Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
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).

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Details

Book TitleSmoke Gets in Your Eyes
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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Reviews

  • Wayne Barrett
    Dec 17, 2016

    Wayne Barrett

    Interesting and humorous piece. Most of the humor happens in the beginning when she is stumbling through her first experiences working in a mortuary. I would say she is also stumbling through her own questions of life and death and in the beginning could be a little light-hearted about...

  • Jay Green
    Nov 2, 2016

    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 since we followed his wishes and had him cremated, this book seemed like it would offer ...

  • Laura
    Oct 2, 2016


    Societally, death simultaneously intrigues and terrifies us; it is an ever present aspect in our lives and perhaps the one certainty we can all expect to encounter. This is an interesting, sensitively written account of how a young woman in her twenties finds herself caring for the dea...

  • John
    Jun 15, 2016


    I considered giving this one five stars, but honestly felt the last part was "coasting" rather than holding my interest. What worked for me is that it was an inside look at the funeral industry from the point-of-view of a staffer, rather than a funeral director. The crematorium machine...

  • Clif Hostetler
    Jun 6, 2016

    Clif Hostetler

    This book provides a thorough description of bodily death and decomposition. Death is part of life. But it has been mostly hidden from our lives by modern western culture. So the material from this book is bitter medicine for most readers unaccustomed to these details. It's an unpleasa...

  • Cat  (cat-thecatlady)
    May 26, 2016

    Cat (cat-thecatlady)

    this is by far one of my favourite books read this year.let me tell you something about myself: I'm absolutely terrified of death. any death, mine or the people around me. I've never even seen a dead body irl. so this book was a curious choice to pick up but I felt like it would be goo...

  • Book Riot Community
    May 10, 2016

    Book Riot Community

    A little bit morbid, a little bit gross, a whole lot empowering. That’s basically the only way I can describe this book. Caitlin Doughty has been obsessed with death her whole life, so it’s only natural she goes to work at a crematory. In her tales, she busts a lot of myths a...

  • Marie
    May 8, 2016


    “What does not kill me makes me stronger.” – NietzscheI was thoroughly impressed by this memoir and social commentary on death and dying written by such a young woman. Caitlin Doughty, at the age of 23, has produced an impressive, well researched commentary on how we as ...

  • Will Byrnes
    Dec 10, 2015

    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 else, the phrase every girl truly wants to hear is, “Hi, this is Amy ...

  • Elyse
    Nov 22, 2015


    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 minutes from my house), - who died this year of Lung Cancer.., THIS book arrives in my m...