How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

Are you interested in the lives and deaths of major historical figures? Did you used to be a big fan of MAD Magazine? If you answered “yes” to both these questions, then How They Croaked is the book for you.

Each person discussed in the book, from King Tut through Albert Einstein, either died in some horrific way, or their bodies were treated in some horrific way—sometimes both.  For instance, Beethoven had dropsy, a disease that caused his body to become bloated with rotting fluid. Doctors treated it by drilling a hole in his stomach to drain the fluid. They used this hole to drain fluid four times and each time plugged the hole with a piece of cloth afterwards. (There were no stitches back then, no anesthesia, and no pain killers.) Of course, the hole became infected. And that was just the beginning.  After the poor guy finally died, an autopsy was performed and pieces of his skull were stolen. His body has been dug up multiple times over the years in order to try to figure out what killed him. (It was lead poisoning.)

It’s time to point out that How They Croaked was written for young people. Thus, the emphasis on gore and the snarky style of writing. Here’s a sample from the chapter on Edgar Allen Poe:

Poe attended a lot of funerals. When he wasn’t going to funerals, he wrote stories about dead people (or soon-to-be-dead people) living in torture chambers, haunted houses, and other creepy locales with zero chance of escape. His stories start out with lines like “I was sick—sick unto death with that long agony,” and that’s the cheery part. Misery, loneliness, and death are the grim themes of this work … and of his life. Lots of bad stuff happened to him, and then he died.

I have to admit I was highly entertained. I listened to the audio of this book and the narrator, L.J. Ganser, injected even more snark into the narrative.  Maybe this means my sense of humor never matured past the MAD Magazine stage. That’s okay. What, me worry?

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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One Response to “How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg”

  1. Ash Says:

    Great pick for your reviews…looking forward to reading all the gory stuff!

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