UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — One Penn State alumnus has brought life to a seemingly dead topic with his latest book, which examines the history of US cemeteries.
Author Greg Melville has written “Over My Dead Body: Unearthing the Hidden History of America’s Cemeteries.” The book focuses on the history of US cemeteries and explores how, where, and why we bury our dead.
Melville, who earned his master’s degree in journalism at Penn State in 1994, is an adventure writer and former editor at Men’s Journal and Hearst Magazines. His work has appeared in many national publications, including Outside, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Health, and The Boston Globe Magazine. He work was included in The Best American Sports Writing 2017.
Melville worked at the cemetery in his hometown the summer before his senior year in high school. Throughout the summer, he understood the impact the cemetery had on its town and history. That experience started his passion for understanding why we bury our dead.
Melville is a decorated Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan and teaches writing and literature at the US Naval Academy. He was the recipient of the school’s award for excellence in teaching in 2019.
Publishers Weekly said, “Melville’s wry humor enlivens discussions of arcane yet intriguing historical figures and archaeological discoveries. This colorful study fascinates. The book is a combination of a tour of America and its history, as well as an examination of the afterlife.”
The book explores how cemeteries have given birth to landscape architecture and famous parks, as well as influenced architectural styles. In addition, the book examines how burial preferences and cemeteries are changing, as well as the impact of cemeteries on things such as art, history, land use, politics and sustainability.
“Over My Dead Body” focuses on cemeteries in several states, including Arizona, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.
The 272-page hardcover book, published by Abrams Book, will be available beginning Oct. 4.