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

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

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.

Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight. She demystifies death, leading us behind the black curtain of her unique profession. And she answers questions you didn’t know you had: Can you catch a disease from a corpse? How many dead bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? What exactly does a flaming skull look like?

Honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic, Caitlin's engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Caitlin argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).

Title:Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780393351903
Format Type:

About Caitlin Doughty

Mortician Caitlin Doughty—host and creator of


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

  • Will Byrnes

    There are many words a woman in love longs to hear. “I’ll love you forever, darling,” and “Will it be a diamond this year?” are two fine examples. But young lovers take note: above all els...

  • Petra X

    I finished the book. The first part is 2-star fluffy. The main part is 5-star interesting with lots of gems on what we really look like dead and how even dead premature babies get shaved of their lanu...

  • Melki

    Ten months into my job at Westwind, I knew death was the life for me. When Caitlin Doughty took a job at a California crematory, she learned more than just how to dispose of dead bodies. The daily exp...

  • Elyse

    Call me morbid? ....ghastly?.....Bonkers? Right after I finished reading the memoir "When Breath Becomes Air", by Paul Kalanithi- a 4th year medical student working at Stanford Hospital ...(only 30 mi...

  • Debbie

    I think this book gets the award for best opening line."A girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves." So, yeah, I was pulled in from the beginning. Caitlin is 23 and lands her first job as a m...

  • Diane

    I saw this title on a few Best Of lists for the year, but I thought it was just OK.Caitlin Doughty worked at a crematory in the San Francisco area. She said she had been both fascinated by and terrifi...

  • Carole (Carole's Random Life in Books)

    This review was also posted at Carole's Random LifeThis was the best little book that I didn't even know that I wanted to read. I have to say that I would have probably never picked this book up for m...

  • Sandy Reilly

    Amazing! Yes, it is about death, but not in the way one would typically think. It was difficult for me to describe this book to friends who asked what I was currently reading, as most would give me a ...

  • Jessica

    I’ve had more first-hand experience with death than just about anyone else I know in my age group. By the time I hit thirty, I’d lost three grandparents (five, if you let me count my high-school b...

  • Jay Green

    Yes, I finished it on Halloween. Perfect! Except I would have been happy for it to have had another 100 pages to devour. I'm still on a kind of coming-to-terms-with-Dad's-death reading program, and si...