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He Died with a Felafel in His Hand

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  3,019 ratings  ·  207 reviews
These are the memoirs of 29 year old John Birmingham, who has shared houses and apartments with 89 people and kept notes on all of them.
Paperback, 214 pages
Published May 1st 2000 by Duffy & Snellgrove (first published 1994)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,019 ratings  ·  207 reviews

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Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, humour
I once lived with a man who covered the entire wall of our shared (four people) bathroom with hard-core Dutch pornography. I asked him to take it down and he claimed it couldn’t be removed as it was ‘Art’. We had a yelling match that went for thirty minutes.

If you’ve ever shared a home with someone, (a roommate in the US, known as a housemate here in Australia) you most likely have a horror story like this (I hope yours is less gross). If you’ve argued over dishes, gotten annoyed at your roomie’
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australian, humour
Apart from Scientologists and born-again Christians, junkies are probably the worst people in the world to live with. Even other junkies will tell you that.

Everyone seems to be telling their Sydney houseshare horror story so here's mine:

Young, innocent and off-the-plane from Perth, my boyfriend and I move into our first room off King st. The house is an decrepit 3 bedroom terrace (no living room) with a disgusting bathroom (the plastic in the bath is warped and stripped away). In our first week
Sep 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
great paragraph:

We all smoked way too much. If you took all the shit we smoked in just one year and rolled it into one big joint, it would be so much bigger than the biggest joint you have ever seen that you would need to smoke two really big joints just to deal with the concept of its incredible bigness.
Kevin Klehr
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this many years ago when John Birmingham wrote it while still writing articles for the Rolling Stone (I think).

It's the embellished account of thirteen share households he actually lived in across major Australian cities during the 1980s. Very funny. It's easy to relate to as you recognise the personality types that you may have met or lived with back in the day.

There was a movie version made of this, but I don't recommend the film. There is no real plot in the book, which makes it a fasc
David Sarkies
Dec 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Australians
Recommended to David by: Some American - go figure
Shelves: comedy
Sharehousing in Australia
13 December 2012

John Birmingham wrote so much better when he was writing gonzo journalism rather than the sci-fi books that he seems to have written of late, but then again he seems to sell books, and the books that he did write early on pretty much set him up to the point where he could pretty much write what he wanted to, so I guess more power to him. Anyway, while I do not know what the experience of share housing is in England (and I understand that there is a lot o
Little Miss Esoteric
Aug 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
'He Died With A Felafel In His Hand' is hilarious, and so spot on. As an art school student, I lived and slept in various group houses in Queensland. They were fun years, although a bit hazy. I'm sure I know some of the people in this book, and a great many of the cockroaches...
Mark Farley
I've been in the fortunate position for most of my life not to have dealt with anything like the flat/housemate problems and eccentricities in 'He Died with a Falafel in His Hand', having always lived with some sort of female partner since my very early 20s. That was until a year ago, when I moved back to Brighton, on the south coast of England and moved into a shared flat (sight unseen, as I had moved the length of the country specially) with well, I shan't name her. Let's just call her 'misera ...more
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is hilarious, laugh out loud funny. I used to read this while on my way to work on the tram and got some very strange looks from my fellow passengers because of my laughter. It's ok, they probably just thought I was one of those mental cases. John Birmingham has lived with such people, and here he tells us about them. We have stories about housemates who come home drunk and piss in the fridge, housemates who get into screaming arguments over which cupboard shelf the can of pineapple ch ...more
Jan 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldnt-finish
I'm afraid I didn't enjoy this book at all. It was loaned to me by my son, he loved it, also his wife. And the many others who have reviewed it positively. But it's just not my sort of story!
Aug 26, 2020 rated it liked it
still can't tell if this is more humorous or horrific
Rachel Eldred
Oct 05, 2012 rated it liked it
I vaguely remember watching the 2001 film ‘He Died With A Felafel In His Hand’, starring Noah Taylor. I say ‘vaguely’ because I was probably stoned at the time, my brain compromised in the memory department. I do remember, however, that it was strange. But, then, I like ‘strange’.

The book is less strange; more nostalgic. It made me laugh, but it also horrified me. I spent part of my 20s lost in the world of share accommodation, and it wasn’t pretty. Most of it was spent under the influence of dr
May 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I had a lot of fun reading this book, jumping from one mad share-house experience to another. It reminded me about dormitory life a little, but more insane. The diversity of characters is amazing, but most of them are episodic. This is what makes the book so easy to read: a lot of short stories, happenings, anecdotes, one after another, one crazy flatmate followed by an even crazier one, no space for pauses of normality. At times, I even felt a little envious of the author.

Anyway, it's not as go
Feb 11, 2015 rated it did not like it
Yuk. Disgusting stories of random bogans behaving badly. I couldn't force myself to finish this book (which rarely happens as I like to finish what I start).
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The funniest story that came out of my own decade of share housing involved a bag of rotting potatoes on the back of the kitchen door. Clearly I wasn't doing it right.
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book 19 years ago, when I was batching my way through several share households with a large variety of flatmates. This book was a classic case of "I thought I had it bad... but then I saw what you got".

Now re-reading this book as a married man with kids, I no longer relate to the lifestyle and it seems so foreign, and so long ago. We all grow up and this book brought back great memories of what life used to be, and reminds me how good I have it now.

Enough reminiscing, this book
Ellen McMahon
House-sharing horror stories that were often as hilarious and relatable as they were disturbing.
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I really thought this would be funnier but it was all over the place and just made me so glad I've never had to live in a share house. - 2.5 stars
Oct 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very funny! Very Australian! Bohemian and way out there!
 Charlie - A Reading Machine
Read this whilst doing an acting degree in at Wollongong Uni. I could not have been closer to the life of the author...not including hardcore drugs.
Sarah Kingston
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Up until April this year, if you had asked me about John Birmingham, I would have made all sorts of enthusiastic noises, but I wouldn't have been able to say I'd read his most famous work - the work which made him 'The Felafel Guy'. I was familiar with him from having done a couple of very beneficial writing workshops with him, and reading a few of his columns and blog posts. But Felafel had passed me by, and I think this came along at exactly the right time.

I picked this book up when I was extr
Can't really decide what to think. I'm definitely grateful now for the wonderfully normal roommates I have and I've had and completely shocked at what specimens you can encounter, especially in some parts of the world.
Pip  Tlaskal
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I finished 'Leviathon' in January and wanted to check out what else he had written. This is a chronicle of his life in a series of share houses, interspersed with vignettes by people he has lived with. For a clean freak (which I am not) it makes stomach-turning reading; the rats and roaches, the fish finger 'cuisine' and the procession of seemingly pleasant flatmates who become weird once they soak into the unique emotional broth that each house seemed to become. It makes gripping yet queasy rea ...more
Apr 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
A collection of anecdotes about sharing house in Australia. The title refers to the opening story of the narrrator finding his housemate on a bean bag "as cold as the felafel in his hand" from a heroin overdose. I laughed from cover to cover. It is uniquely Australian in its telling and humour. Having said that, I think any person would understand the experience and jocularity.
There are also blurbs from former house mates scattered throughout the book dispensing their wisdom. One of these was a
Cheryl Anne Gardner
Sep 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very funny stuff. Birmingham knows how to turn a phrase.

Anyone who has experience house sharing has a story or two to tell, but these are over the top frightening and hysterical. This is outsider stuff, or as the author aptly named them: The Fringe Dwellers. Sounds like a horror movie, and some of these people are the weirdest monsters you'll ever have the pleasure of not knowing.

A fun and bizarre look at the edge of humanity.
Apr 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to alfie by: father
Fairly amusing throughout.

not a read before bed book - as in, I wasn't aware it was an amalgmation of annecdotes rather than a story.

I read this before moving out to Uni - it kind of put me off the transition, but I needn't have worried, things ave moved on a bit since his day.

Maybe a decent bathroom book to read whilst in the bath.
Livian Grey
I've been lucky to have this author guest speak at one of my lectures many years ago. This account of share-house living in Australia is more accurate than an outsider might believe. I wasn't too thrilled with the follow up, which I've yet to finish. This works well as a character study more than a story, it's haphazard and hilarious. Made a great Australian film.
Sep 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you've ever had a crazy roommate, you'll probably find them in this book. It's hysterical. Great snippet reading, too.
Lloyd Tandy
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Funniest book I've ever read. I can't read it in public because I laugh too loudly when I read it, and weird people out.
Jan 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Absolutely hilarious!!! Relatable and somewhat horrifying! I loved it!
Extremely funny – but I'm sure I lived in this house as a student: if not, it is worrying that there have been two such houses.
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Goodreads Librari...: Add page count 7 29 Apr 21, 2019 11:41AM  
Let's Read Togeth...: Ch. 54 – He Died with a Felafel in His Hand with Max Corbel 1 4 May 10, 2016 09:05PM  
Scarily Hilarious! 4 27 Sep 18, 2011 03:52PM  

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John Birmingham grew up in Ipswich, Queensland and was educated at St Edmunds Christian Brother's College in Ipswich and the University of Queensland in Brisbane. His only stint of full time employment was as a researcher at the Defence Department. After this he returned to Queensland to study law but he did not complete his legal studies, choosing instead to pursue a career as a writer. He curren ...more

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