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The Book of the Dead: Lives of the Justly Famous and the Undeservedly Obscure

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  1,233 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
The team behind the New York Times bestseller The Book of General Ignorance turns conventional biography on its head—and shakes out the good stuff.
 
Following their Herculean—or is it Sisyphean?—efforts to save the living from ignorance, the two wittiest Johns in the English language turn their attention to the dead.
 
As the authors themselves say, “The first thing that stri
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Kindle Edition, 450 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Crown
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(showing 1-30)
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karen
THIS DBR IS DEDICATED TO EH!!! WHO IS THE BEST AT SO MANY THINGS, BUT MOSTLY AT STUFFING BOXES. AND BEING AWESOME IN GENERAL. THIS DBR IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY WINE AND GIRL SCOUT COOKIES: DO-SI-DOS ARE PAIRED WITH A DELIGHTFUL BORDEAUX BECAUSE I AM SUPER-CLASSY.

i have a very small brain. well, maybe it is regular-sized, but it doesn't hold a lot of information. which is i think why my book reviews of late have been so dull - i am reading more quickly than i can review, and by the time i am getting
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Nate
Oct 30, 2010 Nate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition


At its best, this book introduced me to fascinating figures I knew nothing about - Tesla for example has to be one of history's most underrated individuals - he was brilliant, quirky and I can't wait to read more about him. At its worst though, you feel like you are reading the same 5 page biography over and over - grew up impoverished, father died young, achieved success or fame, had weird sexual habits, died penniless. The authors seem very influenced by Freud - he's covered here too - and I g
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MARTI
Aslında içinde çok keyifli ve değerli bilgiler olan, ama bemim elimde 1 ay boyunca sürünen, belki bu kadar uzun olmasa daha rahat ve keyifle okunacak bir kitap. Bence.
Lee
Feb 21, 2015 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
There's a cute statistical argument for predicting when the End of Days will occur, it goes something like this. Suppose you reach into my pocket and pull out some balls. Oi, no giggling, this is serious maths. I've got a number of balls in my pocket, and the balls are numbered 1, 2, 3, etc. up to the number of balls. If I have ten balls they're numbered one to ten, if I have a thousand balls they're numbered one to a thousand, if I have a billion balls then I have big pockets.

I don't tell you h
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Sheila
Jan 06, 2014 Sheila rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Fry calls this book “dead good” according to the cover text. And he’s right. It’s weird, odd, intriguing, absorbing and deathly good. It’s also a perfect reminder, to fiction readers like me, that biographies can be entertaining reads. It’s the sort of book where you’ll laugh quietly, then insist on telling some vital detail to whoever’s sitting nearby, then you’ll read on, and read aloud, and no one will wonder why. It’s full of strange and fascinating details. It’s classified and colle ...more
Chibineko
If you are looking for something that is incredibly in-depth & neatly organized, then you should probably look elsewhere. If you want something that would be great to read at 10-15 seconds at a time then you'll like this read. It's great for the trivia buffs out there who want something quick to read while they're waiting for an appointment, killing a few minutes, or... otherwise indisposed.

The Book of the Dead collects information on various famous, infamous, & obscure people in neat l
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Dane Cobain
Oct 23, 2015 Dane Cobain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should preface this review by pointing out that this was the book that I started my 24-hour Dyslexia Action charity readathon with – for the first two and a half hours, I was finishing this off. It certainly isn’t a book that you’d want to read over and over again, nor a book that you could sit down and whizz through in one sitting, unless you were trying to raise money for charity by trying to read for 24 hours straight.

That said, it is a reasonably long read, but try not to be fooled by the
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Ryan G
Sep 19, 2010 Ryan G rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Out of the ninety billion humans that lived and died on this planet, the authors narrowed it down to just shy of 70 who whether famous or not, lived some of the most compelling lives you would ever want to read about. This was a fun book that allowed me to learn more about figures that though familiar with, I didn't know all that much about. Issac Newton, Ada Lovelace, Nikola Tesla, Tallulah Bankhead, and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, are just some of the notable historical figures that I ...more
Koen Crolla
Feb 17, 2013 Koen Crolla rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
What connects this book to QI is the people involved (John Lloyd is a producer for the show, and John Mitchinson one of the researchers) and the incredible shoddiness of the research. The form doesn't bear much resemblance; it's just a series of white-washed, shallow biographical vignettes weakly tied together with per-chapter themes. To call this the work of Wikipedia historians would be insulting to Wikipedia; the Johns at best only skimmed the one or two sources they claim to have used for ea ...more
Jan
Feb 01, 2011 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Lloyd and Mitchison's book about famous dead people can be a little random. The authors' groupings can be a tad . . . whimsical, shall we say. I understand a chapter about famous people whose fathers were deadbeats. I can also get with a chapter about those rare famous people who are happy. But a chapter about famous people who owned monkeys? That left me scratching my head a bit.

However, that having been said, I enjoyed this book immensely. It's chock full of wonderfully trivial tidbits about s
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Farrah
Oct 10, 2010 Farrah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read that YES I will be keeping on my shelves and grateful that it’s already in the hardback book format! History is fun but reading about the odd behaviors, quirks, and weirdness of famous dead people just makes it all the more fun and obviously memorable! Did you know that Catherine De Medici drilled a hole in her husband’s bedroom floor so she could spy on him and his lover to get “practical tips”?! CRAZY!
bigmuzz
the second QI book i've read. while the first was just a bunch of random (yet quite interesting) facts, this is a who's who of random (yet quite interesting) dead people. even if you haven't heard of a lot of the people listed in this book, their life stories are often quite eye-opening, fascinating, illuminating, intriguing, and of course, interesting. :P
Emily
Very interesting book about many people I was already familiar with, and many others I was not. Love Tesla's reaction to Voltaire's writings: "I learned, to my dismay, that there were close on one hundred large volumes in small print which that monster had written while drinking seventy-two cups of of black coffee per diem."
Kim
An interesting book about a range of historical figures this wasn't as funny or fascinating as the previous QI books. Some of the biographies were a bit dry and slowed down the book.

Overall if you're a fan of the show or trivia books in general it's good for a read.
Tweedledum
What a great selection of wonderful, eccentric and great individuals are celebrated in this book. Among the long famous are many more obscure but fascinating characters who richly deserve to have their names raised from the obscurity into which they have fallen.
Marc
Dec 08, 2009 Marc rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable but necessarily cursory look at the lives, influences and legacy of over 30 notable and notorious people. Great to dip into, but to find anything in-depth you will need to progress to reading one of the full biographies (handily listed in a useful appendix).
Elentarri
Got halfway through chapter 2, then started flicking through it... the book is incredibly boring, especially since the subject sounded so interesting.
Frank Dahai
Jan 17, 2010 Frank Dahai rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deathly. Fun.
Marie
Nov 28, 2010 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was so good, and fun to read! So many interesting facts and peices of info that you DON'T read about in the History books. I loved it! Man... people are WHACKED!
Luke
Aug 16, 2015 Luke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this for a birthday present, and have only just completed it. I don't know why it took so long for me to pull it off the shelf, but I'm glad I did. It's full of wry humour and life lessons, though it imparts these without being preachy. Plus, it has a boss front cover. I mean, a skeleton wearing a dunce cap? Nice.

This book is a Who's Who of dead people. Except rather than being an alphabetical collection, it's thematic - the corpses are bundled together by theme rather than surname, w
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Olya
Feb 26, 2017 Olya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Witty and deliciously informative. The way all the dead are sorted into different (and often quite unexpected) groups offers not only entertaining statistics but an opportunity to notice a subtle pattern, to track the "lives of the justly famous and the undeservedly obscure" from their origins to the consequences those origins led to.
M.G. Mason
This was one of three QI books I received as a Christmas present a few years ago. QI is the hit BBC TV show about interesting facts and this is the third book released to accompany the series. In typical QI fashion it is about “Quite Interesting” facts about people from history – hence, the Book of the Dead, it is about dead people – famous and not so famous (though on reflection most of those who are not most definitely should be).

There are 72 subjects of the book in total ranging from the obsc
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Judith Rich
Feb 21, 2017 Judith Rich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour
For some reason, I find this a comfort read so I re-read it quite regularly. I then think, oh, I should go away and read more about [insert name of one of entries], but never quite get around to it!
Greg
May 15, 2014 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, non-fiction, 2014
I’ll start by saying that I am a fan of QI. I enjoy my weekly dose of the weird and wonderful arcane trivia that Stephen Fry and his panel wheel out for our amusement. There is also nothing like the air of superiority that you can bask in when you realise that Fry is talking complete bollocks, and that you actually know him to be wrong.

The Book of the Dead is pretty much the book you’d expect this research team to produce. It’s a collection of potted biographies about 68 people who are to a grea
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Mark Jones
Jul 11, 2012 Mark Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this book blew me away... At times funny, at times touching - sometimes leaving you shaking your head, frowning - and always painting an incredibly rich, detailed view of the lives of its subjects, never being biased towards either the glorious or ignominious, nor the dull or fascinating. The people described here vary from major historical players to minor celebrities and the utterly obscure - varying in their careers from prostitutes and fraudsters, to doctors and inventors, to monks, phi ...more
Ilze
Sep 26, 2010 Ilze rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Fry's comment on the dust jacket that the book is "dead good" is an interesting play on words - what is good that is dead? Is something "good" if it is "dead good"?
The book certainly held my attention (which I needed on my flight to Israel and back). As long as you don't mind reading about people that you've never heard of and have an interest in history, the text is not a problem. Unless you're pedantic about language and grammar. Whoever edited the manuscript needs to be fired, or els
...more
Sine
Oct 07, 2014 Sine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
bildiğim tarihi figürleri zaten ilgiyle okudum. hele hakkında daha önce bilgi edindiklerimle ilgili daha çok bilgi edinmek gerçekten zevkliydi. bilmediklerimin, ya da sadece ismen bildiklerimin bazılarını gerçekten merak edip internette daha fazla bile araştırdım. ama bazıları gerçekten çok sıkıcıydı ve kitabın akıcılığını engelliyordu.

bu tarihi karakterleri kitapta belli başlıklar altında toplamışlar, örneğin maymun besleyenler, uçkuruna düşkünler, öldükten sonra kıymeti bilinenler vs... bazı k
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Erikka
Sep 24, 2014 Erikka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this. Which should be obvious to anyone who knows of my deep and abiding love for all things QI and general ignorance. And trivia. And factoids. And random tidbits of information. This book is a collection of mini-biographies grouped into the most thought-provoking and curious categories ever (people who owned monkeys, people who were generally happy, people who were not who you think they were). Some of them were a tad too long (hence the -1 star), but they were all quite inter ...more
Carl
This set of minibiographies packages its stories efficiently and entertainingly. I found quirky details like the Dali scene that Chabon massaged into The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier Clay, enjoyed the unwhitewashed portraits of some famous scamps, and rejoiced at great quotations and adventures from under-reported figures. My favorite example of the latter was from the Victorian explorer Mary Kingsley, of whom I had never heard before: "These white men who make a theory first and then go hunti ...more
Richard
Feb 07, 2017 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amusing introduction to some of the quirkier personalities who have played a part in human history.
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John Hardress Wilfred Lloyd CBE is a British comedy writer and television producer. Lloyd was Trinity College, Cambridge, where he befriended and later shared a flat with Douglas Adams. He worked as a radio producer at the BBC 1974–1978 and created The News Quiz, The News Huddlines, To The Manor Born (with Peter Spence) and Quote... Unquote (with Nigel Rees). He wrote Hordes of the Things with And ...more
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“The one who is not dead still has a chance.” 1 likes
“he thinks there are only three important things in life: ‘The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” 1 likes
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