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
GenreNonfiction, Death, History, Sociology, Science

Reviews The American Way of Death Revisited

  • 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...
  • 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 ...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ghost of the Library
    I cant give a personal opinion on this book without first addressing its author..after all she was one of the (in)famous Mitford sisters.Over the years I've read extensively and researched a good bit myself about the family and the girls, and quite frankly never liked all the anger and rage and frustration that seemed to ooze of Jessica Mitford and ultimately led to her doing her utmost best to paint the darkest of portraits about her parents and...
  • Jason Diamond
    I've read this before, but reading it a second time you get to really savor just how funny Mitford is reporting on this topic.
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Laurie
    When Jessica Mitford first wrote this expose, it was a shocking book. That was in 1963; I read the updated 1998 version. Sadly, she died just as they were finishing up the book. I would have loved to have read what she thought about the funeral industry today!While Mitford is careful to point out that there are honest and caring funeral professionals, she takes aim at the ones who are in it strictly for the money. While *any* business is in it fo...
  • Paperclippe
    I knew I was going to enjoy this book, but I really enjoyed this book. I've always been anti-fancy: anti-fancy weddings, anti-fancy showers, anti-fancy funerals, and Mitford really helped cement that for me. I was also shocked and amused to find that this was the one area (okay, maybe not the one area, but let's go with that for humor purposes) where I found myself vehemently standing on the side of religion - but then again, I never really stand...
  • 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 ...
  • Deft
    Great expose about the funeral industry and it's scams. I highly recommend this book to everyone as most people don't realize what goes on behind the scenes with this stuff. It's really sad that people are taken advantage of in times of grief, however, it seems that even in this arena people are still mainly looking to make a profit at someone else's expense. I felt disgusted with much of the behavior of those in the funeral industry presented in...
  • 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.
  • Dawn
    A very entertaining, informative, and scathing expose of the American funeral industry. Jessica Mitford pulls no punches in revealing the shady practices and techniques practiced by funeral directors in the US and does so with a wry & dry wit and deep compassion for those affected by the egregious and predatory American Way of Death.
  • Mary Havens
    The book that started it all!!! There would be no Caitlin Doughty without Jessica Mitford. And Thank God for Jessica Mitford!! This expose mines the depths of the funeral industry and the inflated costs of every item. Think car salesmanship with a dash of airline pricing for each additional item. Some reviewers have called this revised edition uneven but I don’t think that’s quite the word. It got a little monotonous so I took a graphic novel...
  • Ruth
    Obviously Mitford's got a strong British bias about how things *should* be done. However, that didn't stop me from entirely enjoying the book as an expose of how things are done in the US (and to some degree now in Britain). I'm glad that I finally got around to reading it, as it underpins a lot more modern stuff I read.
  • Mariam
    Incredible. What an eye opening experience reading about the funeral industry. Simultaneously appalling and absurd. A must read before any of us reach a point in our lives where we’re required to make these decisions under the duress of emotional torment. Wrap me in a shroud and place me in a pine box s’il vous plait.
  • Geoffwood
    More like Jessica WITford amirite? Dryer-than-dry examination of, if you can believe it, an oligopoly that uses shady sales practices and heavy lobbying to maintain artificially inflated prices and generally play the bereaved like a concertina. Wait, under capitalism?
  • C.
    Excellent, informative, and even fun! This book convinced me to tell my family that when I kick the bucket, I want to be cremated in a cardboard box, and for them to share the life insurance, instead of giving it to the "death industry"!
  • Kevin Gross
    A good read on the practices and ethics of the (mostly American) funeral industry. Thorough and informative, if a bit repetitive in stretches. Possibly dated: this revised edition was published in 1998.
  • Megan
    This is an invaluable book. My single criticism is that I wish there was more delineation on the new material; prices in the 1960s and the 1990s are very different. I recommend this book for anyone who lives under capitalism and will someday die.
  • Sue
    Too many better, illustrated and humorous books written since this book's inception (60s) about Thanatopsis: Death, Dying, and Mortality to consider this one. It's too dry; reads like a scholarly term paper. ugh
  • Renee
    3.5 Eh, interesting but a little dry