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Reading Group Guide

  1. Book ImageSmoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

    Caitlin Doughty

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

A message from Caitlin Doughty

Hello, mortal:

It seems you have completed Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Whether you loved or hated the book, you’ve faced your own mortality—and for that I commend you.

This is an excellent first step, but it doesn’t stop here. Reading the book should be a jumping-off point to larger discussions with your friends, family, partners, and school and reading groups. Those discussions will lead to action, and soon enough you’ll be the most death-prepared person you know.

Your relationship with the prospect of death is a lifelong one. It will change and grow; there will be good days and bad days. But it will also be one of the more enriching relationships in your life. You do yourself many favors by preparing for—and having open conversations about—death and dying.

Discussion Questions

 

  1. What was the most “death-changing” fact you learned from Smoke Gets in Your Eyes?
  2. Do you discuss your end-of-life wishes with friends and family? Are there stories in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes that have changed the way you feel about those wishes or your plans to share them with others?
  3. To what extent do you think entrenched thinking—laws, customs, taboos—has informed the way you think about end-of-life care? What has reading Smoke Gets in Your Eyes revealed to you about those learned behaviors?
  4. Did you find the history of the American death industry surprising? Are its origins and its current state something you’ve thought about? Something you took for granted?
  5. What does death positivity mean to you? How could that meaning be different for different people and societies?
  6. What constitutes quality of life for an individual? Could there ever be said to be a standard? How does this question influence how we treat death in this country?
  7. Did you find some material in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes challenging to read? How have those passages contributed to your thinking about death?
  8. How do you think the media should address death and bodies when covering tragedies? What influence does the media have over the way we think about death today?
  9. What resources do you turn to in order to help guide your thinking about death and end-of-life choices? What resources do you turn to help guide your thinking about death and end-of-life choices? (See below for a list of resources recommended by Caitlin.)
  10. If you could ask Caitlin one question after reading the book, what would it be?

 

About Caitlin Doughty

Mortician Caitlin Doughty is a licensed mortician and the New York Times best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity. She is the creator of the “Ask a Mortician” web series and founder of The Order of the Good Death. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs her nonprofit funeral home, Undertaking LA.

Books by Caitlin Doughty

  1. Book CoverFrom Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

    A New York Times and Los Angeles Times Bestseller

    “Doughty chronicles [death] practices with tenderheartedness, a technician’s fascination, and an unsentimental respect for grief.” —Jill Lepore, The New YorkerMore

  2. Book CoverSmoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

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

  3. Book CoverWill My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death

    Best-selling author and licensed mortician Caitlin Doughty answers real questions from kids about death, dead bodies, and decomposition.More