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Death Be Not Proud (Perennial Classics)
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Death Be Not Proud (Perennial Classics)

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  9,466 Ratings  ·  538 Reviews
Death Be Not Proud chronicles Johnny Gunther's gallant struggle against the malignant brain tumor that killed him at the age of seventeen. The book opens with his father's fond, vivid portrait of his son - a young man of extraordinary intellectual promise, who excelled at physics, math, and chess, but was also an active, good-hearted, and fun-loving kid. But the heart of t ...more
Paperback, 206 pages
Published August 5th 1998 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1949)
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Robert I couldn't put it down once I picked it up. It's absolutely amazing and it gets way better. Some of the quotes are just amazing.

Community Reviews

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Feb 29, 2008 Yulia rated it liked it
Shelves: me-moirs
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
Aug 09, 2007 Elise rated it it was amazing
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
Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 Ryan Holiday rated it really liked it
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
Sophia Mendoza
Oct 18, 2012 Sophia Mendoza rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 28, 2009 Jill rated it it was ok
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
Dec 28, 2012 Breanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 05, 2012 Jeremiah rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 24, 2008 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: just-read
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
Lisa Vegan
Jun 05, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kate Fletcher
Jul 06, 2007 Kate Fletcher rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 29, 2007 Brooke rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 11, 2011 Angie rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, classic, re-read
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
Mar 19, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
DEATH BE NOT PROUD. (1949). John Gunther. ****.
This is a very moving account of the sickness and death of the author’s son, Johnnie. His boy, seventeen-years old at the time, was diagnosed as having a tumor on the brain. We are taken from the early stages of the diagnosis to the point where they have fully characterized the tumor, and know that there was ultimately no hope for the boy. Through his father, mostly, we meet Johnnie, and learn a lot about his life before his sickness. We follow him
May 17, 2010 Heather rated it it was ok
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
Apr 12, 2013 Lspinna13 rated it really liked it
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
David Kuhn
Jul 09, 2015 David Kuhn rated it really liked it
This memoir about death is full of life.
Edwina Callan
Mar 30, 2017 Edwina Callan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookcrossing
Being a lifelong fan of the song "Sink the Bismarck", I've always thought it was the Biz that sank the "Mighty Hood" but according to The New York Times (1944) it was the Prinz Eugen.
Thank you, Johnny, for schooling me.

Aside from that little piece of trivia, all I can say about this book is that reading it was like running my heart through a shredder. Almost every page had me in tears.
I can't even imagine what watching your seventeen-year-old son die of brain cancer would do to a parent and I do
Jill Bowman
Apr 05, 2017 Jill Bowman rated it really liked it
I read this book in 7th or 8th grade. My copy today is an ex library book and still has its young adult sticker. This surprises me as I wonder if it keeps adults from reading it??
As a young girl I had a bit of a crush on young Johnny. But today the book does nothing but make me think of my sons and my grandchildren. What a job John Gunther has done to make such a good book out of such personal loss.
It also gives us a glimpse into 1940's medicine. A quick glance at Google shows me that not too
Arlee Bird
Called in to serve jury duty and wanting something to read while waiting in the jurors room, I grabbed this book off of a shelf of old books in my garage. Ironically I didn't get placed on a jury, but now I'm putting myself to judge this book.

I'd never heard of the book before and was not familiar with the author even though I'd had the book sitting in my garage for many years. From my research on the author I found that he was well known from the late 1930's until the 1970's. Though he'd writte
Brittney Clark
Jan 11, 2016 Brittney Clark rated it really liked it
In the memoir Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther tells a story of his son Johnny Gunther after he has been diagnosed with brain cancer. Gunther tells Johnny’s life story before he was diagnosed with brain cancer all the way through Johnny’s last days as a cancer patient. As the reader begins the book they learn that Johnny was one of the most extraordinary people you would ever meet. Johnny was only seventeen when he passed on June 30, 1947. Gunther, already being a journalist takes you on a journ ...more
Sep 24, 2014 Jhastings09 rated it liked it
Death Be Not Proud is a non-fiction book about a high schooler named Jonny Gunther that was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It began when Johnny got a stiff neck but very quickly turned into a giant brain tumor. During his year and a half battle with a brain tumor Johnny managed to graduate high school, and even better, get accepted into college at Harvard University. But these accomplishments of his were only short lived, as Johnny died a few days after receiving this news.

I think Death Be Not
Jan 24, 2012 Sierra rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 19, 2014 Lauren rated it really liked it
This book was my first Non-Fiction book I have read all year, or possibly in my whole life, and I couldn’t be more thankful that I chose it as ‘my first’. After the first few pages, it was clear to me that I hadn’t read anything quite like it. It’s obvious that the wording is different, but that is understandable once recognizing the time period. But the book was so different because the way John Gunther writes is indescribable. He writes with such little emotion, but yet when it comes to the s ...more
Grace Garner
Jan 03, 2014 Grace Garner rated it really liked it
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
Mar 16, 2014 Ian rated it it was ok
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
Mar 14, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although according to Goodreads I read this years ago I am not so sure that is the case. If I did read the book it must have been a speedy perusal for I am positive it would have stayed lodged in both my memory and heart. Death Be Not Proud is a father's tender portrait of his young son's brave battle against incurable cancer in the form of a devastating brain tumor. John Gunther was already a well-established writer when, in 1949, two years after his son's death, he penned this memoir. Part tri ...more
Dec 29, 2008 Maggie rated it really liked it
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
Tristan Goding
Oct 14, 2015 Tristan Goding rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
To me, this is the book to end all books. If I were to make a list of my five favorite books, this one would most definitely be on there. Is it the most beautiful book I have ever read. Johnny is an inspiration to me. He changed my life. He helped me understand death. He reminded me why being alive is such a valuable thing. He encouraged me to continue being a good person. Most importantly, he taught me that every day is a new day and that, no matter what happens, the sun will always rise. I urg ...more
Oct 17, 2007 Grace rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This is one of my favorite books. In this book, the author writes about his son who dies of a brain tumor. This story tells of the courageous, hopeful, and merry way in which Johnny fights the battle with Death. He inspires us to be hopeful and teaches us what true courage is. And the book teaches us to appreciate everything and everyone we have in life, for there are many who are less fortunate.
Grace Chavez
Jan 27, 2015 Grace Chavez rated it really liked it
I loved this book in the sense that it's a beautiful journey but for some reason it took me a while to finish. Despite this, I would always recommend reading it at least once. A thought provoking read to say the least.
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John Gunther 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 gift that readers responded to enthusiastically. The "Inside ...more
More about John Gunther...

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“What is life? It departs covertly. Like a thief Death took him.” 13 likes
“Live while you live, then die and be done with.” 8 likes
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