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The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  135 ratings  ·  28 reviews
A “wonderful” (Harper’s), “engrossing” (Parade) exploration of the most universal of human obsessions: immortality—from an author who is “part Mary Roach, part Joe Strummer of The Clash” (The Wall Street Journal).

What have we not done to live forever? Adam Leith Gollner, the critically acclaimed author of The Fruit Hunters, weaves together religion, science, and mythology
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 30th 2014 by Scribner (first published August 1st 2013)
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Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There are effectively two books in Adam Leigh Gollner's "The Book of Immortality". The first is a discussion of the various beliefs that have sprung up over time dealing with how humanity relates to death and the subject of immortality—be it physical, spiritual, or other. This is a decent work—3, maybe 3.5 stars—marred by several flaws: an unclear organisation and the use of a mere bibliography rather than end notes are my two biggest ones. ("As a poet said..." Yes, but which poet and when?) The ...more
Since this book is subtitled The Science, Belief, and Magic behind living forever, I was actually expecting it to be about that.
Instead, most of this book was about the author's personal relationship with science, belief, and magic, often having nothing to do with immortality whatsoever.

There were sections of this book (especially the first third, dealing with belief), where the information presented was entertaining and urging you to read on. But most of it felt more like the long overdue redun
Feb 19, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The first few sections were filled with esoteric mumbo-jumbo, the magic and religious aspects, that is. I suppose part of it was my own interest in the life extension science, which is a bit different than immortality. Although the author did briefly delve into the science of longevity for a hot second. Still, it left me wanting.

Far too much time was spent on tangential and irrelevent facets about his research into immortality. During his research on the fountain of youth, for instance, he went
May 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The only reason why I finished this book is so that I could feel justified in reviewing it. I absolutely hated it. Gollner seems to combine a passion for nonsensical “spiritual” analogies with a virulent disregard for scientific objectivity. In this book he manages to praise all sorts of religious beliefs in the afterlife while equally denigrating any research into longevity. I was absolutely floored to see him eviscerate the scientists looking to extend the human lifespan through the study of t ...more
Todd Martin
Jul 12, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Looking for a mushy headed examination of immortality that combines the trite personal observations of a shallow thinker with an unquestioning acceptance of unmitigated nonsense? Well, apparently you need to look no further than The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever. I say ‘apparently’ because Adam Leith Gollner made so many breathtakingly ignorant claims early on in the text that I quit somewhere in chapter three as Gollner was incoherently rambling about ...more
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic
My main takeaway: The high number of life-extending elixirs containing mercury that have been created and consumed across human history and many cultures is truly unfortunate.
Definitely two books written here: one of science and one of belief. However, though I believed the author's narrative of his searching for meaning, I thought he went way off the beaten path at times. I thought a few chapters didn't add to the overall argument for or against immortality. Promising, but didn't quite deliver. ...more
Ioana Adriana
I like that it depicts more sides: religion, myths and science. In the end is true that we choose to believe in things in which we find ourselves. A bit sort of journal and I did not enjoy the descriptions of getting ready for the next trips and some conversations that could have been as well taken out. It felt like I had a look at the world we live in. It was interesting.
Olivie Blake
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To me, this read a lot like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Gollner really shone whenever he was speaking to any one of the fantastic oddballs on his search for the fountain of youth.
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, the idea of immortality is neat in theory but in practice, well, maybe not so much. But that hasn't stopped people from being consumed by this idea, and by people I mean HUMANITY throughout history. Divided into sections about belief (ie: not just religion), magic (with a memorable guest appearance by David Copperfield) and science (some quakery and some not so duckish), Gollner travels the world (literally) to get to the heart of why we seek immortality. This could have been a facile book ...more
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here is a review by my uncle Nicholas Voeikoff-Erens:
A religion, magic and science survey from antiquity to now, regarding humanity's quest to overcome death and defying age and disease.

Erudite and pop mingled with personal glimpses drawn from family and friends, from auntie Tiny's funeral notice, to an aging Jesuit professor Gervais to his buddy Raf Katigak.

The motive for his search is to find an intersection of religion, magic and science, wherein immortality is revealed as either fake or fac
Pretentious title. Something of a brief history of man's view of and seeking for immortality. And the current state of the science of ageing as told by a layman to the field.

The writing is somewhat uneven, repetitious and fluffy. The author did a fair amount of research; perhaps not enough for a Doctoral thesis.

Of value is the recounting of undertakings, ever unsuccessful, to defeat old age and death, from ancient efforts through today's newest remedies. More wealth is wasted now than ever in th
This book was truly fascinating. Ever since humans became aware of themselves and the natural world around them, they have sought to explain, and to conquer, the eternal mystery of death. Gollner explores different faith traditions and interviews various colorful personalities along the spectrum of immortality-seekers: from anti-aging researchers to longevity proponents to cryonics enthusiasts to transhumanists. Along the way, he receives some insights on the human condition, and comes to a real ...more
Kelly Murphy
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
After a recent binge on YA books (which I can read in a day or two), switching back to non-fiction and a rather heavy topic, was a bit of a challenge. Took me a few weeks to get through this book, but I would highly recommend it.

I think what stands out the most is the the role of the researcher, the journalist... the guy out there searching for a story. He's not proving a point, or writing a theory, or making a persuasion, he's out there honestly listening and recording different people and the
Mar 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read, although I found it very uneven with regards to retaining my interest. The parts I found most interesting and enjoyable involved direct discussions with colourful individuals such as Father Gervais and of course David Copperfield (at one point, I felt the whole book was leading up to finally meeting Copperfield in person, but in the end, I feel he did not overdo it; the Copperfield parts fit in within the overall context).

In summary, it is certainly a unique book an
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fascinating read. It was more personal than I thought it would be. For some reason, I assumed it would be an outsider's look into the world of beliefs about immortality, but it's hard to remain that divested.
As you read it, you are confronted with your own beliefs, or lack of them. It also challenges you to remain non judgmental towards others.
Adam Gollner shows a lot of restraint and respect in writing about the people in this book. It is elegant and thoughtful, and funny at time
Sep 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was in a list of recommendations that I found in Lizzie's kobo. It seemed to be a fortuitous suggestion so I purchased it. It was a very good read. The only part I would consider a bit odd was the whole section around Copperfield the magician. The book takes an areligious look at what happens after death...of course no one knows. But the rest is all over the map. Some of it quacky, but so is most of the crap that some people believe. It was refreshing and timely to read at this difficu ...more
Apr 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting account of how people have denied the reality of death for centuries, and continue to delude themselves into thinking it won't happen to them if they do this or this. My main criticism of the book is the author's skimpy use of sources, with only authors and titles given, with no footnotes. He does bring up interesting points about belief, and wishing to perpetuate oneself. ...more
Nov 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty interesting read, except, it was sort of tedious. There is a lot of waxing philosophic between the stories and people he meets in writing the book. And sometimes, the stories ended without any kind of closure or final words. It was like the guy just jotted down a few things and put ALL of those things into the book as quotations but didn't really listen to anyone. ...more
Tara Godfrey
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Arliegh Kovacs
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting mix of thorough research and tongue-in-cheek commentary. Gollner's book covered much of the playing field of the title. His take on what is and isn't "religion" and our contemporary way of looking at our own points of view was enlightening.
My favorite comment was something like "Because they believe in nothing, they are likely to believe in anything."
Feb 19, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this via audiobook bc I've been following the health and wellness industry, but this book bared little relevance to what I've been following. That's my fault for not looking into what this book was about before I downloaded it. Didn't hold my interest. ...more
Chad Bunch
I listened to the audio book version of this. It was very interesting but drawn out and very dry at certain points.
Sep 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was overall an interesting read on an interesting topic. I found some sections of it more interesting than others.
Top 5 Science and Nature - PLA
Alyssa ( ˙▿˙ )
Sep 25, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf, non-fiction
The premise of this book was so promising, but Gollner made everything needlessly confusing with over the top, flowery prose. Unfortunately, this one just isn't for me. ...more
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Apr 21, 2018
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Oct 27, 2013
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Kathy Bolster
rated it it was ok
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Adam Leith Gollner is the author of The Book of Immortality and The Fruit Hunters.

He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, The Guardian, the Globe and Mail, Saveur, Good, and Lucky Peach, among others.

He used to be Editor of Vice Magazine and also played in a number of bands. He lives in Montreal.

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