Sunday, 3 October 2010

Armchair Book Review - The Book of the Dead

The Book of the Dead
Lives of the Justly Famous 
and the
Undeservedly Obscure
John Lloyd and John Mitchinson
(authors of the New York Times Bestseller The Book of General Ignorance)
Hardcover, 448 pages

This has to be one of the more entertaining books I have read in quite awhile. The authors, brilliant minds in British comedy, have assembled a crew of "Three score and eight" fascinating historical personalities, all now dead. Some you will be familiar with, but rest assured - you will learn things about them that the history books have glossed over. Manias, motivations, food habits and sexual proclivities (or the lack thereof), nothing is left out of this intimate peek into the lives of the dearly departed.

Instead of organizing the book by era, sex, job description or country - they have grouped people by whether or not they had owned a monkey, (The Monkey Keepers), people who had a bad start in life, driven people, and happy-go-lucky folk. Chapters such as Man Cannot Live by Bread Alone, Who Do You Think You Are? and Once You're Dead You're Made for Life serve to corral assembled personalities in startling new ways.

Each deceased personage is covered in about a half dozen pages, making this a perfect book for toting with you or for reading before bed. Subtle British wit and intelligence underline this fun and titillating exposé into the lives and deaths of people such as Florence Nightingale, Karl Marx, Princess Cariboo, Catherine de'Medici, Moll Cutpurse, and Genghis Khan.  

Never has learning been so much fun. And, next to these guys, I am starting to feel quite normal thank you.

Want to know which interesting dead person you are most like? Take the test!