All the Living and the Dead

From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life's Work

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 16 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 30 Aug 2022


A deeply compelling exploration of the death industry and the people—morticians, detectives, crime scene cleaners, embalmers, executioners—who work in it and what led them there.

We are surrounded by death. It is in our news, our nursery rhymes, our true-crime podcasts. Yet from a young age, we are told that death is something to be feared. How are we supposed to know what we’re so afraid of, when we are never given the chance to look?

Fueled by a childhood fascination with death, journalist Hayley Campbell searches for answers in the people who make a living by working with the dead. Along the way, she encounters mass fatality investigators, embalmers, and a former executioner who is responsible for ending sixty-two lives. She meets gravediggers who have already dug their own graves, visits a cryonics facility in Michigan, goes for late-night Chinese with a homicide detective, and questions a man whose job it is to make crime scenes disappear.

Through Campbell’s incisive and candid interviews with these people who see death every day, she asks: Why would someone choose this kind of life? Does it change you as a person? And are we missing something vital by letting death remain hidden? A dazzling work of cultural criticism, All the Living and the Dead weaves together reportage with memoir, history, and philosophy, to offer readers a fascinating look into the psychology of Western death.

A deeply compelling exploration of the death industry and the people—morticians, detectives, crime scene cleaners, embalmers, executioners—who work in it and what led them there.

We are surrounded by...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781250281845
PRICE $29.99 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (EPUB)
Send to Kindle (EPUB)
Download (EPUB)

Average rating from 26 members

Featured Reviews

If you liked Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty or Stiff by Mary Roach you HAVE to read All the Living and the Dead. This book is segmented into chapters dedicated to a specific part of the death process: be it cleaning a crime scene, embalming, or disaster relief. I couldn't stop turning the pages to learn more about the people in this industry who bring so much life and hope in contrast with what I originally thought. Highly recommend.

Was this review helpful?

I was absolutely enthralled by this book from the very first page. I’ve always been intrigued by death. The history of how our bodies were handled, the rituals around it, the science of exactly what happens to us postmortem. A book like this could easily become heavy and dark, but Hayley was able to convey these things in an easily digestible way. Her exploration of death was refreshing, informative and thought provoking. Well done!

Was this review helpful?

As someone who has read a lot of books about death, I already knew I was going to enjoy reading All the Living and the Dead. It hits so many of my areas of interest. If you have read Mary Roach or any Caitlin Doughty. you will enjoy not only the content of this book but also how it is written!. (As other reviews have noted.) Hayley Campbell does an incredible job of making her subject of focus very approachable, which can be very difficult when talking about death. This book offers so much insight into the people involved in the death industry and the deep respect they have for what they do. I would absolutely recommend picking this book up!

Was this review helpful?

Absolutely excellent. Deserves a spot next to Caitlin Doughty and Carla Valentine. A recommended first purchase for all collections.

Was this review helpful?

All the Living and the Dead was a super interesting read for anyone curious about the "death industry". Campbell approaches the subject with grace and respect for the dead. She also makes the writing easy to digest and very informative! I first read Mary Roach's "Stiff" to get acquainted with this topic; this book is a great companion to that!

Was this review helpful?

I’ve always been fascinated with death and Hayley Campbell does a great job keeping my attention. I enjoyed getting glimpses of different professions and what/how they handle their occupations in the death community.

Was this review helpful?

All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell: This BOOK! If you’re like me and enjoy exploring the darker parts of humanity and what it means to, well, be…then this is for you. Campbell searches out people in the field of death, from the ones you expect (like a Funeral director) to the Unexpected (National Disaster Relief Teams) and just about everything in between. For fans of Caitlin Doughty but more journalistic, you need this in your life.

Was this review helpful?

This is a really neat book! It is so needed and I highly recommend it!
Once the deceased are actually dead, people go into a frenzy regarding the death and then the rituals needed.
I believe that we could all stand to understand it all a bit better.
"All the Living and the Dead" tells it as it is.
Well done!

Thank you to NetGalley and #St Martin's Press for this ARC and allowing me to provide my own review.

Was this review helpful?

I don't even know how to explain what a phenomenal read this was. Death, it's all around us. Whether we experienced a loss of a loved one, are addicted to murder shows, read thrillers that tangle it's plot around it, A history full of punishment and death. Images plastered throughout the web. It's literally everywhere. And we are kind of used to it.

But there are people who have dedicated their lives to death. Morticians, embalmers, crime scene cleaners and executioners to just name a few. How do these people look at death? How do they go home at the end of the day and continue to sit down and eat with their families, go to sleep at night and just plain accept all that they have seen and done throughout the day. Are they numb to it? Do they turn it off? Well Hayley Campbell sets out to get those answers. She spends her days with those who do these jobs, accompanying them throughout the day. Diving into their minds and feelings and the roles they play daily . I don't think I will ever look at some of these things the same gain. I have much more respect down those who do these jobs. And honestly in my opinion, some of these people might just be earths angels.

Was this review helpful?

This is a comprehensive and informative book about the plethora of jobs and processes involved in the death industry. Campbell describes her interviews with decency and respect for the workers, their tasks, and the care the workers provide. Although Campbell started the book long before the COVID-19 pandemic, I appreciate that she included a chapter focusing on how what she learned affected her views on life and on the pandemic.

Was this review helpful?

A haunting, poignant, and thought-provoking book on the reality of death, All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell is a must-read for the morbidly curious and for those who want to learn more about what it’s like to work behind death's door.

From embalmers to executioners, Journalist Hayley Campbell expertly dispels all myths I once believed surrounding death, getting down to the nitty-gritty and doing so with respect and brutal honesty. You definitely can't go wrong with this one.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for sending me an e-arc in exchange for my honest review!

Was this review helpful?

All the Living and the Dead is an amazing book. As I get older, sign up for Medicare and begin to face my own mortality in a more serious way, I have looked for books to help with this process. There is not a lot out there, and I hesitated before requesting this book from Netgalley, but Hayley Campbell has written about death and the many different people associated with it so well that I found the book informative and beautiful.

The author wrote the book because she wondered how people who have made death their work manage it on a daily basis.

“If the reason we’re outsourcing this burden is because it’s too much for us, how do they deal with it?”

Campbell interviews many different people associated with death - a funeral director, the director of anatomical services at Mayo Clinic, an embalmer, a crime scene cleaner, a death mask maker, an executioner, anatomic pathology technologist, bereavement midwife, gravediggers, crematorium operator, and even people at a cryonics institute. I learned that there are many more people involved with death than I ever thought, and with their varied viewpoints, I also learned that it's far more than just a job to many of them. The care and respect they feel and show in their work is evident, even if it's work that most people will never see and may not be appreciated. There are a few morbid details, but Campbell gets involved in some of these details, such as dressing a corpse, handling a brain during an autopsy, and raking remains from the crematorium. This helps to make them seem just a little less morbid.

The book never struck me as macabre or sensationalizing death, but I thought it was written with a fine balance between empathy and clinically explained details. I highly recommend Hayley Campbell and this book as a compassionate and honest way to read about death, ease your fears, and face mortality.

"The world is full of people telling you how to feel about death and dead bodies, and I don't want to be one of them - I don't want to tell you how to feel about anything, I only want you to think about it."

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book.

Was this review helpful?

I really liked that the author went and interviewed, found people to talk about their work with the dead. I found it very insightful.
I especially liked the part of the bereavement midwife, what a great innovation and one that is sorely needed.
The writing was plain and not too technical. The author went and watched each person work and asked a lot of good questions in regards to what it was that they did.
She covered just about everything from donating your body to science, freezing your body, cremation, and more.
The only part I was a bit concerned with was that she kept mentioning how she had no fear of death, wasn't grossed out by it,,,,then she saw the baby slip under the water....then the reader got to hear about that baby ad nausem.

A good book about death occupations.

Was this review helpful?

All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

A big thank you to @netgalley and @stmartinspress for this ARC! Swipe to see the synopsis.

This book was a spectacular work of journalism with only minor complaints. The big questions in this book that were answered - 1) what do you do? 2) why do you do it? And 3) how do you do it? Campbell was thorough in her investigation and provided her sources. (Hello TBR pile). She organized her thoughts and this book in a way that made sense. She let the people who worked in the death industries do the talking with minimal interference from her.

My biggest complaints surrounded around the treatment of the executioner. For the first time, it felt like Campbell had an idea of how she wanted him to answer, and she wasn’t satisfied with the answers provided from him. With all the other characters, the author seemed unbiased and nonjudgmental, but the whole tone shifted when she wrote about the executioner. I have so many questions about this tone shift.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who loved Stiff or similar books. I googled and investigated so many things in this book (looking at you death masks and crime scene cleanups). I closed the book feeling like I had learned. This one comes out in August, and I hope you all read it!

Was this review helpful?

From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life’s Work.

A well-documented book about Death. The people who deal with death, such as morticians, detectives, crime scene cleaners, embalmers, and the men who carry out executions.

Through interviews with these people, Ms. Campbell tells their stories. Why do they choose to work in such a grim and sad world? But death is part of life and thank goodness we have these people.

I wanted to be a mortician so I can understand her interest in the field. But I wonder too if it changes them in a fundamental way? We are fascinated with death in the Western world. But also terrified of it.

I enjoyed reading about all of these people and it was also very informative.

Good Job!

NetGalley/ August 16, 2022, St. Martin’s Press

Was this review helpful?

This was an unexpectedly moving book, thoughtful, candid and insightful. I’ve not been so gripped by this type of non-fiction since I read The Trauma Cleaner.

There are so many aspects in the industry of death and those who deal with it that I would never have imagined. There’s a major company who handles the “clean up” after massive disasters such as plane and train crashes, earthquakes, the Grenfell tower fire; there’s an artist who makes busts from death masks, preferably while they’re still warm in order to keep their likeness close to life; there are midwives who deal exclusively with stillbirths and pre-term deaths (I.e. the death of an underdeveloped fetus) — a chapter that had me in tears a couple of times.

I love Campbell’s writing style. She’s honest, matter of fact, embellishing only where appropriate. She puts herself into the stories and is honest about how she feels, but always lets the situation and the interviewees speak for themselves, whether it be the disaffected loudmouth who cleans up crime scene blood and gore for a living, or the friendly executioner who felt no moral responsibility for the hundreds of lives he’d taken over the decades, before dying of Covid last year.

It’s an excellent book, at times bizarre and funny, but each chapter is a new lesson that made me feel a little more informed about the death trade

Was this review helpful?

Thanks Netgalley for allowing me to read this book. This book takes readers on a journey focusing on death and the individuals who deal with it. This book was very insightful.

Was this review helpful?

It probably says something about me that I took a break from a rather sad book about race in the US, saw an invitation from Netgalley to read this book, and thought, yes, that would give me a change of pace. But a change of pace it was.

Hayley Campbell provides a fairly comprehensive look at the industry around death--about the behind-the-scenes workers most of us don't give much thought to: the crime scene cleaner, the funeral director, the grave digger, the man in charge of cadaver donations at a well-known research hospital. Most of the stories she relates are those of highly compassionate people and some truly touching stories. Just like we appreciate the firefighters or ambulance drivers and EMTs, we should tip our hats to people who so often work without any thanks.

Ms. Campbell is an outstanding writer and journalist and in All the Living and The Dead, she has created a riveting account of who takes care of us after death has claimed us.

Was this review helpful?

If you have a morbid side (like me), you'll love Hayley Campbell's All the Living and the Dead: From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life's Work. I've always been fascinated by this topic but have never read anything quite as original as this.

Each chapter focuses on someone who has a key role in death. This not includes the professions you typically think of (like funeral directors, embalmers, crematorium operators and gravediggers), but also people who work quietly behind the scenes (like crime scene cleaners) doing something no one else wants to (or has the stomach) to do. Campbell follows these people as they do their unheralded work, writing absolutely fascinating accounts of why each person is in their profession. Some accounts are truly heartbreaking, such as the one of the bereavement midwife.

I loved this book and found myself enthralled with each chapter. All the Living and the Dead takes people right into the death industry, wondering why we allow death to remain so hidden.


This book's expected publication date is August 16, 2022.

Was this review helpful?

4.5 rounded up

This is such an insightful look into careers most of us will never experience. It highlights and explores death in such a humble way. I really enjoyed this book, but it’s also quite heavy and at times emotional.

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: