Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Hello, blog world.

Life, man. I’ve been busy (If I had a dollar for every time I wrote that phrase…). But, in truth, I have not felt like reading. At all. I have liked the books I have picked up, but at the end of the day, I have no motivation to actually dive into a book. So, I’ve been forcing myself to do a little reading most nights, and feel like I may be getting back into the swing. Hopefully. I genuinely have no reason to NOT be reading, but I have been choosing to go to bed early instead. Alright, enough, let’s talk books.

I finished Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty about two weeks ago. I started it in Philadelphia while on a work trip, continued it in Ann Arbor on another work trip, and finished it in my bed at home. I first heard about this book from a student who I work with. He was taking a literature course exploring death in literature, and would regularly read outside of my office. So, we had a little routine where I (rudely) interrupted, interrogated, and added items to my reading list.

So, when a wonderful person who I work with offered to loan me this book, I jumped. I was reading another book at the time, but had no motivation, so I thought this could be a kick in the pants.

I am obsessed with this book, and was having flashbacks to reading Stiff by Mary Roach. Both approach death with a curiosity and a light humor. I had no previous knowledge about cremation, and learned a lot. I learned that living in North America makes it extremely unlikely that I will ever see a body that is actually decomposing. I learned that, in a society who focuses so much on youth, we sure do not handle the dying well. And, ultimately, I learned that after I die I do not want my body embalmed, and want a green burial. My grandfather is donating his body to Michigan State University – another option to me.

I highly recommend this book if you do not know much about cremation (warning: the baby chapter is a little tough). It certainly helped me narrow down what I want to have happen after I am gone. If you read this, let me know, I’d love to talk about it!


PSA – Doughty recently released another book. Check it out here. 



Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories

I am really enjoying vacation. I have not been to work in one week, and have six days until I have to be back, which is completely and totally lovely. I have not done as much reading as I should have, but I have done plenty of relaxing and spending time with family.

My Christmas 2016 Book Haul

This afternoon I finished a collection of short stories by Alifa Rifaat, Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories. It’s relatively short, but took me a while to get through due to traveling, preparing for the holiday, and wrapping things up for 2016. Alifa Rifaat was an Eqyptian writer. The stories in this book focus on what everyday life looked like in Rifaat’s Egypt. Her writing focuses on familial relationships, and the routines of everyday life, including the five daily prayers. Rifaat describes a society that is male-dominated, but her writing reveals some flaws in such a culture.

My favorite story in this collection is Badriyya and Her Husband. This story is about a young woman who lives with her mother. Her mother does not approve of Badriyya’s husband, a man who has just been released from jail for stealing. He comes back, but their problems do not end just because he has come home. All of Rifaat’s stories have a punch in their final line, but the final line of this story broke my heart in addition to punching me in the gut. It’s really lovely writing/translation.

Remi enjoyed Rifaat, as well.

I am the only person who has ever checked this book out from the library at the university where I work! There are only 56 reviews of it on Goodreads, so I am assuming it is not a widely known book. I encourage you to pick it up!

I only read 18 books this year. Hopefully I can read one or two more before the new year, as my goal was 55 books! Oops. Did anyone else fail miserably with their reading goal this year?


Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers

I’m excited to announce that I graduated with my MA of Higher Education in Student Affairs on Saturday! It’s been an exciting journey, but I am happy that I will be able to dedicate more time to reading for pleasure.

Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach is not on my books-to-read-in-your-20s list, but I finished it last week. This book is not lengthy, but it did take me a while to read. It’s actually the first book that I have finished on my Nook. I hope to do more e-reading, but I have so many paper books that it’s difficult to justify purchasing e-books sometimes.

File_000 (1)

Stiff has been on many book lists that I have seen over the years, and I often hear it recommended on a few of the podcasts I follow. I cannot remember what initially caused me to download this book, but I found it extremely interesting! I anticipated a lot of strange looks whenever I talked about it (and I did get those looks), but I could not stop telling people about what I was reading.

I am a terrible person to travel with because I do not fly well. I get incredibly anxious on airplanes, and always fear that each flight will be my last. Oddly enough, my favorite chapter in Stiff was about plane crashes! It was so interesting to read about how researchers have determined the cause of death when planes go down, and the accounts from plane crash survivors made me feel better about flying.

I highly recommend this book. Roach has a great sense of humor and her writing is excellent. There are parts of this book I have not read in months, yet I can clearly remember scenes from the early chapters. My grandfather has said he wants to donate his body to science, and I feel better about that decision after reading this book. We live in a world that focuses on making a difference, figuring out your meaning, and living your life to the fullest. Roach presents what we do not like to think about – rotting bodies and human pieces floating in formaldehyde – but she sheds light on how those who have died can help the living. Even if you don’t go on to donate your body to science, it will make you more aware of what your options are, and provide you with a better understanding of what happens to our bodies, and the potential of what they can do after we leave them.