I was born, I found it to be still relevant and a fascinating read. It once again strengthens my beliefs that the bottom line is always going to be dollar signs for large corporations with stockholders to answer to, and to hell with a grieving family whose world has been shattered. Somebody's review suggests periodic updates, and I'm all for that. I know that right now, 2013, the family owned...
  • Marissa
    This book is an expose about the numerous consumer abuses perpetrated by the death industry, which includes undertakers, cemetary owners, and the manufacturers of all their gruesome accoutrements. It was very interesting to learn a little bit about how embalming is actually done, the history of the funeral in America, differences in death ceremonies in Europe, and just to learn some of the facts that are in the book, like how the vast majority of...