Upcoming Event

Greg Melville at Harvard Book Store


Over My Dead Body:
Unearthing the Hidden History of America’s Cemeteries

in conversation with MATTHEW STEPHENS


October 28, 2022
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes GREG MELVILLE―adventure writer and a former editor at Men’s Journal and Hearst Magazines―for a discussion of his new book Over My Dead Body: Unearthing the Hidden History of America’s Cemeteries. He will be joined in conversation by MATTHEW STEPHENS, 13th president of Mount Auburn Cemetery.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About Over My Dead Body

The summer before his senior year in college, Greg Melville worked at the cemetery in his hometown, and thanks to hour upon hour of pushing a mower over the grassy acres, he came to realize what a rich story the place told of his town and its history. Thus was born Melville’s lifelong curiosity with how, where, and why we bury and commemorate our dead.  

Melville’s Over My Dead Body is a lively (pun intended) and wide-ranging history of cemeteries, places that have mirrored the passing eras in history but have also shaped it. Cemeteries have given birth to landscape architecture and famous parks, as well as influenced architectural styles. They’ve inspired and motivated some of our greatest poets and authors—Emerson, Whitman, Dickinson. They’ve been used as political tools to shift the country’s discourse and as important symbols of the United States' ambition and reach.

But they are changing and fading. Embalming and burial is incredibly toxic, and while cremations have just recently surpassed burials in popularity, they’re not great for the environment either. Over My Dead Body explores everything—history, sustainability, land use, and more—and what it really means to memorialize.

Praise for Over My Dead Body

“You hold in your hands a treasure map, a gentle, sly, and poignant presence leading us to places in America and in our lives that have been hiding in plain sight. This tale is about cemeteries, but it’s really about how beautiful is life. We go forward living well by being aware how and where life ends up, so to speak—that’s the amazing, enlightening journey of this book. If you love Ian Frazier, Bill Bryson, or Caroline Alexander, this one’s for you.” ―Doug Stanton, #1 New York Times bestselling author of 12 Strong

“Melville is an ideal guide, carrying a revealing lantern into both beautiful and disturbing corners of the nation’s undervalued graveyards. At the end of a glorious excursion, he leaves you with a deep appreciation of the rich heritage sleeping just under Americans’ feet. Captivating.” ―Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris, bestselling author of The Butchering Art

“If every graveyard is a library of compact life stories, this essential book is the grand, sweeping history of American burials: their humble beginnings, surprising (and often controversial) heyday, and questionable future. Greg Melville comes to the subject firsthand and writes with infectious enthusiasm, deep respect, and a healthy dose of wit. You'll dig it.” ―Mark Adams, New York Times bestselling author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu

Greg Melville
Greg Melville

Greg Melville

Greg Melville 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 and has been listed in The Best American Sports Writing 2017. He is a decorated navy veteran who served in Afghanistan and teaches writing and literature at the United States Naval Academy, where he was the recipient of the school’s award for excellence in teaching in 2019. He lives with his wife and two kids in Delaware.

Photo Credit: Ann Marie Johnson

Matthew Stephens
Matthew Stephens

Matthew Stephens

Matthew Stephens is the 13th president of Mount Auburn Cemetery which was founded in 1831 in present day Cambridge and Watertown. Prior to becoming president at Mount Auburn Matthew led the Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden, and Botanical Garden in San Francisco, and prior to that led the most ambitious public private urban forestry project in the world- MillionTreesNYC, an effort that successfully planted one million trees throughout all of New York City. Matthew brings a horticultural background mixed with leading complex and sophisticated organizations to Mount Auburn.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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