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Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us by Paul Koudounaris

Photographs of memento mori from around the world illustrate rich relationships with death.

memento mori

Paul Koudounaris (The Empire of Death) presents phenomenal photographs and a fascinating survey of death across cultures and history with Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us. His text is concise but effective, allowing his photography to take the lead. Images are gorgeously rendered in large format and across full spreads. They feature ossuaries, charnel houses and intricate, artistic arrangements of bones, mummies and decorated skeletons from various cultures.

Koudounaris portrays the Torajans of Indonesia, who place their dead in caves, and after the coffins disintegrate, arrange the bones decoratively; the Aymara Indians of Bolivia, who keep treasured skulls in their homes and ask them for advice; and the elaborate, even decadent, Catholic ossuaries created in response to Protestant reforms. Buddhists gilded certain mummies; Rwandans set up memorial vaults. Wrapped in a blue satin cover, with more than 500 illustrations, Memento Mori offers a striking tribute to many ways of remembering and honoring death and the dead.


This review originally ran in the November 27, 2015 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!


Rating: 7 perspectives.

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