The Book of Resting Places: A Personal History of Where We Lay the Dead

By Thomas Mira y Lopez ’08. In the aftermath of his father’s untimely death and his family’s indecision over what to do with the remains, Thomas Mira y Lopez became obsessed with the type and variety of places where we lay the dead to rest. The result is The Book of Resting Places, a singular collection of essays that weaves history, mythology, journalism, and personal narrative into the author’s search for a place to process grief.

Across three continents and ten different resting places, Mira y Lopez explores unusual hallowed grounds. From the world’s largest cryonics institute in southern Arizona, to a set of Roman catacombs being digested by modern bacteria, to his family’s burial plots in the mountains outside Rio de Janeiro, to an 18th century desert cemetery that was relocated for the building of a modern courthouse, Mira y Lopez examines these overlooked spaces and what they tell us about ourselves and the passing of those we love—how we grieve them, and how we attempt to forget them. The Book of Resting Places’s invigorating blend of ideas creates a relief map of our memorials while opening up the liminal spaces created not only when someone dies, but when our memories of them also begin to pass.

The Book of Resting Places is a roving elegy, a highly personal and startling dive into our personal and public underworlds—a meditation on the active and passive nature of memory, our variable states of grief, and our culture’s inclination to turn a blind eye to what it cannot process.