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Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story Hardcover – June 28, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition (June 28, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743264452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743264457
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Klostermanfollows up on 2003's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by expanding on an article he wrote for Spin about driving cross-country to visit several of America's most famous rock and roll death sites, from the Rhode Island club where more than 90 Great White fans died in a fire, to the Iowa field where Buddy Holly's plane crashed. Along the way, Klosterman opines on rock music, never afraid to offend—as when he interprets a Radiohead album as a 9/11 prophecy or reminds readers that before Kurt Cobain's suicide, many preferred Pearl Jam to Nirvana. The quest to uncover these deaths' social significance is quickly overwhelmed by Klosterman's personal obsessions, especially his agonizing over sexual relationships. He applies semifictional techniques to these concerns, inventing an imaginary conversation in the car with three girlfriends that becomes the book's centerpiece. This literary cleverness recalls classic gonzo journalism, but also contains a self-conscious edge, inviting comparison to Dave Eggers. Klosterman also worries his neuroses will brand him as "the male Elizabeth Wurtzel," but he needn't fret. Despite their shared subject matter of drug use and cultural musing, Klosterman has clearly established that he has a potent voice all his own.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Armed with 600 CDs in the back seat, a task of gargantuan rock ’n’ roll proportions, memories of three dysfunctional relationships (an ex, a sort of ex, and a true love), and a wild imagination, Klosterman’s in good shape for his cross-country death trip. A few critics compared his pop-culture musings to Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Yet Klosterman (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs *** Nov/Dec 2003) tries harder, indulges himself more, chats faster, uses more gimmicks, and doesn’t achieve Hornby’s heights. But Klosterman is nothing if not articulate about music, and his light, humorous touch often reveals meatier themes and revelatory insights about not only music but also life and death, particularly his own life. Reading Klosterman is like sitting in a bar with a good friend. It’s fun, but when it’s time to leave, it’s time to leave.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


More About the Author

Chuck Klosterman is a New York Times bestselling author and a featured columnist for Esquire, a contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and has also written for Spin, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Believer, and ESPN.

Customer Reviews

Completely unpretentious, very funny and heartfelt.
Timothy Masterson
I don't know - just as Chuck claims he isn't qualified to live in New York - I don't think I am qualified to judge this book as good or bad.
Dentallica
This is the first Chuck Klosterman book I've read, but I was incredibly disappointed.
Saint Anthony

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Chuck Klosterman's first two books were highly entertaining if sometimes exasperating melanges of pop culture and memoir. In this third book his writing is just a snappy and sharp, but there's a lack of focus that makes it several notches weaker than those. When his pop-culture addled wit and insight are aimed directly at something like '80s metal, or contemporary film, or breakfast cereals, the results can be amazing. However, he can also descend into weak or muddled rants, and when he becomes the main subject, it's just not that interesting. Unfortunately, the main subject of this third book is largely himself and his tortured love life.

The premise that Chuck's going to go an Epic road trip (on Spin magazine's dime) to tour famous American rock and roll death sites proves to be mere pretense for an extended trip into Chuck's head as he drives cross-country. Sure, he visits a lot of places where people died, like Skynyrd, VanZant, Buckley, Holly, Cobain, et al, but he rarely has anything interesting to say. Very occasionally he does, such as pointing out that Sid Vicious' inability to play the bass was what made him the perfect punk icon. The best part is probably near the beginning, when he visits the Rhode Island site of a club fire during a Great White show which killed almost a hundred people. He discovers a site of pilgrimage and reflection (and coke snorting), and embarks on an excellent diatribe against the prevalence of ironic distance in modern music fans and how the people at the Great White show were the most authentic music fans around.

However, despite nice bits like these, the focus is on Chuck's current and ex-girlfriends -- which gets annoying for a number of reasons.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on August 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Killing Yourself to Live" is Chuck Klosterman's latest motormouth rant on popular culture and it's an entertaining, fun read. Chuck sets out in a rental car across America to visit the death sites of some famous rock stars, and to ponder why for so many of them their demise was a good career move. Chuck also tells the stories of three of his girlfriends (these may be in part or in whole fictional; at the beginning of the book Chuck warns us that "romance is 85% illusion and 15% real".)

Chuck is a clever fellow so he anticipates most of the criticism that will be leveled at this book ("Why are you writing what people will call a non-fiction "High Fidelity"?) Much of the fun comes from following Chuck's invariably self-questioning interior monologue. He captures very well how a lot of people talk to themselves, with self-doubt and self-deprecating comedy.

The appeal of this book for me is how Chuck approaches heavy subjects like Death and The Meaning Of Life with just the right lightness of touch. Comedy helps you bear the unbearble, and Klosterman shouldn't be dismissed because he tells good jokes along the way. His lightness conceals some pretty profound musings, like on page 218 where he explains how his love of KISS helps him make sense of his life: "Art and love are the same thing: it's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you. It's understanding the unreasonable." Unlike a lot of critics, Klosterman comes from the heartland and doesn't look back with disgust; the folkways of the middle of the country are bred in his bones, so he has a lot of skepticism for the enthusiasms of the elites. On page 92 he shows how a lot of intellectuals have to talk themselves into liking something like the Allman Brothers that most people who are non-rock critics simply enjoy as "just real music." Common sense is paradoxically a rare thing and I detect it in Chuck.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robin/poppymom on May 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan of Chuck's work for awhile and love his other books. This was my least favorite, mostly because it wasn't what I expected. From the press the book received, I expected it to be more about his visits to the death scenes, a la Sarah Vowell's "Assassination Vacation". My disappointment wasn't a product of bad writing; it was a product of bad marketing. I might reread it in a few months to see how it fares with more realistic expectations.

That said, the writing could have been much better. I felt like Chuck couldn't decide if he wanted the book to be cohesive, or an essay collection. While he always has interesting observations, I felt like he phoned it in a bit with this one. It felt rough, fast, and disjointed.

What was good about it? The premise, and ultimately making the point that life is a progression of change and small deaths, were both worthwhile. Chuck's writing style makes for a fun, engrossing read. Narcissistic navel-gazing? Sure. That's a given with this genre.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dentallica on November 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It sort of sticks to everything. I'm not sure if this even makes sense, but then again I am not sure if this book is even good. I read the book summary and the scanned pages online and I thought it would be a cool book revisiting the life and deaths of various rock stars. I imagined that Chuck would delve into the history of these stories as only he could - then summarize with some grandiose statement about how it is better to die as a rock star because you can't put out any bad albums when you are dead.

I couldn't be more wrong. Sure Chuck takes a road trip to different places where rock stars have died and yes there are some funny anecdotes along the way, but mostly this book is about Chuck and his inability to maintain a good relationship with a woman. I didn't buy `this' book. I wanted to read how Layne Staley's death impacted people. I wanted to read about how / why he died. I wanted Chuck to elaborate on the cultural significance of Alice in Chains. I wanted to know why people think Kurt Cobain was murdered. I wanted some expose and insight into these various lives and deaths. I wanted all these things and more.

SO I feel cheated. If the book was marketed as a self-reflection of lost and missing love then I would not have read it. No matter that I enjoy Chucks wit, and his unique cultural slants - I still would not have read a book centered on love.

This book does have thoughts on rock stars and death but instead of elaborating on these people and the places he travels, Chuck becomes introspective and self-analytical. So in other words, Chuck could have wrote this book about his normal 14 days living in New York and marketed it to suggest he knows something about women. Instead, Chuck takes a road trip and uses that as a false pretense to sell a story.
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