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10 thoughts on “The Economist Book of Obituaries

  1. Brenda Clough Brenda Clough says:

    This review originally appeared in the International Cemetery Cremation Funeral Magazine wwwiccfacomModern American obituaries viewable in your daily newspaper are straightforward accounts about people of note or of local fame Over at today’s New York Times to take a typical sample there is an obit of a Belgian born songwriter who made it to Broadway and the US admiral who planned the invasion of Grenada These are written to a standard form and cover ground we all can recite in our sleep “The deceased is survived by ”The British invented the post modern obituary which is still relatively rare in the United States These articles are about people that will make for an interesting read famous or not In other words the obit is carried beyond a plain social notice into the wilder and flowery fields of a literary form The advent of the Internet allows us to surf over to the websites of the Guardian or the London Times and explore these strange waters but the noted British magazine The Economist has conveniently collected all its most amusing obituaries in a fat and charming volumeThe deceptively tasteful illustration on the cover is as it were a dead giveaway Yes Monty Python fans it’s the bird that has joined the choir invisible the famous parrot that has gone to meet its Maker If this type of humor bothers you pass this book by The Economist runs obituaries that delineate absurd lives with absolute seriousness Consider for example the obituary of Rosemary Brown a British psychic who claimed to channel the spirits of classical musicians Mundanities about her place of birth or date of death are skipped over so that we may hear about her channeling Rachmaninov and Chopin with assessments from professional musicians and a mention of her appearance on the Johnny Carson showLuminaries covered that you may have heard of include Brooke Astor Thor Heyerdahl and Gen William Westland Everyone is memorialized with respect but an unswerving focus on what’s interesting It is like attending a funeral and sitting next to the gossipy aunt who knows all the juiciest stories about the deceased Of Maharashi Mahesh Yogi famous for preaching transcendental meditation to the Beatles the obituary notes that the guru was generally benign indulging in neither drugs drink nor molesting choirboys He merely wanted to end poverty teach people how to achieve personal fulfillment and help them to discover heaven on earth in their generationYou will never find an obit like that in an American newspaper On the other hand it is impossible to imagine a collection of American obituaries that is so much fun to dip into And who is to say that these less formal and indirect summaries are not truer to the deceased than our rigid snoozy obituaries?A perfect gift for anyone in the death industry this book will keep obituary fans entertained for days

  2. Jennifer Jennifer says:

    My Overall Opinion of the BookThis book was fascinating educational funny political and judgmental It is almost never sad A collection of 200 obituaries written between 1994 to 2008 each one two pages long The Economist Book of Obituaries is oddly enjoyable and fascinating It may sound a strange book to read but I was very pleasantly surprised Even if you are not a fan of obituaries and there are many obituary fans out there I think you could enjoy this book purely from an entertainment and educational perspectiveWhy I Read the BookI became interested in this book after reading Marilyn Johnson's The Dead Beat Lost Souls Lucky Stiffs and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries Johnson's book documents her love of obituaries and some of the great writers of the genre While reading her book I learned the difference between American and British obituaries the British are not afraid to tell it like they see it and joined Johnson on her visit to some of the leading obituary writers of the world The Dead Beat was a pretty fun book to read and I found myself wanting to read the type of obituaries that got Johnson so excited So when LibraryThing listed The Economist Book of Obituaries in its Early Reviewer books for November I jumped at the chance to get it I was thrilled when I was lucky enough to receive a review copyThe Basic Structure of the BookThis is not a book you need to read straight through It is ideal for picking up and putting down at will Each obituary is two pages long and includes a relevant black and white photo The obituaries are listed in alphabetical order and there is a Table of Contents to let you pick which ones you might want to read I read the book straight through since I was reviewing it but I could definitely view this as a book to peruse at your leisure Each obituary starts with a single sentence that tells the name of the deceased their basic claim to fame their date of death and their age at the time of death Other than these basic structural elements each obituary is wildly different in style tone and purposeWho Is Covered In the BookThe obituaries in the book include 199 people and one parrot Alex the African Grey billed as science's best known parrot The famous Princess Diana Bob Hope John Paul II Julia Child Norman Mailer and the not so famous the inventor of the Cup of Noodles the inventor of frozen non dairy topping America's King of the Hobos Japan's royal tutor one of the founders of Mensa The subjects are from a wide variety of countries and from all walks of life scientists musicians writers social activists criminals royalty What makes this book great is that it doesn't matter what you know about the subject half of the people in the book I'd never heard of you will learn about them their importance in the world and their contributions to their chosen field Each obituary is not so much about the individual person and their life story but about what their life meant to the world they lived inFor example the obituary of Sue Sumii a champion of Japan's untouchables is clearly meant as a way to highlight this little discussed aspect of Japanese society The obituary of Yasser Talal al Zahrani a prisoner in Guantanamo who died at the age of 21 is meant to be a statement of the wrongness of Guantanamo This particular obituary ends like this As he had hoped his death led voices around the world to demand that the camp be closed One senior American official immovable called his suicide 'a good PR move' She may have been right; Guantanamo alas remains wrong Not all the obituaries are of a political nature Some are sly social commentary such as the joint obituary of Brooke Astor and Leona Helmsley both grandes dames of New York that compares the two ladies radically different approaches to life by comparing everything from their dogs to their real estate holdingsOther obituaries are very educational on a particular topic to which the person being written about contributed such as cricket beekeeping auto racing container ships aviation safety surrogate parenting law to name just a fewPerhaps the most creatively written obituary is the joint obituary of Robert Brooks one of the founders of Hooters and Mickey Spillane creator of Mike Hammer which is written as a short story that has Mike Hammer going to Hooters That this obituary manages to tie two such disparate people together as suppliers of fantasies to American males and be written in a story format while still managing to pay homage to both subjects is just pure geniusThe Style of the BookWhat makes these obituaries such a pleasure to read is the style in which they are written The authors are not afraid to be irreverent and they do not shy away from taking a detour away from the main story to make an important point In short the obituaries are very well written which is why it didn't always matter to me who they were writing about I marked some of the my particular favorites to give you a sense of what makes these obituaries such a pleasure to readFrom the obituary of Jeanne Calment the world's oldest person Perhaps it does not matter For most people the interest in Mrs Calment was her durabilityFrom the obituary of Barbara Cartland She was worried about her prospects for immortality as indeed she had reason to beFrom the obituary of Estee Lauder Time however also trailed her with his ghastly wrinkled face and his sallow hue that coordinated with no bathroomsFrom the obituary of Stanley Marcus founder of Neiman Marcus There comes a time in the life of the average billionaire when money ceases to be important Suddenly it no longer seems to make the world go round; it has become uite boring Stanley Marcus was sympathetic to the problem and sought to rekindle interest in possessions among those who wanted for nothingFrom the obituary of Dr Spock It was on the face of it an odd book to have become one of the bestsellers of the century The one endeavour the human race was used to and indeed had become uite good at was having babies and bringing them to adulthoodWrap UpI hope this review has conveyed what a uniue and fascinating book this is It certainly made me understand why Marilyn Johnson and so many others enjoy reading obituaries on a regular basis I suspect that this book contains the creme de la creme of obituary writing and I hope to see another edition in the futureOne final note The book itself has a very rich feel to it The paper has a nice sheen to it and the book feels very weighty and solid I appreciated that feeling and find it appropriate for a book that contains the story of 199 human lives and 1 parrot

  3. Nilendu Misra Nilendu Misra says:

    Perhaps THE best book about and around death to celebrate lives Lives of a talking parrot who died before 'he grasped the meaning of seven' to proponent of 'Catastrophe theory' who believed women are less fragile than men because they are ' spherical and sphere is the strongest shape in the universe'

  4. T. Rhodes T. Rhodes says:

    Marvelous Learned a ton about people I never knew about

  5. María José Cumplido María José Cumplido says:


  6. Vicky Vicky says:

    Another find at the senior center bookstore I have always been a fan of the New York Times obituaries it is a real skill to convey a life in 1000 or so words Obituaries did not make it into The Economist for 150 years so they have a shorter track record but they have a distinctive style and are full of lesser known aspects of the deceased's life Some of my favorites in this collection are Bip Marcel Marceau Lady Bird Johnson Walter Lini and Thor Heyerdahl Many of the people I was not familiar with so learned uite a bit This is a book you can dip into for a few minutes or hours and be entertained and enlightened

  7. K K says:

    Serviceable for micro biographies Lots of variety and a very culturally broadening selection of people for me But this did not convert me into an obituary junkie A lot of the obits had weird pacing long gazing and ruminating over a minor point then a sudden end Some of them felt like they were cut off in the middle of a thought especially egregious for this was the one on the Challenger astronauts I understand needing to be pithy and impactful but a cliff face is as good as a ramble sez my old man?

  8. Tobias Barker Tobias Barker says:

    Although to some I'm sure this book seems like I have a morbid interest in death uite far from it I can honestly say this was one if the most interesting reads I've ever explored From gangsters musicians geishas politicians this book explores some incredible lives that I for one found captivating inspiring If you are a fan of chicken soup for the soul series this book could be of interest

  9. Valentin Ivanov Valentin Ivanov says:

    Being a long time reader of the Economist naturally I enjoy their last page obituaries Having read this collection I have to say that the obituaries from the last 4 5 years are definitely better than those written in the 90s Still a great book for those 10 20 spare minutes you have considering each piece is a couple of pages long

  10. Seth Mann Seth Mann says:

    great book great collection covering some of the major and not so major players in the 20th century very smart concise informative and often funny can serve as a launching pad into other subject areas as well

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The Economist Book of Obituaries [Download] ➸ The Economist Book of Obituaries Author Keith Colquhoun – This collection of obituaries tells the life stories of two hundred of the world's most captivating people as judged by writers Ann Wroe and Keith Coluhoun and as published in The Economist from 1994 This collection of obituaries tells the Book of eBook ☆ life stories of two hundred of the world's most captivating people as judged by The Economist PDF or writers Ann Wroe and Keith Coluhoun and as published in The Economist from to Each stylishly written story and Economist Book of PDF/EPUB Ã accompanying photograph surprises entertains and stimulates The titled wealthy and powerful are here of course including Diana Princess of Wales Gerald Ford Bob Hope John Paul II Norman Mailer Mstislav Rostropovich and General William Westland but so are others a cookery teacher and spy the inventor of instant noodles a self proclaimed gypsy king a musical psychic an American gangster a patriotic crook a philosopher of consumerism a master of tabloid journalism a protector of minorities a veteran of Gallipoli the greatest of second bananas and so onThis book is as entertaining as it is edifying; it's a great gift for biography history and popular culture fans as well as for everyone who turns first to the obituary pages in the daily newspaper As Clarence Darrow put it I never killed a man but I have read many obituaries with a lot of pleasure.