Death Be Not Proud
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Death Be Not Proud

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  7,052 ratings  ·  404 reviews
Johnny Gunther Jr. was only seventeen years old when he died of a brain tumor. During the months of his illness, everyone near him was unforgettably impressed by his level-headed courage, his wit and quiet friendliness, and, above all, his unfaltering patience through times of despair. This deeply moving book is a father's memoir of a brave, intelligent, and spirited boy.
Paperback, P 111, 161 pages
Published 1965 by Harper & Row Perennial Library (first published 1949)
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Someone (okay, mt therapist) suggested I reread this. Was he comparing my MS to a grapefruit-sized brain tumor? Why is it that everyone who has a real medical issue wants to believe it's psychosomatic and everyone with a psychosomatic condition wants it to be real?

My new take on the book, after fourteen years passing since I first read it:

Tonight, I read someone’s review of “Death Be Not Proud” on, a great review for a classic book, but for some misguided search for understanding...more
Aug 19, 2007 Elise rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoy being in touch with their emotional side
Shelves: personalfave
This book first caught my attention when I read the title, a reference to a John Donne poem by the same name. I was immediately intrigued, and decided to read this story of a a young boy who dies of a brain tumor.
The book was written by the boy's father after his death, and in many ways is the eulogy of a bereaved father who desperately loves his son. He writes of the genius of the boy, and we, the reader, come to believe with the father that this young man would have truly changed the world h...more
I think it is too easy to talk about children who die before adulthood as though they are saints. They are unflawed and therefore able to be exalted as perfect after their deaths. They are - in the eyes of the storytellers - eternally brave, friendly, and hopeful. While the copy of Death Be Not Proud that I have includes Johnny's diary and letters, I do not believe that this account of his life was true in the sense that it tells his story from his own mouth. How do we know that he was not just...more
Kate Fletcher
I found this drab. A sad story. It was difficult to relate to the situation. Though Johnny Gunther seemed to have had a spirit even his overbearingly proud father could not dim even through his(father's) storytelling. I felt it was a rather inappropriate publication and seemed to have served the purpose of easing his(author's) own pain rather than enlightening the public with the triumphant soul of a helpless child, which is understandable. This story might better have been told with outside ass...more
i read this book because a student of mine had to read it for summer reading at FLC (franklin learning center). mostly, the book left me with a sad, disappointed feeling. i think that the topic of death is an important one, especially because my students are well-acquainted with it and should be given avenues through which to discuss it, but i'd like to think there's another, better book out there.
I don't like the goodreads rating system. I want to give this book 3 stars, but the designation "it was OK" is more fitting than "I liked it." Yet, 2 stars seems like an unnecessary slam.

The book is a little saccharine for my taste. Basically it comes down to a father who loved his son and was full of justified or unjustified pride. According to Mr. Gunther, his son was: better, smarter, nicer, braver, etc than any other person on the face of the planet. I understand why he felt that way and I t...more
This book, a true story told in the most depressing but straight forward manner you could read it in. The writer, the boys father, tells it from his point of view. The sadness he felt, the total love he had for his son. The story is about the life of a tumor with in you Johnny Gunther JR. One that should've killed him within months but he outlasted it for years. It made me cry by the truth in it. The will of the human spirit. I would recommend it to everyone. Which is saying a lot as I rarely re...more
A profound little book. I started reading this ages ago, before I was fully able to understand the subject matter. Now, reading it again as a young adult I am more apt to understand and appreciate this work. I am fascinated by Johnny's selfless tendencies - to care more for his parents than his own trials. He does express his upset occasionally, but for the most part he is consumed by his passions in science and his aspirations for the future.
I wonder if he is so optimistic about his recovery b...more
Sophia Mendoza
A heartbreaking tale that would give you a positive look about being ALIVE. Be thankful. Be stupefied. We should feel blessed that we still have a wonderful life to live. Johnny had the same age as mine when he left this world. Too young for such a man than takes every single day of his life to be very very very vital. He could've done so many great and indescribable things, if it had not been for that evil thing we call 'brain tumor'. Johnny, I salute you! I admire your courage and willingness...more
reread this memoir,after many years, of a teenage son's 15-month fight against brain cancer in the mid-1940s. it's moving, and fascinating not only in itself but as a time capsule...

for one thing, gunther references the intelligentsia of the 30s and 40s (somehow without seeming like he's name dropping - but that could also be because the names are older... and some have fallen into obscurity). in a weird way, it reminded me of the movie Quiz Show, in its portrait of a time and (certain) place w...more
Lisa Vegan
Jun 05, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those with an interest in cancer patients & those who enjoy memoirs
My mother died from cancer shortly before my twelfth birthday and this might have been the first book about a cancer patient that I read; I did read it around that time. The first of many books as since that time period I’ve developed a rather morbid interest in reading books about cancer and cancer patients. I remember appreciating this one because it unflinchingly described what it was like to live with and die from cancer (the honesty extremely unusual for its time) and because I liked the ex...more
Grace Garner
John Gunther writes a wonderful memoir for his late son, john (Johnny) Gunther jr., that is equally filled with sorrow and heartbreak as it is with love and admiration.
After Johnny is diagnosed with a brain tumor, Gunther finds his entire life has been consumed by Johnny's illness. Constant trips to hospitals cause Johnny to become depressed. His biggest priority is to get back into school. After Johnny realizes his condition may be terminal, his priorities are forced to change drastically. Man...more
Didn't do much for me. Two stars for the two topics this book covered, both of which grew completely tiresome by the end: excruciatingly detailed accounts of an endless series of medical treatments; and a fawning, barely-believable litany of praise for young Johnny Gunther and his saintly behavior as he endures said treatments.

I think what kept me from enjoying this book was that the vignettes describing Johnny's academic and scientific ambitions and his quips and one-liners that apparently inst...more
This must be my month for memoirs - on my last trip to the library , of the 5 books I checked out all 5 are memoirs ! When I looked at Gunther's Death Be Not Proud in my stack of books , I wondered why it was there , since like most people I had read it for an assignment in High School . After the shocking fact that High School was 30 + years ago ran through my head , I remembered that I loved this book back then and it was worthy of being a re-read .

A few things happened before , during and...more
Death Be not Proud by John Gunther is a memoir about his son Johnny's sickness. Johnny is a seventeen year old boy who is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Johnny is sent to see Tracy Putnam a neurologist by his family doctor Traeger.Johnny has his first operation on April 29 which last six hours. Johnny had a welt on his head the size of a grape fruit. after his first operation Johnny see's countless doctor and tries many varieties of treatment. He tried mustard gas, a special diet, another opera...more
The book I read was worth reading. This book is about a boy, his name is johnny. Johnny is a sick boy that has trouble in life but is full of joy. Johnny has a brain tumor, although he has a brain tumor nothing stops him from being happy. John Gunther wrote a good book, the story was touching.

My opinion about this book was that it was good. This book was as sad as a crying panda bear. While I was reading I had no more tears to cry I cried all my tears. Also I like the book for its theme. The the...more
Ryan Holiday
I picked this up at a used book store prepared to throw it away if it wasn't good. In my experience, the better the title of a book you've never heard of, the more likely it is to be disappointing. By that standard, I was willing to take a chance on Death Be Not Proud but fully expected to be disappointed. I wasn't. Written in 1949 by the famous journalist John Gunther about his death of his son-a genius-at 17 from a brain tumor, DBNP is deeply moving and profound. As a young person who has acco...more
The last book I read in 2008. It was a re-read for me, but one I hadn't read in 40 years, so time for a re-read.

I was amazed that brain surgery was as advanced in 1946 as it was. There have clearly been great strides in treating cancers since then, but the type which Johnny Gunther had is still fatal in a very short period.

I thought Johnny was very brave in the face of the procedures they put him through, incredibly intelligent, and his death was a true loss of talent. However, I think the par...more
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I grabbed this book off my shelf several times over the past couple years but always put it back out of the fear that it would be all too depressing. As a father myself, it sounded like a rather unpleasant experience to read another father chronicle the death of his seventeen-year-old son. But when I finally put those concerns aside, I found that Death Be Not Proud wasn't all that depressing after all. But it also wasn't very good.

The book offered very little for me in terms of reflections on l...more
Sarmistha Chatterjee
The past is tolerable if remote enough. - p. 16

What is a mind for, except to reason with? - p. 17

Very soon we discovered several things about doctors. One is that they seldom, if ever, tell you everything. Another is that there is much, even within the confines of a splinter-thin specialty, that they themselves do not know. - p. 26

The causation of cancer is the greatest and most formidable of all the unknowns of modern science. - p. 44

Live while you live, then die and be done with. - p. 174

Clarissa Santiago
This book is tremendous it is a memoir written by the father of a boy named Johnny Gunther who suffers from a life threatening tumor. His father John Gunther writes about Johnny and his optimistic personality through his struggling stages of overcoming the tumor. Johnny is a student at Deerfield Academy. His parents Frances and John Gunther are divorced but both spend quality time with their son. The diagnosis of Johnny's brain tumor brings them closer together as they create memories for the re...more
Mary Mackie
Reading about what is probably the most difficult thing a parent can have to deal with--the death of one's child--was sad and heart-breaking. But what does it say about the reader, in our modern times, that she keeps thinking about the astronomical medical costs and how lucky the Gunthers were that they had access to the best of the best? How many children, like Johnny Gunther, die much sooner for lack of medical care because of poor or middle-class parents or insurance companies that refuse to...more
It was an interesting read especially knowing how far the science have come, but at the same time it was as if the book took place today, the fear, anxiety, hopes and wishes are all the same.
Jason Lesher
This is more a book about ways cutting edge doctors in the mid-40s treated brain tumors than it was the story of the pain of losing one's child.
As someone who held my stillborn baby boy, I found the objective journalist tone used by Gunther in writing of the last year of his son's life appalling. After reading the final nine pages by Johnny Gunther's mother, pages filled with love, compassion, loss and insight, I wondered if John Gunther wrote this book just for a paycheck.
It feels completely d...more
I read this book in the fifth grade, and I have read it again almost every year the past five years. The book is touching and beautiful.
Isabel Yarema
This book was very inspirational and encouraging. In this book, the author was clever enough to refer to Death as a person. Throughout this book, the author emphasizes the pain and grief from all the characters. It is a depressing story that manages to be inspirationally written. The maim character, Johnny, suffers from a brain tumor and struggles everyday of his life, knowing he is getting to closer to death every second. The narrator emphasizes Johnny's strengths by acknowledging his courage,...more
Ayah Ristin
He felt his head tentatively, felt it again with full palm, and then, limply, helplessly, hopelessly, the hand fell down,and this was the only time I ever saw his eyes actually spill over with tears.

I cried a hell lot while reading this book, from before mid until the last chapter. It touched my heart and haunt me until now. I'm already through reading this for almost a week. But until now I remember it occasionally, my mind wading through some certain details that deeply touched my heart and ma...more
I wasn't overly impressed with this book. It seemed more like an essay than a personal story a father wrote about his own dying son. The writing was good though. The book did do a good job of chronicling Johnny's struggle with his tumor and really showing who Johnny was. I liked the included letters and diary entries from Johnny too. I thought it was a great way to really capture who he was. Even though I wasn't impressed by this book, I still thought it did a good job of honoring Johnny's life...more
Lora Lee Hensel
Death Be Not Proud begins with the poem of the same name by John Dunne. Johnny Gunther, 17 year old son of Frances and John Gunther, died on June 30, 1947 from a brain tumor. This is told within the first few pages, as this is a memoir written by Johnny's father, John Gunther. I have also seen it classified as an illness narrative. After finishing John Gunther's writing, we get to hear from Johnny's mother Frances in an afterword titled, A Word from Frances. The words from her diary about her un...more
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Reading "Death be not Proud" just before or after the death of a loved one 3 27 Oct 16, 2013 07:16AM  
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John Gunther was born on August 30, 1901 on the North Side of Chicago. He was one of the best known and most admired journalists of his day, and his series of "Inside" books, starting with Inside Europe in 1936, were immensely popular profiles of the major world powers. One critic noted that it was Gunther's special gift to "unite the best qualities of the newspaperman and the historian." It was a...more
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“What is life? It departs covertly. Like a thief Death took him.” 9 likes
“Live while you live, then die and be done with.” 4 likes
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