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Download The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries Audiobook, by Marilyn Johnson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (700 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Marilyn Johnson Narrator: Marilyn Johnson Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2010 ISBN: 9780062047113
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Marilyn Johnson was enthralled by the remarkable lives that were marching out of this world—so she sought out the best obits in the English language and the people who spent their lives writing about the dead. She surveyed the darkest corners of Internet chat rooms, and made a pilgrimage to London to savor the most caustic and literate obits of all. Now she leads us on a compelling journey into the cult and culture behind the obituary page and the unusual lives we don't quite appreciate until they're gone.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “What a wonderful surprise—a charming, lyrical book about the men and women who write obituaries. The Dead Beat is sly, droll, and completely winning.”

    David Halberstam, New York Times bestselling author of The Best and the Brightest

  • “A joyful book about obituaries? Absolutely! Marilyn Johnson pulls it off with death-defying grace, insight, charm, and wit. In the end, what a celebration of life!”

    Lee Eisenberg, New York Times bestselling author of The Number: A Completely Different Way to Think About the Rest of Your Life

  • “A fetching book about obituaries? Well, yes: Ms. Johnson writes about obituaries with the zeal—and insight— of an avid obit fan.”

    New York Times

  • Dead Beat never fails to entertain. Shunning the anthological approach, Johnson ties the book together with tales of the many writers responsible for the current vogue of obituaries and, of course, those lucky enough to be eulogized by them.” 

    Bookmarks magazine

  • “With care and an ear for gentle humor, Johnson guides her readers through the surprisingly structured, labyrinthine obit scene, pausing to meet the writers while pondering both the essence of our being and why, in the right hands, the life of an average Joe can be just as riveting as the shenanigans of a high-flying playboy. And infinitely more resonant.” 

    Amazon.com editorial review

  • “An amusing, often poignant, and continually amazing book, Johnson’s first effort is dead on.” 

    Barnes & Noble editorial review

  • “[Johnson has] written a warm, funny, appreciative book that...should live forever.”

    Roy Blount Jr., author of Feet on the Street: Rambles Around New Orleans

  • “A beautifully written, funny, and fascinating tour through the unexpectedly lively world of obituaries.”

    Lisa Grunwald, author of Women’s Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present

  • “[A] quirky, accessible book.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “The short paragraphs in Marilyn Johnson’s audiobook bespeak her journalistic training. By hearing her own narration, listeners can also experience the writer’s personality in a way they couldn’t with a performance delivered by an actor.” 

    AudioFile

  • “Humorous, engaging, and informative.”  

    Booklist

  • “An engaging study of today’s obituaries...[Johnson] keeps the subject light, with a humorous tone.”

    Library Journal

  • “A smart...take on journalism’s dark art.” 

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Trina | 2/9/2014

    " I think I would have enjoyed reading more of the actual obituaries. Time to reread 52 McGs. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Nicole | 1/29/2014

    " Apparently there are folks out there simply fascinated with reading the obituaries and there are equally unique individuals who enjoy the opportunity to describe the recently departed. This book details how one author's hobby with reading the obits morphs into meeting their authors and attending their small annual conference. The writers describe what drew them into the field and the novel is peppered with samples of various obits. If your only exposure to reading obituraries was noting casually those cited in your local paper, this novel reveals there is a lot more to this art than meets the eye. Many of the obits are attributed to ordinary folk, men and women who left this earth with the joys and failures of us all and the writers who pen their last written tribute take their craft seriously. It was enlightening but, as one would expect, a little on the dry side. Writers, journalists, and lovers of the macarb would probably enjoy reading this work. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 spenca | 1/26/2014

    " A brief glimpse of the obituary writers and their 'take' on what they do, how they do it. A quick read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Liz DeCoster | 1/25/2014

    " I was disappointed in this book. It was neither as funny or informative as similar non-fiction works I've read (e.g. Stiff), nor did it seem as coherent. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marguerite | 1/19/2014

    " I'll start with my biases. I'm a longtime, now former, journalist who's written several "everywoman/everyman" obituaries for family and friends. I call obit writers friends. (I know some funeral directors, too.) I started a choir at my church to sing at funerals because the music suffered at times and upset grieving families further. (Good music can comfort.) It's neither ghoulish nor cultish to appreciate a fine last word, and that's what Marilyn Johnson's book is about. Yes, some folks take their appreciation to extremes. I find them fascinating from a distance. But, here's the thing: An obituary (or wedding or anniversary announcement) should give the reader a sense of the person or people it celebrates. The only way it can do that is by breaking free from standard forms and telling the truth. Johnson's book recognizes and encourages that, with copious, sometimes hilarious, examples from English-language publications. It celebrates good send-offs and fine prose. The book is meticulously researched. I found the chapter on obituary terminology (most of it made up) silly. But I'm quibbling. The Dead Beat is a fun and quick read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Doris | 1/7/2014

    " A guide to notable obituaries, obituary writers, and obituary sources in newsprint and cyberspace. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Teri Massey | 1/3/2014

    " Very interesting finds re: lost sould & lucky stiffs :) Hits very close to home with my choosen line of work , quite funny, easy read "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 al•veiz | 11/23/2013

    " more boring than life or death. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chip | 11/1/2013

    " Surprisingly humorous especially the first few chapters (I laughed out loud a few times). Made me sad about how traditional newspapers are failing. Overall, a better read than I expected "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary Tuley | 10/27/2013

    " I suppose the writer is a bit preoccupied with the obituary-writing industry, but her title alone is worth the price of admission. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shannon | 10/24/2013

    " introduced me to the unsung art world of obit writing. very inviting and entertaining read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janis | 10/22/2013

    " A book about obituaries and obituary writers could've been dark, snarky and loaded with gallows humor but Johnson sets a more interesting tone - admiring and (appropriately) respectful, yet also witty and warm and charming. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anita | 9/15/2013

    " Wacky, quick read. I thought this book would get me into reading obits, but it's been a couple weeks now and I still haven't read a one. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sharon | 7/29/2013

    " Loved this book! I've always loved reading obituaries and am so happy to learn about this journalistic subculture. I really appreciate the websites and newspapers listed in the appendix. More reading opportunities await! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Clare | 12/6/2012

    " Reallly boring.. has some interesting parts but barely made it through... sooo dull.. like reading a text book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Amy | 11/10/2012

    " Not as interesting as it sounds. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michelle | 11/1/2012

    " This was the December 2009 Selection by Emilie David "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Charity | 9/19/2012

    " I wish I could give this 2.5 stars. Parts of this were really good others not so much. But in all honesty it wasn't what I thought it would be, so maybe thats where the disappointments began. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tim | 6/12/2012

    " As someone who worked in the newspaper business but at newspapers that didn't employ obit writers, I found the book entertaining. That said, I was hoping for even more outlandish obit stories. I thought it was well researched and well written, but I got bored at times. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennie | 10/25/2011

    " Many funny bits about the obituary column and it's rabid following. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Raquel | 9/7/2011

    " Entertaining look at the cult of obituary readers and writers. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rock | 4/2/2011

    " Talk about a writers' niche! I'd never thought about the craft of writing obits. Fun, funny, and touching. Some great writing, and love the history of the obit. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ariel | 3/23/2011

    " Pretty interesting, but not much rhyme or reason to the organization of the book. Good for a train read, though. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katiesays | 1/30/2011

    " Interesting and witty. Unlike this review. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Annie | 12/25/2010

    " I got the book because the subject matter was different. I loved the book and found myself looking at obit websites and looking for more books about obituary writers. Funny and fascinating, historical and hysterical, sensitive and cynical. I want more by this author! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janis | 9/20/2010

    " A book about obituaries and obituary writers could've been dark, snarky and loaded with gallows humor but Johnson sets a more interesting tone - admiring and (appropriately) respectful, yet also witty and warm and charming. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jean | 9/16/2010

    " Amusing look at Obit lovers...I'm personally a fan of them. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Elaine | 9/11/2010

    " Not as good as I'd hoped. Needed more actual obits. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lauren | 8/17/2010

    " this book was really interesting, partially because it was clearly written by an insane person and reads like the diary of such. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Trina | 8/5/2010

    " I think I would have enjoyed reading more of the actual obituaries. Time to reread 52 McGs. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eve | 7/29/2010

    " I guess it is true, you really do learn something new everyday. I had no idea that there were people specifically paid to write obituary's for newspapers or that they had their very own convention. A fascinating and interesting read for sure. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sharon | 7/20/2010

    " Loved this book! I've always loved reading obituaries and am so happy to learn about this journalistic subculture. I really appreciate the websites and newspapers listed in the appendix. More reading opportunities await!

    "

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About the Author
Author Marilyn Johnson

Marilyn Johnson is a former editor and writer for Life, Esquire, and Outside magazines, and lives with her husband, Rob Fleder, in New York's Hudson Valley.