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Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,196 ratings  ·  162 reviews
Celebrity, with its neon glow and selfie pout, strikes us as hypermodern. But the famous and infamous have been thrilling, titillating, and outraging us for much longer than we might realise. Whether it was the scandalous Lord Byron, whose poetry sent female fans into an erotic frenzy; or the cheetah-owning, coffin-sleeping, one-legged French actress Sarah Bernhardt, who l ...more
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published March 19th 2020 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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 ·  1,196 ratings  ·  162 reviews

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Ruby Granger
Apr 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely LOVED this. As with his A Million Years in a Day, Jenner offers an accessible, funny and well-researched book. I loved the niche little details and super-specific examples (e.g. Nell Gwynn, who I'd never heard of!) -- and how these were compared to better-known celebrities who all of us know (Byron, Wilde, Dickens, Bowie etc.).
The book wasn't chronological which I also really liked. It means that the book can explore broader themes, as opposed to just providing an overview.
One thi
Entertaining as ever from Greg Jenner, but evaluative and educational too. Review to come.
Sara Marsden
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History: tick
Puns: tick
References Lord Byron and Nell Gwyn: tick (okay this is more of a niche thing, I just enjoy reading about them)
Facts that you will definitely be telling everyone: tick (Gorbachev was in a Pizza Hut advert, please YouTube it)

This book had a 99% chance success rate with me before I even got to rip open the box it came in, maybe that’s unfair to the book but rest assured I was 100% right. Jenner has such a joyful way with words. He is witty, hugely intelligent, an excellent w
Kathrin Shawcross
This is a really fun history book, sure to please readers of all types. Greg Jenner has the charismatic quality of a really dear freind telling an incredibly entertaining story about a subject you know they're reliable on.

It's a book dripping with wit. Even the most straightforward sentences have an air of humor about them, as if we're just caught up in the merriment of reading Jenner's various anecdotes and tidbits.

It's a book fit to burst with delightful information. Very enjoyable, definate
Tessa Buckley
I started this book with high expectations, having listened to the author talking about it at the Hay Festival online. I like historical biographies, and was looking forward to learning more about those people who I had previously been unaware of. However, I found it disconcerting that, instead of a potted biography of each famous character, there would be multiple references to each person throughout the book to illustrate different points about the nature of celebrity. This, added to the breat ...more
Ok, OK, I heard him speak about this and thought "sounds a hoot." It wasn't. It boasts 125 celebrities- so each one gets less than 3 pages and as there is 5 chit-chat words to one factional word it neither satisfied nor entertained. ...more
Overall - 4.4/5
Accessibility - 5/5
Writing - 4.5/5
Insight - 5/5
Enjoyment - 4.5/5
Memorability - 3/5
Listening experience - 4.5/5
Would listen again? Yes

I'm a big fan of Greg Jenner, his podcast You're Dead to Me is one of my favourites. He's funny and clever and okay, fine I may have a small history nerd crush on him. I thought this historical look at celebrity and our fascination with famous people was a really great listen. Wonderfully narrated by Greg himself, I've been enjoying dipping in and ou
This book explores the meaning of celebrity and fame and all the other connotations which have become somewhat mixed in our times. Using examples from the last 300 years or so, Jenner shows how celebrity culture and fandoms are nothing new. It's informative but also entertaining in its approach and makes for a fascinating read. ...more
Aug 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did really enjoy this book, it was interesting and humorous, and taught me a lot about celebrity. However, it took me so goddamn long. I wouldn't pick it up for days, and when I did my mind wandered. Obviously, history books take me way longer to read than my normal YA, fantasy or sci-fi, there's a lot of new information to take in, that's the whole point. It is definitely worth a read, I did enjoy it when I could concentrate, although sometimes I lost the point he was trying to make, probably ...more
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not super into celebrity culture in general, but this was just a fun (mostly light hearted) romp through what fame and celebrity is and various past celebrities. I.. probably would have gotten more out of it if I had paid attention a lot more closely. But as it was, it's just a good thing to relax with during the stressful year of 2020 :) The book is read by the author and he does a great job. ...more
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book - you will read and learn - and be eager to learn even more! The writing is engaging with humour throughout - and there is a whole tempting reading list at the end too. Just wonderful!
Jacqueline Williams
The research that must have gone into this book is amazing. Each sentence is loaded with facts. With so much to take in, at times it felt more like a dissertation then a book. I enjoyed the historic strange celebrity snippets.
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Greg’s 2nd book. Having loved the first I have been keenly awaiting this book since Greg first mentioned he was writing it on Twitter, about 4 years ago.
Although I mainly read novels, I do read history books and what I like about both of Greg’s books is that they are more easily readable. People who know him from his work on Horrible Histories won’t be surprised that he makes history for adults as enjoyable as he helped make history for children.
This book looks at the history of celebrity, cons
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book straddles the line of academic and popular audiences beautifully. It is well researched AND easy to read, which is rather a difficult balance to achieve. The last chapter was especially thought-provoking and sent me back to some of my grad school research. This book is fun and informative, and the Acknowledgments at the end are beautiful. Highly recommend if you are looking to learn without being put to sleep.
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was soo good. Im not that big into celebrity culture but for someone to break down the history and explore it as a concept is so intriguing. It's also a massive research piece and less about opinions on things and I think the author did such a good job presenting different perspectives as well as giving him own and recognising what is objectively morally wrong and what is up to the perspective on an individuals opinion.

I also loved consuming this as an audiobook because it's narrated by the
Nov 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is an enjoyable and informative tour through celebrity. Greg Jenner writes in an conversational tone which makes it easy to read. I definitely found it more interesting to read about celebrities I already knew about, which was interesting. The acknowledgements at the end made the book worth reading to be honest, it was so nice!

Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
RTC. I have the same feelings as I did while listening to Toksvig's Almanac 2021.

I really liked listening to this and really enjoyed Greg's voice, but might have been better if I had the book as names came up that I wanted to know more about and yet, I couldn't as wasn't sure how to spell them. But this was really fascinating and insightful listening!
Jack Bates
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great fun and quite fascinating

I know this took four years of research and produced millions of words of notes but it feels effortlessly entertaining and is full of great characters and some very interesting truths about celebrity.
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
I enjoyed this - full of interesting anecdotes, I listened to it as an audiobook and I liked the conversational way it was read, more podcasty than audiobooky.
Ellie Dockerty
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A truly delightful read- funny and engaging. Jenner writes colloquially whilst being very informative. One downside is the slightly dense chapter where the main argument is set up- but he does warn you! Highly recommend!
Helen Carolan
An amusing and witty look at the cult of celebrity with Jenner showing it's been with us for longer than we may have assumed. ...more
Verity W
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
First up, I should say that I went to the same uni as Greg – and what’s more we both “worked” at the same student radio station – and although we weren’t in the same teams or social groups we do follow each other on Twitter. Anyway since then, Greg has gone on to be a successful public historian – he worked on the Horrible Histories series, hosts a two podcasts for the BBC and done all sorts of exciting history stuff including his first book, A Million Years in a Day. Dead Famous came out last m ...more
Charlotte Coyne
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
So very quickly into starting this book I decided I needed to have a pencil with me at all times whilst reading it to underline certain key lines that just made me snort with laughter, which quickly turned into annotating at least every other page. Will have to edit this review section at some point with the funniest lines. History + humour = v. happy Charlotte :)
Ron Fortuna
Well researched look at celebrities in history. This is obviously a labour of love and Greg infuses his book with warmth and good humour. There’s much to love about his book, but ultimately I found that it came out as a series of rather disjointed anecdotes. I found myself wanting to know more details about some of the characters, but had to make do with a couple of paragraphs- or find out further snippets sprinkled in at unexpected intervals.
Claire Huston
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As meticulously researched as it is entertaining. Top stuff! 5 stars.

This review was originally posted on my book blog.

I don’t read anywhere near as much non-fiction as fiction. This is simply because I can never read it as quickly and I often find my attention sliding away from the page. However, I really wanted to read Dead Famous because I’m a fan of Greg Jenner, particularly his BBC Podcast, You’re Dead to Me (it’s on BBC Sounds, please check it out, you won’t be sorry).

Jenner excels at maki
Amy Louise
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You may recognise Greg Jenner as the host of BBC comedy podcast You’re Dead To Me!, or as the public historian whose work behind the scenes on the series Horrible Histories has been part of making history fun, interesting, and accessible for children and adults alike. If you don’t, I highly recommend hunting down both (the podcast is a delightful mix of the fascinating and the obscure, whilst Horrible Histories is an absolute riot to watch – I can highly recommend the ‘Kings and Queens’ song).

Laura (itslauracrow)
Like others, I came to this book as I'm a big fan of Greg Jenner's BBC history podcast, You're Dead To Me. I think the way he talks about and engages the listener (or reader in this case!) with history is so fun and accessible, and we definitely need more of this type of content to help shift the stereotype that history is dull and dusty or only for academics.

As a slightly morbid, gothic teenager (I mean, I'm still slightly morbid and gothic so some things never change) I devoted the entire sec
Apr 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
A very interesting read for everyone with a healthy interest in celebrity and history (especially the last 350 or so years). I was a bit disappointed at first to note that this mostly covered famous people from the early 1700s onwards, but Jenner made some compelling arguments for his choice and did delve a bit into famous people of the ancient times, so he mostly made up for that. Overall this book offered a fascinating analysis of celebrity and what it entails - it did get a bit dry at times ( ...more
I started out really, really enjoying Dead Famous and then ended up DNF'ing it. Let's unpick that transition.

Greg Jenner makes for a fun narrator, both in book and audio form. I would 100% go to the pub and chat about history with Greg Jenner. Dead Famous is also extremely accessible: it will probably be picked up by a lot of people who've never read any history books before. And hey, maybe it will serve as a gateway into other, better history books? Let's hope so.

The problem is that it's very,
Mar 22, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen, despite its subtitle, focuses mostly on the period between the early 18th century and the 1950s (and within that, largely people from the UK and US). Greg Jenner argues that celebrity as we think of it today first emerges in the early decades of the eighteenth century, enabled by various technological and societal factors, and that it's distinguished from fame or renown by its focus on the personality/private life ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: ISBN 978-0-297-86980-1: Hardcover has pages 2 9 Apr 20, 2020 01:41PM  

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Greg Jenner (b.1982) is a British public historian, broadcaster, and author noted for using humour and pop culture to communicate the complexities of the past. He is the author of

He is also the Historical Consultan

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