Book Review: All the Living and the Dead

08.16.2022 | St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 4/5 stars


We are surrounded by death. It is in our news, our nursery rhymes, our true-crime podcasts. Yet from a young age, we are told that death is something to be feared. How are we supposed to know what we’re so afraid of, when we are never given the chance to look? Fueled by a childhood fascination with death, journalist Hayley Campbell searches for answers in the people who make a living by working with the dead. Along the way, she encounters mass fatality investigators, embalmers, and a former executioner who is responsible for ending sixty-two lives. She meets gravediggers who have already dug their own graves, visits a cryonics facility in Michigan, goes for late-night Chinese with a homicide detective, and questions a man whose job it is to make crime scenes disappear.

I tend to stick to true crime when it comes to non-fiction picks, but after reading Mary Roach’s book Stiff, I’ve been seeking out non-fiction titles that focus on the complexities of death. Before you think this book sounds like too morbid of a read, know that Campbell’s book is about more than death. There is so much care and compassion throughout this book from both Campbell and those she interviews. I was touched so many times from the first-hand accounts of the interviewees and I learned far more than I ever thought possible from this book. Sure, death is macabre, but it’s also something that we’re all going to face one day, so why not take the time to learn more? I greatly appreciate all of the work that went into this book and highly recommend it!

🎧: If you’re like me and prefer your non-fiction on audio, Campbell is the narrator for her own book and hearing it told by her certainly added something special to the experience!

A huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press for my gifted copy!

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