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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


"Morbid and illuminating" (Entertainment Weekly)—a young mortician goes behind the scenes of her curious profession.

Armed with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre, Caitlin Doughty took a job at a crematory and turned morbid curiosity into her life’s work. She cared for bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, and became an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. In this best-selling memoir, brimming with gallows humor and vivid characters, she marvels at the gruesome history of undertaking and relates her unique coming-of-age story with bold curiosity and mordant wit. By turns hilarious, dark, and uplifting, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes reveals how the fear of dying warps our society and "will make you reconsider how our culture treats the dead" (San Francisco Chronicle).

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 11, 2014 – In this valiant effort Doughty, a Hawaii-born LA mortician and creator of the web series "Ask a Mortician," uses her work as a crematorium operator at the family-owned Westwind Cremation and Burial in Oakland, Calif., to challenge the way we view death. Having studied medieval history in college, Doughty found an early job with the real deal: feeding the two huge "retorts," the cremation machines in the Westwind warehouse, with corpses some not so fresh retrieved by order from private homes or, more often, from hospitals, nursing homes, and the coroner's office. Doughty was eager to prove her mettle, and offered to do any number of odious tasks, such as shaving corpses, or otherwise helping Bruce the embalmer prepare them for the bereaved family's viewing: pumping them with the "salmon pink cocktail" of formaldehyde and alcohol, wielding the trusty trocar, and sewing closed mouths and eyelids. Her descriptions about picking dead babies up from the hospital prove particularly difficult to read. Nonetheless, Doughty does stare death in the face, by tracking down numerous ancient rituals (she observes approvingly how some Eastern cultures still participate in the preparing of the body), pursuing fascinating new words such as "desquamation" and "bubblating" (both refer to excess fluids), and celebrating the natural function of decomposition.

Customer Reviews


I'm so glad to learn more about the death industry from Caitlin. A longtime fan of her "Ask a Mortician" YouTube series, I find the book maintains her idiosyncrasies and voice. I quickly finished the book, wishing there were more stories in it . I love the juxtaposition of history with personal anecdotes. Fantastic, and a worthy read.

Amazing and thought provoking read.

Very interesting book and very well written. Keeps you interested, and also really makes you think about life in general. 5 stars.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

This was a terrific book Caitlin. Well written, witty, and serious all at the same time. My own grandparents spent their adult lives as Funeral Home operators in the Midwest, starting in the early part of the century. I was always struck at how they were willing to accept tools, chickens, and other personal treasures in lieu of money to pay for funerals. Perhaps even they saw the wrong in the way of the new age funeral industry. You have captured this humanity both in this book and in your professional life today. This was a wonderful read. Thank you.

Dan Fox-Gliessman

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory
View in iTunes
  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Sep 15, 2014
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Seller: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
  • Print Length: 256 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings