People love to read books about death. Perhaps we hope that reading about death might give us more control over it — with knowledge comes power. To have power over death through knowledge would surely end that terrible grief that death presents us with. Here are 10 texts that communicate powerfully about these essential matters of spirituality and metaphysics.
1. The Bible
The Bible is one of the most widely published and widely translated books about life and death in the world. There have been more than 6 billion copies printed and distributed in more than 2,000 languages, and another 1,300 translations into new languages are currently in progress.
2. The Tibetan Book of the Dead
This book of Tibetan prayers is considered very holy, even by non-Tibetans, and the English translation has become a beloved source of spiritual guidance and comfort. This book contains the prayers that Tibetan people recite during the ceremony of “Liberation Through the Intermediate State Through Hearing.” It is believed that the recently deceased can hear the prayers being recited by their loved ones and that these prayers ease their passing through to a favorable rebirth.
3. ‘Paradise Lost’ by John Milton
This book-length poem attempts to “justify the ways of God to man” and tells the story of the Bible in epic poetic form. It begins with the invocation of the muse, the holy spirit, and tells the story of the fall of man and the state of the fallen angels. It was written under supervision of the Roman Catholic church and was published in 1667. The sheer beauty of Milton’s poetry is unrivaled in the English language.
4. ‘On Death and Dying’ by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
This text takes a psychological approach to the topic of death and is most famous for outlining the stages of grief. The model of the stages of grief has been used to help many people see grief as a process that they can move through, as opposed to an overwhelming static pain that will not pass.
5. Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’
Vampires were famous in mythology long before Bram Stoker wrote his version of “Dracula,” published in 1897. The combination of poetic skill, romantic plot, eternal love and the curse that immortality brings has redefined what vampires mean to modern readers.
6. Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’
Written in 1818, “Frankenstein” tells the chilling tale of the quest for immortality guided by scientific hubris — one that cannot help but end in tragedy. Shelley wrote her novel as a way to communicate her concerns about the industrial revolution and the lack of ethics she saw in the practice of science during her lifetime.
7. ‘Tuesdays With Morrie’ by Mitch Albom
Since its publication in 2002, Mitch Albom’s memoir about the lessons he learned from his dying professor about living with loving intention has sold more than 12 million copies. It is included on course reading lists in high schools, colleges and universities around the world.
8. ‘Necronomicon’ by H.P. Lovecraft
The “Necronomicon” is an often-searched-for fictional grimoire, a book of magic, that purportedly lays a curse of death upon anyone who attempts to read it. The title is a neologism invented by Lovecraft that means “Book of the Dead.” Ironically, although it is mentioned in many Lovecraft novels, there is no known copy of the “Necronomicon” in existence.
9. ‘The Fall of Freddie the Leaf : A Story of Life for All Ages’ by Leo Buscaglia
Famous psychologist, Dr. Leo Buscaglia, is the author of this illustrated book that has become one of the most beloved books of all time for helping families deal with grief.
10. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R. Tolkien
Tolkien’s epic novel and the compendious “Notes” that follow explore a phenomenal array of concepts about mortality and immortality, as they describe the mortal and immortal races of people living and fighting in the same elaborate and fantastic landscape.