Death on Earth – Adventures in Evolution and Mortality provides an eclectic mix of personal observation and questioning, scientific information, and observations from death professionals in conversation with the author.
At times I found that the wonderings of the author overlapped the focus of the writing in ways that clouded the chapter focus. However, perhaps this is simply part of humans grappling with unknowns at the end of life. I read Jules Howard’s book whilst travelling, which I like to do because I can read without distractions. Don’t be fooled by the size of the book – although looking like an average paperback there is a lot of information inside, along with a variety of perspectives on death, mortality, sex, and life.
Yup, sex. Because one of the aspects of life frequently obscured in discussions of death/dying/mortality is the fact that without sex there is no life – they are inevitably intertwined. As a sex-positive end of life consultant and educator I was quite delighted to see that the importance of sex to reproduction and the impact sex has at all levels of life was not glossed over.
Howard pays a lot of attention to the scientific and the factual, which I particularly enjoy, so if you are looking for a fluffy read this book may not be your first port of call. However, as an end of life professional and social scientist I think Death on Earth is thought-provoking, occasionally quite funny, and sometimes frustrating; arguably all of these are the hallmarks of a good book. The parts I struggled with relate to discussions attempting to equate the responses of other animals to those of human animals, and is a personal bugbear of my own… many other readers may not even notice.
For those of us curious about the arc of life and what constitutes death and happens to physical remains after death (along with some interesting information about ritual and cultural narratives around death for humans) this is a good addition to your bookshelf.