How They Croaked
Under ordinary circumstances, a book full of ticks, gout, lead poisoning and bloating (among other atrocities) would render me pretty sick at my stomach and ready to toss it straight into the trash. But not so with, How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous, by the very talented and quite hilarious Georgia Bragg. I read her wonderfully awful book in one sitting, laughed my head off, and completely changed my mind about goop and gore.
How They Croaked examines the lives (and putrid deaths) of famous figures from yester-year: Columbus, King Tut, Beethoven, Charles Darwin, and Edgar Allan Poe, just to name a few. Like a loyal historian, it offers details about each person’s early life, and then finishes with a bang by detailing each person’s knife-riddled, maggot-infested or bacteria-festered demise.
It is well-organized, meticulously-detailed, and full of asides and tidbits of information that teach you a thing or two (or three) about the medical ignorance of yester-year, even as you double over in side-splitting laughter. For instance, you’ll learn the steps for a successful leeching; how and why King Henry VIII stunk like an egg; and what happened to poor King Tut’s entrails and his finger, just to list a few. This gruesome information is offered in chunks, but is softened somewhat by the quaint and classical artwork of artist Kevin O’Malley. The cover is done in a deep, blood-colored red, and is complete with the shocking white skeleton of a long-dead physician grinning at the reader with an “I dare you to look” expression on its face.
Did I enjoy this book? Yes! Do I recommend it? Why, of course…right down to the last maggoty, stinky, slimy chunk of puke-riddled awfulness. But in case you’re one of those people who don’t take a hint, this book isn’t for the faint of heart. Bragg gives the same warning, describing this book and the disgusting deaths within as “pretty much one train wreck after another.” That’s why I’m putting a “Scaredy Cats” warning on this book; it’s just not for everyone, at least not without their parents’ permission.
But if you can get past the puke, congealed blood, carved-up mummies and jaw-dropping gore, you’ll feel pretty lucky to have discovered such a fantastic history book with such an indisputably unique twist.
Best wishes and happy reading,
PICTURE BOOK DEPOT