Common Mortuary School Books

(Please note. We are not a Mortuary School. We are a Funeral Home. These are the books we used when we attended.)

In no particular order, here is a list of almost all of the books necessary when attending Mortuary School in California. This is not meant to be an endorsement, but rather an insight to the topics you will study, while also giving you the opportunity to do your own studying and leg-work. I encourage you to take the time to research each book and also what they cost so that can decide if attending a school is right for you.

For a link to the American Board of Funeral Service Education, aka the people who are in charge of accrediting mortuary schools click here. You can find all the information your heart desires on schools in your state. Also I greatly encourage you to read the site's FAQ page on "How to become a Funeral Director" by clicking here, as every state has it's own rules and taking the initiative to learning them on your own is a great first step towards whatever your future goals are in the funeral industry.

*As a side note all reviews about the following text books in quotes are taken directly from Amazon.

"Funeral practices from Early Egyptian customs, early Christian customs, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, to modern day."

This incredibly brief synopsis is unintentionally funny because this book was often referred to as a "sleeping pill" or a "door stop". It's page after page of what should be quite interesting stuff. However, it seems to fall short. So, I laughed a little to myself to see that even the person who wrote the review for Amazon couldn't be bothered to muster up more than one sentence.

If you're lucky you may find an ex mortuary student who would be willing to sell you this at a discount because it, like many of the other required text books will set you back a pretty penny.

Understanding Dying, Death, and Bereavement

"Using a social-psychological approach, this edition remains solidly grounded in theory and research, but places greater emphasis on the individual and coping with death and dying. These two well-known authors and researchers integrate stimulating personal accounts throughout the text, and apply concepts to specific examples that deal with cross cultural perspectives and the practical matters of death and dying."

If you want to purchase this book on Amazon, my advice is to try to find an old edition that is no longer used so that you can save yourself some cash.

"Why do people die? How do you explain the loss of a loved one to a child? This book is a compassionate guide for adults and children to read together, featuring a read-along story and answers to questions children ask about death.

Talking about Death is a classic guide for parents helping their children through the death of a loved one. With a helpful list of dos and don'ts, an illustrated read-along dialogue, and a guide to explaining death, Grollman provides sensitive and timely advice for families coping with loss. This redesigned and updated edition explains what children at different developmental stages can and can't understand about death; reveals why it's crucial to be honest about death; helps you understand the way children express emotions like denial, grief, crying, anger, and guilt; and discusses children's reactions to different kinds of death, from the death of a parent to the death of a pet."

The Terminology of Health & Medicine

"This easy-to-use book contains a learner-friendly presentation of the most commonly used terms, abbreviations, drugs, diseases, and disorders related to health and medicine. It follows a body systems approach arranged by medical/surgical specialty areas. Chapter topics include: The Integumentary System: Dermatology; The Skeletal System: Orthopedics; The Muscular System: Rheumatology and Orthopedics; The Nervous System: Neurology and Neurosurgery; Special Senses: Opthamology and Otorhinolaryngology; The Endocrine System: Endocrinology; The Cardiovascular System: Cardiology; Blood, Lymph, and the Immune System: Hematology and Immunology; The Digestive System: Gastroenterology; The Respiratory System: Pulmonary Medicine; The Urinary System: Urology; The Female Reproductive System: Gynecology; The Male Reproductive System: Urology. For anyone who is interested in acquiring a basic understanding of medical terminology."

This book was not part of the Mortuary School curriculum, but I have added it as I think that it is a helpful course to take as it will aid in the familiarity of causes of death abbreviations when dealing with death certificates.


"Pathology and Microbiology for Mortuary Science is a comprehensive book for the study of pathology and microbiology written for mortuary science students, as a resource for educators, and as a reference for funeral directors and embalmers. The book is designed around the current American Board of Funeral Service Education's Curriculum Outlines for pathology and microbiology. Quick reference appendices provide a review of pertinent anatomy and physiology. Case studies in chapters that discuss specific diseases allow learners to review the postmortem condition of human remains in relation to the disease."

"Comprehensive and thoroughly updated in this fifth edition, Embalming: History, Theory, and Practice is the leading text in the field. The trusted classic covers the long history of embalming, explains embalming theory, and describes present practice, including the latest trends.

Special attention has been given to the creation of a safe working environment – from the standpoint of ergonomics, personal hygiene, and the use of embalming chemicals. Expanded technical areas of the book will assist you in the preparation of the body for viewing without using standard embalming chemicals. The fifth edition is also enhanced by a full-color 12-page insert demonstrating restorative arts and mortuary cosmetology."

"Dr. Worden presents the highly anticipated fourth edition to Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, the gold standard of grief therapy handbooks. The previous editions, translated into 12 languages, received worldwide acclaim for their sensitive, insightful, and practical approach to grief counseling. In this updated and revised fourth edition, Dr. Worden presents his most recent thinking on bereavement drawn from extensive research, clinical work, and the best of the new literature.
Key Features:

  • The task model has been modified to account for new thinking and research findings in the field, including meaning making, resilience, and continuing bonds
  • A new chapter on the Mediators of Mourning helps clinicians to understand what accounts for individual differences in adapting to the death of a loved one
  • Looks at recent controversies in the field including the best way to understand complicated bereavement and the efficacy of grief counseling and therapy
  • Presents the vital distinction between grief and trauma, and highlights different intervention approaches for each

Comprehensive and highly organized, this text is useful to therapists just beginning to work in the field as well as seasoned practitioners."

Funeral Directing and Funeral Service Management

"A how-to guide for funeral directors."

Yup, that is the entire description. This book offers a succinct breakdown of the most common ways to be an effective and efficient funeral director in the traditional sense. For the most part I found it to be quite helpful and although not everything is pertinent to how we run things at Undertaking LA I think that learning to break and bend rules can come from knowing the foundation of them.

Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology

Kind of self-explanatory right? This was the exact book that I purchased when I attended Cypress College. I'm sure there is a nicer and newer version used now, but I'm sure they are all relatively the same. If you want to grab a copy of this book I would suggest scouring Amazon for a textbook that is being sold by one of the Goodwill distributors that are going for one cent because there is such a high amount available.

The Psychosocial Aspects of Death and Dying

"This book provides an insightful and concise approach to the psychosocial process of death and bereavement."

The textbook was used as a foundation for Thanotology, however I am not completely certain how much we actually utilized it I remember it being a fairly interesting read.

"Law For Business offers a practical approach to law that emphasizes current, relevant topics you need to succeed in contemporary business. Cases throughout the text highlight issues such as trademark infringement, computer tampering, pollution, agency, and employment-at-will. Plus, timely coverage of business ethics and the law gives you new insight into recent corporate scandals and indictments. Ashcroft and Ashcroft use short chapters, a four-color design, real-world examples and applications, and integrated learning objectives to make business law approachable and engaging for all students."

Mortuary Law

This book is filled with case analysis and examples of different lawsuits filed against mortuaries and/or crematories, generally involving some sort of malpractice suit. I love this book but it is incredibly expensive on Amazon so I would not recommend purchasing this unless you have already enrolled in school and plan on passing.

Thanatochemistry: A Survey of General, Organinc, and Biochemistry for Funeral Service Professionals

"This is the only chemistry reference produced specifically for mortuary science by a major publisher. In a comprehensible manner, the authors present the essential facts of chemistry and the chemical aspects of other sciences related to mortuary science. It follows closely the recommended course curriculum and glossary of the American Board of Funeral Service Education. Topic organization flows logically from inorganic to organic to biochemistry. Examples of solved problems and common mistakes are provided, and embalming applications are offered throughout.
Physical and Chemical Changes; States and Types of Matter; Atomic Structure and Chemical Bonding; Chemical Shorthand: Symbols, Formulas, and Equations; Radiation Chemistry; Oxygen; Hydrogen; Water; Solutions; Acids, Bases, Salts, and Ionization; Hydrates and Hydrolysis; Hydrocarbons; Alcohols and Ethers; Aldehydes and Ketones; Carboxylic Acids and Esters; Amines and Amides; Proteins; Enzymes; Carbohydrates; Lipids; Summary of the Action and Composition of Embalming Fluids."

Interpersonal Skills Training: A Handbook for Funeral Home Staffs

"This comprehensive handbook provides a solid foundation in helping skills related to successful funeral service practice."

It's a quick and easy read and I'd recommend it if you have the time.

"As one of the most popular choices in college accounting today, Heintz/Parry's COLLEGE ACCOUNTING, 20E combines a unique narrative style and proven, step-by-step approach with tightly integrated learning features that make accounting understandable to every student, regardless of their accounting background or business experience. The book's well-crafted, comprehensive presentation builds student confidence by starting with simple examples and concepts before advancing to more complex accounting environments and practices. Learning features and fresh examples of accounting in practice throughout this edition help students focus on the relevant, practical skills that ensure immediate success and a strong future, no matter what the students' career choices. Trusted for its unwavering accuracy, the book's solid presentation and readable style are supported by a comprehensive supplement package, including the innovative, new CengageNOW online learning and course management system. With this complete, practical package students gain valuable insight into how accounting success in the classroom today translates into ongoing skills in the future."

College Accounting: Study Guide

"Written by the text authors to ensure accuracy and quality consistent with the text, the study guide and the working papers for the text assignments are provided together in one convenient resource. Students can reinforce their learning experience with chapter outlines that are linked to learning objectives and a set "C" of assignments that include review questions, exercises, and problems. The working papers are tailored to the text's end-of-chapter assignments. (Solutions for the working papers are included in the Solutions Manual. Solutions for study guide assignments are available separately)."

Types of Funeral Services and Ceremonies

Perhaps the most elusive and potentially difficult to track down, this book gives a really awesome oversight on different religions and how their services and ceremonies typically run.

Taken from the Forward " In 1961, the National Association of Colleges of Mortuary Science, Inc. completed a research project to list the aspects of various types of funeral with the major groups being religious, fraternal, and military. As times changed, changes were also made in these funeral services and ceremonies. A major revision of this information was again completed in 1977. The most recent revision has been an on-going project for several years and has resulted in a change in the format from an outline form to a narrative form."