A great book worth reading is mobituaries / Great lives worth reliving by Mo Rocca and Jonathan Greenberg. I saw this book in the library just before the lock down and my first thought was that it was about gangsters, but not so. It is a collection of short obituaries, bios or tidbits about over 200 people, many of whom I heard about but some I never did, until now.

At first, I flipped through the book and settled on pages about people I knew about such as Thomas Paine who became a pretty angry person and a political hothead in the years after Common Sense. He seems to have lost his common sense. Interwoven with Paine are some comments about many of the people he interacted with giving a flavor of the times and some stealth history lessons.

The book starts out with dragons, unicorns and mermaids which I initially skipped having no patience for nonsense, but the writing style is so interesting and the book’s massive amount of information forced me to go back to the beginning after I reached the end. The book has an interesting and timely chapter on Black Congressmen after Reconstruction indicating the poison, degradation, narrowmindedness, stupidity and cruelty of racism. The authors roast false science mentioning the “murder” of George Washington via bloodletting and covers defunct sports teams including one that was owned by our current president.

I liked reading about Ada Lovelace, George Gordon, Lord Byron’s daughter, who was a math genius and might have given us the first computer working alongside Charles Babbage and also possibly the first algorithm. If you ever wondered what happened to Prussia, the country we all learned about in high school history, you can find out exactly how and when the country died when it was 421 years old. Being a New Jerseyite now [I’m originally from The Bronx] I liked the summaries of who the twelve rest stops on the New Jersey Turnpike were named after, and why.

The bio of Fanny Brice was a little different from Funny Girl, but nothing terribly different and is followed by brief comments with things I didn’t know about a lot of the people movies were made about including Calamity Jane, T.E. Lawrence, George S. Patton, George M. Cohan, Eva Perón, Marlene Dietrich, Maria von Trapp, Jake LaMotta and Spartacus.

Presidents Herbert Hoover and John Quincy Adams, two of our least charismatic presidents, rate a chapter with some very interesting facts about them. They were remarkable people with great accomplishments, just not while they were president.

There is a lot more, and the above covers less than the first half of the book. I liked it and think anyone curious about oddball facts about well-known people or movements or people that should be better known would also like it. Check it out. Actually, I checked it out of my public library and it was in my house for four months until I returned it when they reopened to accept returns. Use your public library!

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