New book explores the how humans have tried to understand death through the ages
A. van Utrecht, Andreagrossmann/Wikimedia Commons
Death: A Graveside Companion
Joanna Ebenstein (ed.)
Thames & Hudson, $40
Death: A Graveside Companion makes for an unusual coffee-table book, with its coppery etched Grim Reaper on the cover. Yet you may be surprised by how much fun it is to pore through the book’s lavish artwork of skulls, cadavers and fanciful imaginings of the afterlife.
There is, after all, a reason for the term “morbid curiosity.” It’s only natural for people to try to understand and come to terms with their inevitable demise, and as the book reveals, it is only in modern Western society that the topic of death has become so taboo. Even as recently as Victorian times, the book notes, the dead were laid out in the family parlor, their hair cut off and twisted to make