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Death Be Not Proud

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  10,370 ratings  ·  595 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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Dee Beckham I didn't "have to" read this book, I chose to read it from a list offered. I agree, once getting into the book, it is easy to get caught up in the…moreI didn't "have to" read this book, I chose to read it from a list offered. I agree, once getting into the book, it is easy to get caught up in the story and soon enough you are finished. I hated reading in high school but this is one book I did manage.(less)

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3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,370 ratings  ·  595 reviews

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Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is featured on Shabby Sunday @

This isn’t a book I normally pick up, but I purchased it in a box of books from a church sale years ago, and after going through some of these books recently, it caught my attention. I love reading memoirs, but not so much when it’s a story about a child with cancer. I took a chance and continued reading because I’d already read the blurb and knew what to expect. If you plan to read this book, you may want to skip m
Feb 29, 2008 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 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
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a hard book to read. The death of a child is always sad, and intense medical descriptions are something (for me personally) that induce queasiness. I did feel like he was trying to convince me that his son's death was more tragic than other children's because he felt his son was more brilliant than others. This novel also comes from a place of privilege when you have so much money that you can afford the best hospitals and doctors for your child without thinking about it. It made me fee ...more
Dec 28, 2012 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 28, 2009 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
Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 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
Aug 05, 2012 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
Sophia Mendoza
Oct 18, 2012 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
Jan 24, 2008 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 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 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 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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic, memoir, 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 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 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
Mar 14, 2008 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
Apr 12, 2013 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 rated it really liked it
This memoir about death is full of life.
Gabriel Campos
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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 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 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this a long time ago, and again just now because it was featured in Will Schwabe's "Books for Living." What struck me most about this story, of a high school senior who lives for 15 months with a brain tumor, is how much the world has changed -- and how little cancer has. John Gunther is an author, well known in his time, who tells the story of his son Johnny's short life from the spring weekend he was diagnosed with a brain tumor to his death just over a year later, just after his high sch ...more
Mar 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Somehow, I keep being drawn to books on death.

This one very dissimilar to my own grief, as it is about the death of a child (17 yrs). Nonetheless it impressed me in various things.
- Gunther himself says at the end that "the whys and wherefores of the celestial bookkeeping involved... I will not go into here." They are presented as an agnostic family. Rather he states that "the central pith and substance of what I am trying to write" is "that it was his spirit ... that kept him invincibly alive a
Sep 24, 2014 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 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 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 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
Dec 29, 2008 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
Edwina Callan
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2017
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
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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
“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
More quotes…