Monday, August 27

The Book of Death - Sarah McKenzie, Liz Poole and Amanda McKenzie

The subtitle, Kicking the Bucket in Style, isn't really representative of the contents of this interesting, Australian-centric exploration of death and the death industry. The authors have written a novel for the layperson who has questions about death - they discuss what death is (changing definitions as medical technology's advanced), common anxieties about it and what to do, what physical changes occur after death (a day-by-day detailing of the first two months, from pre-rigor mortis to decomposition and mummification), an overview of death workers (from health care through to mediums), recommendations for planning one's own death (more funeral and legal planning than methods, although there is a brief section on euthanasia), and a little on the possibiliy of an afterlife.
The tone throughout is calm and a little upbeat - there are quizzes, quotes and final words sprinkled throughout, and a reassuring tone for those who haven't quite come to terms with the finality of life.
This project has clearly been well researched, and is undoubtably a valuable jumping off point for the uninformed, and it was refreshing to read something so closely tied to the Australian experience, however, who already have a grip on the essentials, The Book of Death is a little simplistic; as thanatology is an aspect of one of my fields of endeavour, I did find myself a little frustrated with the fundamental nature of the text, but suspect this is substantially, if not solely, as a result of my previous reading and experience. - Alex-

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