lessons from the crematorium

This month’s book club selection was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty. The book club I joined alternates between fiction and non-fiction every month, and I originally thought I would be skipping a lot of the non-fiction months, but I was really intrigued by this book. (To be fair, I joined not very long ago, so there have only been two non-fiction months for me so far, so I guess I’m sitting at 50% participation on non-fiction.)

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was first published in 2015, and was apparently a New York Times bestseller, so maybe a lot of people already know about it (?) If you don’t, it’s basically about Doughty’s experience with working in the funeral (or death) industry — mostly about her time working at a crematorium.

But the book wasn’t just written to tell us what it’s like working at a crematorium and to describe dead bodies to us. Doughty also seems to be fascinated by rituals surrounding death, and with people’s beliefs and thoughts about death and dying. It’s something that will happen to everyone but people don’t really talk about it, don’t really understand it. Continue reading

keep going

The other day, reflecting back on how trying this year has been, a colleague asked me if I was ready for this year to be over. My first thought was “yes”, since I’d actually had that exact thought a day or two before she asked me. But in a split second, I changed my answer.

Changing the year isn’t going to change anything. Doing things changes things. As nice as it would be to pass through some kind of temporal gate into the new year with a steward standing guard to prevent the passage of the trials and challenges of the preceding year — it’s just not going to happen.

Is it too soon to be thinking about the end of the year? Continue reading

a literary numbers lessons

Time to rewind to the end of July. This is the post I would have written last week had I had the time.

On the last Saturday of July, I went to my first book club meeting. It makes it sound incredibly formal to call it a “meeting” but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to call it. It was actually very casual: we (a group of about nine people plus dog) sat around a big table eating pizza while chatting about the club’s book of the month.

I’d wanted to find and join book clubs before, but since I’m not a very fast reader, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up, and would end up skipping a lot of meetings, or just giving up. The other reason I never joined one was because I was worried about getting “stuck” reading book club selections, and never having time for the books I really wanted to read.

Yet it’s always such a joy to meet other bookish people, and to have other readers to talk to about bookish things. Literary past-times tend to slip out of people’s lives once they leave school, so it’s been hard to find other bookish people (with similar tastes). Continue reading