The American Way of Death

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The American Way of Death
First edition
Author Jessica Mitford
Country United States
Language English
Genre Exposé
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 238
OCLC 231893352
Preceded by Hons and Rebels
Followed by The Trial of Dr. Spock, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr., Michael Ferber, Mitchel Goodman, and Marcus Raskin

The American Way of Death is an exposé of abuses in the funeral home industry in the United States, written by Jessica Mitford and published in 1963. Feeling that death had become much too sentimentalized, highly commercialized, and, above all, excessively expensive, Mitford published her research, which, she argues, documents the ways in which funeral directors take advantage of the shock and grief of friends and relatives of loved ones to convince them to pay far more than necessary for the funeral and other services, such as availability of so-called "grief counselors," a title she claims is unmerited.

An updated revision, The American Way of Death Revisited, completed by Mitford just before her death in 1996, appeared in 1998.

In keeping with her wishes, Mitford herself had an inexpensive funeral, which cost $533.31 – she was cremated without a ceremony, and the ashes scattered at sea; the cremation itself cost $475.[1] The funeral company was the Pacific Interment Service, which prides itself on "dignity, simplicity, affordability".[2]


  1. ^ "Red Sheep: How Jessica Mitford found her voice" by Thomas Mallon 16 Oct 2007 New Yorker
  2. ^ An expensive way to go. (The Business of Bereavement), The Economist (US edition), January 4, 1997