Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maryland and Environs


Doughty, Caitlin. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory. W.W.Norton & Company, 2014. A candid and often quite humorous memoir of a young woman who took a job in a crematory after graduating from college with a degree in medieval history.  Not only does she relate many unusual experiences she had over a number of years, she reveals many of the practices used in the industry that they would rather the public not know.  A review of the book can be found in the Winter 2015 edition of Plain Talk, the FCAME Newsletter, a copy of which can be found on this website under Publications.

Slocum, Joshua and Lisa Carlson. Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death. Upper Access Books, 2011. This book is both an update to Carlson’s Caring for the Dead and a new book by Slocum, the nation’s foremost advocate for funeral consumer rights who has been executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, the national, non-profit education and advocacy organization, since 2003.  The book examines the death-care business as it existed in 2011 and includes  descriptions of laws and regulations regarding funeral and cemetery products and services in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Carlson, Lisa. Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love. Upper Access Books, 1998. This Comprehensive guide contains personal stories, including those of the author, general information about all aspects of after-death care and the funeral industry, and information about managing things oneself. It includes information about starting a funeral committee in one’s church, and has separate chapters on considerations as they apply in each state. An excellent resource.

Goodman, Rabbi Arnold. A Plain Pine Box: A Return to Simple Jewish Funerals and Eternal Traditions. KTAV Publishing House, 1981, augmented edition 2003. This slim book recounts the experience of a congregational group dedicated to providing a simple and traditional funeral and grief support for members, without expense, relying on volunteers and a negotiated fee with a local mortuary for certain essential elements. Its message and guidance would be valuable not only for Jewish people but also for anyone wishing to learn about methods of conducting a simple and dignified funeral.

Harris, Mark. Grave Matters: A Journey Through The Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial. Scribner, 2007. A compendium of information about alternative funeral and burial practices.

Hogan, Pat. Alison’s Gift, NosilA Publishing, Silver Spring, 1999. This book is about the death and after-death care of Alison, the 7 year old daughter of Beth Knox, who was inspired by her experience to found “Crossings,” a consultation service to help others take control of the care of their loved ones after death. The book is an inspiring tribute to Alison and her family, and it describes how Beth found ways to make Alison’s after-death care an intimate and natural part of letting her go.

Mitford, Jessica, The American Way of Death Revisited. Vintage Books, 1998. This is an updated and revised version of the original, which broke new ground in exposing the often deceptive and self-serving practices common in the American funeral industry in 1963. Some practices changed as a result of Jessica Mittford bringing them to light, but others remain. Reading this book is an excellent first step in protecting oneself from exploitation when arranging after-death care. The book is well-written and witty.

Morgan, Ernest. Dealing Creatively with Death. Upper Access Books, 14th ed., 2001. This book contains a wealth of helpful practical information about a variety of topics related to the end of life. Most helpful are the chapters on simple burials and cremations, creating meaningful death ceremonies, bereavement, and organ donation. There are good references. The author has been active in a committee that does the after-death care for his Quaker spiritual group for years.

Poer, Nancy Jewel. Living into Dying: A Journal of Spiritual and Practical Deathcare for Family and Community. White Feather Publishing Company, 2002. This book details the author’s extensive experience with family undertaking and wakes at home. It includes extensive practical information and inspiring stories with spiritual implications.