I enjoyed the hell out of Tom Jokinen's Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training.
This is weird, I know, but I ALWAYS seem to enjoy books about death and funerals. I really liked Lisa Takeuchi Cullens's Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death, and I loved Jessica Mitford's classic The American Way of Death. I know three books does not a whole lot of experience make, but I have this feeling I've read other books on the subject and am just not remembering them right now.
Jokinen is a Canadian author who takes some time off from his job in order to become an undertaker's apprentice; basically, helping out at a local funeral home business with such tasks as transporting bodies, assisting at embalmings, and just being a general all-around helper. I know, it sounds morbid, doesn't it? But it's really not. His personal reaction to the jobs he's given is interesting, his insight into his employer's funeral home business is fascinating, and his wider look at current trends in funeral services (including "green" burials and cremation, of course), especially as they become ever more separated from tradition and religion, is also really well done.*
I liked it for its non-sentimentality. Consider this job tip: "Summer at the Factory [Jokinen's name for the funeral home] means the smell of freshly turned earth from Brookside cemetery, and Zep bug spray, which Shannon uses to fog the dressing room to keep flies off the customers. 'The last thing you want is to open the casket and have a fly come out of someone's nose,' she says. Shannon's full of helpful hints. When threading a needle in the prep room, she says, resist the urge to put it in your mouth. Moisten the end with water from the sink. 'Never lick anything in a funeral home.'" (p. 75.)
Now that's good advice. It's a great book--give it a try if you can handle the subject matter.
*Plus, he's Canadian, which means I love him by default. At one point he references the band Blue Rodeo, which is a great Canadian band, and one of my favorites, which made me feel very Canadian myself. Please, Canada, just adopt me already?