Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death by Josh Slocum and Lisa Carlson. 512 pages, Upper Access Publishing.

Jessica Mitford’s classic exposé, The American Way of Death, drew back the curtain on the funeral industry’s excess. Final Rights investigates the $15-billion funeral and burial industry in 2011, exposing consumer abuse, financial exploitation of the bereaved, and how government regulators can’t be counted on to protect the grieving.

  • In eight states the law says you have to hire a funeral home, even if you want to care for deceased relative privately.
  • Almost $1 billion has been stolen from trust funds and insurance policies families paid for to ensure their last wishes were carried out. Where were the regulators?
  • Interested in a formaldehyde-free funeral? Better be careful, as the conventional burial industry is finding creative ways to make your green send-off as pricey as possible.
  • The Federal Trade Commission gives you specific protections when you buy from a funeral home, but they disappear when you get to the graveyard. Find out why, and how to watch your wallet at the graveside.

Final Rights takes on these topics and more, offering consumers a road-map to help themselves find a funeral that fits their needs and their budget. The only book of its kind, Final Rights includes a chapter on the laws in each state, written in plain English, with suggestions for needed reforms.

FCA Price: $19.95      Purchase           Download North Carolina Chapter

A Plain Pine Box: A Return to Simple Jewish Funerals and Eternal Traditions
by Rabbi Arnold M. Goodman. KTAV Publishing House, 2003, 120 pages. The story of a Minneapolis congregation that decided to offer free funerals to its members and, in so found itself challenged by dissension within the religious community.

FCA Price:  $12.00             FCA Member Price: $10.00   Purchase

Before I Go, You Should Know - Funeral Planning Kit. Every adult American should have one in the freezer. What? Before I Go, You Should Know — an end-of-life planning kit. (One copy of this is provided by FCAP to each member household.) Comes in a plastic button-tie pouch with state-specific Living Will and other advance medical directives, plus a 16-page write-in booklet with illustrations by Edward Gorey. Contains the brochure "Death Away from Home," a directory of U.S. funeral consumer groups, and a checklist of other important documents to store here (like military discharge papers). Order two for a couple.

FCA Price:  $12.00           Purchase

Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love by Lisa Carlson. Upper Access, 1998. 640 pages. A comprehensive tome on funeral law for the consumer, state-by-state — discusses how well, or not, prepaid funeral money is protected, ethical standards, and serves as a manual for families who wish to handle a death without the use of an undertaker. Lists crematories; also medical schools and the requirements for body donation. Comes with a list of state by state legal updates compiled by FCA staff. "Lisa Carlson has assembled with compassion the most comprehensive book ever produced on this subject." —John Wasik, Consumers Digest.

FCA Price:  $18.00            Purchase 

Care of the Dead: North Carolina General Statutes. A collection of North Carolina General Statutes that affect the practice of after-death care of the body, from filing death certificates to final disposition of the body. Compiled by Holly Stevens.

Print: $13.99            Download: $5.00         Purchase

Dealing Creatively with Death: A Manual of Death Education and Simple Burial by Ernest Morgan. Upper Access, 2000, NEW 14th edition. 160 pages. A concise and readable guide on simplicity in funeral arrangements, cremation, body and organ donation, advice on procedures at the time of death, suggestions for memorial services, and directions for building a simple plywood casket.

FCA Price: $17.00             Purchase

Grave Matters: A Journey Through The Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris. Scribner, 2007. 191 pages. Grave Matters follows families who found in "green" burial a more natural, more economic, and ultimately more meaninful alternative to the tired and toxic send-off on offer at the local funeral parlor. Harris covers embalming, home funerals, modern corporate cemeteries, memorial reefs for ashes, woodland burial, and much more. Each chapter ends with a helpful, bulleted list of the main points, and where you can go on the web to find out how to accomplish what the family profiled in each chapter did.

FCA Price: $26.25               FCA Member Price: $22.25   Purchase

I Died Laughing: Funeral Education with a Light Touch by Lisa Carlson. Upper Access, 2001. 96 pages. If death and funerals are difficult subjects in your family, here's one way to break the ice. The jokes and cartoons will keep you chuckling. There are a few rip-roaring belly-laughs here, too. As "Dear Abby" said, "This book proves that dying can be a laughing matter." Interspersed with the humor are pages of selected information to help you become a more educated funeral consumer. $8.75 (There is no member discount for this book as we are using it as a fund-raiser. Furthermore, at the request of the author, 50% of the publisher's profits will be donated to FCA. Buy several, to give to your friends.)

FCA Price: $11.00              Purchase

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. W.W.Norton, 2003, 304 pages. Roach’s raucously funny (and educational) New York Times bestseller takes you to all the places you thought no corpse had gone before. From the first chapter — A Head is a Terrible Thing to Waste — to the last — Remains of the Author — Stiff enlightens and convulses the reader with laughter.

FCA Price: $16.00               Purchase

The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford. Random House/Vintage. 1998. 296 pages. A scathing yet witty critique of the funeral industry. Mitford's gift is in using the industry's own words to make her points. Wickedly funny.

FCA Price: $16.25              FCA Member Price: $12.25     Purchase

You Only Die Once: Preparing for the end of life with grace and gusto by Margie Jenkins. Houston-based therapist Margie Jenkins is known for the wit and gentle humor she uses to approach a topic many would rather avoid. Through stories and step-by-step planning suggestions, Jenkins shows that preparing for the end of life can strengthen appreciation for the pleasures life offers here and now. Jenkins has been a popular speaker at the annual meetings of FCA affiliates around the country.

FCA Price: $12.25               Purchase

Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Piedmont
P.O. Box 14214
Greensboro, NC 27415-4214
Phone us
Email us
A 501(c)(3) organization