[I've been 
reading]

The Dead Beat   book icon  
by Marilyn Johnson (2007)

read: 4 August 2010
rating: [+]
categories: best in show, non-fiction

This is one of my favorite books that I’ve read lately. I have to apologize to Johnson because she sent this to me graciously a long time ago and it’s been on my “to read” pile for an embarrassingly long time. It was worth the wait. Johnson’s look into obituaries and the culture that has grown up around writing and reading them is a wonderful well-researched look at a subculture that most of us probably know very little about. Her compassionate look at the touchy subject of death and dying and people who immerse themselves in it for a living is interesting and funny without being too funny. Johnson has just the right amount of stories about other people and self-reflection [she is a freelance obituary writer herself] to make this book captivating and compelling. The addition of an appendix of URLs and a photo section really takes it beyond what you’d expect in the standard “New York writer talks about weird things other people don’t know have a cult following” vein. As someone who enjoys those types of books but is frequently left wanting more details, less New Yorker anxiety and more depth, this book completely delivers. Can’t wait to read her next one, also on my nightstand.

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