Summer Reading

Obit is a great book I’ve been meaning to mention here. When I was at the news writer workshop last month, I learned that there’s a great tradition in obituary writing where journalists don’t simply summarize two lines about a death, viewings, and family left behind. Some actually go out and interview people and piece together a story of someone’s life.

Jim Sheeler has an interesting column in the Rocky Mountain News — he picks out regular people that have never appeared in the paper before and does an exhaustive story of their life. The book is simply a colleciton of his best. At times it can get kind of schmaltzy, but overall it’s more uplifting than it is depressing to read about the lives of 50 deceased people. You find out that even the most ordinary people can lead extraordinary lives.

I got to meet Jim at the workshop and I soon realized I’d read his stuff before. He did a highly acclaimed series on the military program that informs families that they lost their children in battle.

6 Comments

  • As morbid as some folks find it when I tell them, I love reading obits. Another great collection, highlighting the famous and not-so is The Last Word, edited by Marvin Siegel.

  • Sheeler is on to something with his column.
    Another well done spin on the classic obit: “Corpus Obscurum — Remembering those whose accomplishments vastly exceeded their fame.”
    http://www.corpusobscurum.com
    The latest post: “Developer of the flavor coating for Cap’n Crunch cereal dead at 79″

  • Weird, I’m just now reading The Dead Beat by Marilyn Johnson about people who write obituaries. Who knew it was some sort of meme?

  • John Grisham’s The Last Juror touches on this, as the main character buys a small town newspaper and finds out how important the obits are to the readers.
    Of course that isn’t the main story but it is a part of it.

  • My only obit book experience has been the book 52 McGs: The Best Obituaries from Legendary New York Times Writer Robert McG. Thomas, Jr. (http://tinyurl.com/2zboul).
    I stumbled across it in the ‘recommeded by staff’ section in a book store a few years back, and rather enjoyed it – it’s a great collection.

  • That series on the Marines who share the bad news…. it was probably the single most gripping and moving piece of journalism I’ve ever read. I was bawling. BAWLING.
    Just thought I’d reenforce that it’s worth clicking on that link up there…

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