You wouldn't think a book of obituaries would be entertaining, but it is when the obits are well-written and celebrate the lives and characters of the 100+ people found in this collection. The subjects are most often unknown to the majority of us, but the various authors (including well-known NYT obituary author Robert McG. Thomas, Jr.) humanize each subject and inspire you to contemplate your own life. Most essays are a couple of pages long, and there is an introduction by Russell Baker.
Indeed, the Last Word on Obituary Writing
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 20 years ago
Rather than an ode to death, this book cherishes lives onced lived by all kinds of people. Whether brilliant or simple, rich or poor, actions great or discreet, each of the people written about contributed to society in a meaningful (and often surprising) way. Equally outstanding are the authors of these obituaries, whose writing talents manage to entertain, educate and move the reader deeply without being maudlin. Even more importantly, this book forces us to examine our own lives: what will people say about us when we've faced our Maker? For those of us who come up pitifully short, this book inspires even the common man to contribute to society, and strive for -- and hopefully, attain -- spiritual immortality.
A helluva book
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 21 years ago
I teach Memoir Writing to local seniors and I routinely use this book as an example of outstanding biography. It's one thing to write a 250 word bio but quite another, and much more demanding, to pen a few-hundred-word last goodbye to someone and do it with panache. The NY Times has three books of obituaries, this is the most recent. The quality of the writing is, in many cases, superior to anything in the rest of the newspaper(all the obits here were published in the Times). I especially like the reviews of Robert McG Thomas, who died within the past year at age 60. His obituaries deserved a Pulitzer. His obits are worth the price of the book. Everybody deserves a last word. These obits are not just about famous people but about average joes and janes who have been extraordinary human beings. I'd even recommend this book for spiritual reading because the lives here are inspirational. I teach writing and am always on the lookout for examples of prose that will knock my socks off. This is one helluva book.
A must for any commode (that's a compliment)
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 22 years ago
In our celebrity-obsessed culture, in which bland, no-talent know-nothing windbags like "Dharma and Greg's" Jenna Elfman are considered national treasures and given lengthy pseudo-important profiles in glossy magazines, it is refreshing to read about lives that actually have meaning; about people who commit their lives to doing interesting things for others and for themselves; people whose lives take amazing twists of fate, people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and react in ways that no one could predict. The genius of this book is that it covers not the obvious obits of international icons like, say, John Lennon or Richard Nixon, but people whom you may have never heard of, such as the inventor of kiddy litter or the great bluesman Willie Dixon. And they are written not as morbid reflections on death, but as the book's subtitle says "celebrations of life." The Last Word also holds the important distinction of being the greatest bathroom book I have ever read. Why not put it in your own john?
A delightful and witty collection.
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 23 years ago
A delightful collection of lives which I read cover to cover in one sitting. Offers a fascinating glimpse of la comedie humaine--often witty, sometimes sad, always remarkable.I was turned onto this book when it was selected for the Book-of-the-Month Club--I cannot recommend it enough to anyone interested in the lives of others. A great gift.
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