There are a lot of a books about death. They tend to be sad, even tragic, and discuss the subject at hand with great emotion and sobriety. How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg (Illustrated by Kevin O’Malley) is not that kind of boring drivel. Instead, it casually tackles the deaths of 19 very famous, very dead individuals. And since most of the people mentioned in this book died before the age of modern medicine (like Cleopatra, King Henry VIII, Napoleon), Bragg discusses all the things that contributed to their death. Yes, true, King Tut died of malaria, but there were way more problems that could have killed him had he managed to get some Mosquirix. People died extremely young back then.
In addition to the gory details leading up to and including death, Bragg includes interesting tidbits of information related to the person at hand. For instance, did you know that fans of Galileo took 5 bits of his body from his person when he was being moved to a larger tomb? Want to know which bits? You’ll have to read the book! (It’s on page 64).
Now, one of the most important parts of a nonfiction book is whether or not it cites its sources. After all, the information we’re learning we are assuming is true, and they have to have heard it was true from somewhere.
Well, Never, you fear, despite the book’s informal tone, there’s pages of source credits. And if you want to check up on the facts, they are conveniently categorized by person who died. What’s that? What source name most amused me? I would have to say “The History of Beethoven’s Skull Fragments” by Meredith William. Now that’s a thesis paper for the books. In addition to an extensive source list, there’s also a “Further Reading and Surfing” section that gives books, articles, and websites for you to peruse if you are interested in learning about any of these famous historical figures.
Overall, this is an amazingly fun and interesting read. And you can tell your parents that you’re expanding your horizons and reading nonfiction. Historical nonfiction at that! Bragg writes very conversationally and it sounds more like someone talking to you than reading a history textbook. It’s also friendly to the casual reader, as each death description is generally only 10 pages long, and the book does not have to be read sequentially or even in its entirety.
And the best part about this book? We have it at your local library! Click on the book below and it’ll take you to our catalog where you can put it on hold! Don’t have a library card? It’s super easy to get, you just need your legal guardian with a photo ID and proof of Texas residence. Bring those three things to our library and we can get you an awesome library card.
So what’s the worst/best death you’ve ever heard of? (Credibility points if you cite a source!) Tell us in the comments below!
Jenkin, Stephen. Credible Hulk. Digital image. Twitter. TheClassicLibrary, 26 June 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
Sustermans, Giusto. Portrait of Galileo Galilei. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
Williamstown, Gilbert Stuart. Portrait of George Washington. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.