10 Books that Should be on Every Funeral Professional's Reading List

Posted December 7, 2016

6 min read

We’ve compiled 10 of the top books that you should consider putting on your reading list in the next year. Whether it be staying up-to-date with best practices in business or carving out time to read some of our profession’s most fascinating short stories, these books are sure to delight.

1. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

If you’re looking to spur change in your firm, this book is for you, and possible others in your business.

You may have heard one of Sinek’s powerful speeches, or read one of his other books on leadership and transformative habits. Start With Why is no different. Sinek writes the book, starting with one key question: “Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others?”

He expands on the question, saying, “Why do some [firms] command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike?”

Sinek explains that the answer can be found in knowing your authentic “why.” After reading this book, you’ll feel more inspired (and be more equipped) to create change in your firm.

2. Dead Center: Behind the Scenes at the World’s Largest Medical Examiner’s Office by Shiya Ribowsky and Tom Shachtman

Shiya Ribowsky, the former director of special projects at the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office and one of America’s most experienced medicolegal investigators, has a few stories to tell about the largest, most sophisticated organization of its kind in the world.

Ribowsky gives a compelling, and sometimes heartbreaking, insider’s look at the New York City’s medical examiner’s office, with never-before-seen details about death and the city itself. It’s more than a story that sheds light on big city crime and death—it’s also a story about humanity and life.

3. Celebrating a Life: Planning Memorial Services and Other Creative Remembrances by Faith Moore

Funeral professionals are aware people are moving away from the “traditional” rituals of years past. Author Faith Moore, who has her own event planning company, Faith Moore & Associates, describes services that are more personal, meaningful, and memorable than ever. This book can you help you as you help families not only think about their own death but reimagine the way they will say good-bye.

4. Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends and Friends into Customers by Seth Godin

So-called “traditional” advertising aimed to take families’ attention away from whatever they were doing in order to deliver a message.

In his book, Godin explains his idea of “permission marketing,” the assertion that advertising and marketing can be about providing and giving access to valuable information that can help families make better decisions. No longer is it about disrupting or interrupting families to get the message across.

Throughout the book, Godin explains how this kind of marketing and advertising is a privilege—rather than a right—and that businesses must remember that idea. This book is a must-read if you want to understand and learn fundamental strategies that can help you look at your outward communications and marketing in a whole new way.

5. The New York Times Book of the Dead: 320 Print and 10,000 Digital Obituaries of Extraordinary People by William McDonald

In this notable book, The New York Times’ obituary editor, William McDonald, takes 320 of the most important, fascinating, often surprising, and influential obits from the newspaper’s archives.

Read obits from the likes of Annie Oakley, Theodore Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson and Prince which come alongside more than 150 photos throughout the book.

6. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow

Much can be said and written about the idea of one’s legacy. Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give one such ‘last lecture.’ Having recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer, he gave a lecture titled, ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,’ which wasn’t a talk about dying. Instead it was a speech about living.

In the book, Pausch shares more advice on living—including lessons about hope, optimism, sense of humor, determination, and how to make the most out of our lives.

7. A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die by Gail Rubin

Implementing creative, meaningful and memorable end-of-life rituals for people and pets is no easy task, but in this book, Rubin provides actionable advice for far-reaching aspects of end-of-life planning. Although intended for those we serve, it’s also a beneficial read and reference guide for funeral professionals, with insights that can be used with families to reduce family conflict and avoid stress as a time when they are grieving.

8. Funerals to Die For: The Craziest, Creepiest, and Most Bizarre Funeral Traditions and Practices Ever by Kathy Benjamin

No list would be complete without a book that unveils some of the rich (and dark) history of funeral rites.

For example, did you know that burials for animals date back to at least 2500 B.C., and both Alexander the Great and the Egyptian pharaohs built tombs for their dogs and horses? Or does it surprise you to learn that the Egyptians weren’t the true pioneers of mummification?

While you may know one or two of these stories or rites, you’ll still undoubtedly discover new and fascinating trivia about funeral customs from around the world.

9. Pardon My Hearse: A Colorful Portrait of Where the Funeral and Entertainment Industries Met in Hollywood by Allan Abbott and Greg Abbott

Allan Abbott ran the leading hearse, mortuary, and funeral services company in Hollywood, which gave him a glimpse at how celebrities live—and die. From helping to prepare Marilyn Monroe’s body for burial, to standing next to Christopher Walken at Natalie Wood’s funeral, Abbott is a man full of stories. In this memoir, he shares his personal story alongside a true-life look at celebrities in some of their most revealing moments.

10. The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell

John Maxwell, the #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has been called “America’s #1 leadership authority” delivers a must-read book for any funeral professional who wants to increase self-awareness over time as well as grow their leadership.

Allowing for further reflection and self-development, Maxwell’s book covers 21 character qualities that the most effective leaders possess. Not only are those characteristics identified, but Maxwell also provides information so that leaders can absorb the knowledge and begin to apply it to their own approach in leading others.

Think we missed a book? Let us know on Twitter @getcrakn.

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