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

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  799 ratings  ·  114 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 strike
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Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Crown
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,823)
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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


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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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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Sheila
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
Brad
This was an accidental pickup that proved to become a favorite. Despite the semi-morbid cover and title, this is a book of lives-- a collection of several hundred brief biographical sketches, ranging from the familiar and famous, to the absolutely unknown.

This is one of the few books good enough to leave the bookshelf and take up residence in the bedroom and bathroom-- its enormous collection of stories (and their clever grouping by lifetime similarities) is perfect for when you have just five o
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Jan
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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Erikka
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
Farrah
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!
Sine
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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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
Greg
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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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."
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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Marc
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).
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.
Marie
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!
Ryan G
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
Mark Jones
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
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
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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
Pola
Believe this is the "QI" Book of the Dead. The personalities are listed in a unique way, mostly on lifestyles; like those whose lives were impacted greatly by not having fathers, or by food, etc. It's done in a very clever way and not at any point have any of the entries droned on or appeared boring.
Martha Snyder
Rather than having the more traditional one biography subject per book, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson have prepared 59, if I counted correctly, mini biographies of the famous and not so famous. In ten chapters, I got a glimpse into the lives of people I have heard of and many I haven't. I like how they are grouped, not necessarily by what made them famous but by what didn't.
What do Oliver Cromwell, Catherine de' Medici and Frida Hahlo have in common? They kept pet monkeys.
Did you know Freud h
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Kris
I truly savored this collective biography. I loved the way the authors set up this collective biography of --- well, dead people. The truly unique feature of this book is that all of the dead folks are grouped together by rather odd circumstances. Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci, Sigmund Freud, Lord Byron and Hans Christian Anderson all shared a truly horrible childhood? Or that Henry Ford, George Washington Carver and Howard Hughes had dietary obsessions? Did you know that Oliver Cromwell, ...more
Ronan Mcdonnell
A well considered and motley collection of biographies. From the grand and noble to the miserable and down trodden this is a mix of lesser known stories from divergent lives. So far, so good. The trouble is that in making them numerous, brief, salacious and gratifying these lives are almost reduced to soundbites. You can imagine the stories might lose their impact when recounted in a more expansive and balanced manner. But that would take the fun out of it.
Brendan Barton
I give the book a rating of 4 stars, because its random trivia and biographies really appeal to me. Otherwise, the sections link biographies only very tenuously with one another - sometimes the overarching theme of each chapter is so broad and widely interpretable that anyone could fit its mold by tweaking the biography. That's a complaint that lies more with the latter half of the book. If you look beyond their attempts to categorize, the authors present the reader with many famous people (and ...more
Ben Gailey
This work of non-fiction, by the makers of the renowned BBC television show "QI" is an excellent collection of 'quite interesting' stories of the many people that made the world we know today. The attitude of 'you learn something new everyday' is the motivation that requires you to persist to read such a book, however with the correct balance of humor, intelligence and interest, I found that actually the essences that make this book a great piece of literature was solely enough to keep me intere ...more
Buka
I'm so glad that I decided to buy this book, even though I don't like biographies. Because this collection of biographical essays about famous, not-very-famous and totally-unknown-but-still-very-interesting people turned out to be anything but dull.

It might stay not wholly true to the facts, since several mistakes were spotted even by the Russian translator (who, btw, did an awesome job - not a typical thing these days) but boy, it's inspiring! Right now I feel like there is just So Much to life
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Keith Parrish
This is a fun collection of short biographies of obscure and not so obscure figures throughout history. The stories are grouped according to rather arbitrary categories - people who died penniless, people who lived mystical lives, people who had pet monkeys (!), and people with voracious sexual appetites (my personal favorite chapter), among others. This is a fun collection filled with foibles and quirks that cross the reader's eyes. Amazing details such as the woman who kept her aborted fetus i ...more
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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
More about John Lloyd...
The Book of General Ignorance The Second Book of General Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know Is (Still) Wrong The Book of Animal Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong 1,227 Quite Interesting Facts to Blow Your Socks Off If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People?: Smart Quotes for Dumb Times

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