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Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses Hardcover – March 12, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A tasty, sharp, wonderfully unusual book. I enjoyed it like a jar of perfect dill pickles: when the mood strikes, nothing else will satisfy.” (Mary Roach bestselling author of Gulp and Stiff)

“If really, we’re all sitting in the undertaker’s waiting-room, then Rest in Pieces is the perfect easy read, preparation for the moment when the nurse steps out of the shadows and quietly calls your name.” (Simon Winchester bestselling author of Skulls and The Professor and the Madman)

“The world is awash with legendary body parts, from Einstein’s brain to Napoleon’s most intimate organ, and this wildly entertaining account proves that the fate of the grisly relics tells us a huge amount about history—and ourselves.” (Tony Perrottet author of Napoleon’s Privates)

“Deliciously morbid and delightfully macabre, Rest in Pieces is required reading for those of us who intend, one day, to die.” (Ben Schott bestselling author of Schott's Original Miscellany)

"[A] historically beguiling, stranger-than-fiction compendium, which unearths the surprising fates of famous corpses, from Beethoven's to Eva Peron's." (Elle)

“Marvelously macabre. . . . A fascinating foray into the way of all flesh.” (Kirkus Reviews)

About the Author

Bess Lovejoy is a writer, researcher, and editor based in Seattle. She worked on the Schott's Almanac series for five years, and her writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The Believer, The Boston Globe, and elsewhere. Visit her at BessLovejoy.com.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (March 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451654987
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451654981
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bess Lovejoy is a writer, researcher, and editor based in Seattle. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Believer, The Boston Globe, The Stranger, and other publications. She worked on the Schott's Almanac series for five years. Visit her at BessLovejoy.com or follow her on twitter at @besslovejoy or @Death_A_Day.

Customer Reviews

It's very well researched and enjoyable to read.
Anne Reid
Ano ther stellar read which I also enthusiastically recommend is "The Book of the Dead" by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson.
J. Bruce Dudley
Very interesting book, a bunch of (well documented) stories about the remains of some famous people.
William S. Kennedy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By D. Graves on March 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
While many of us have knowledge - or, believed knowledge - of the odd fates of body parts of the deceased famous (Percy Shelley's heart and Oliver Cromwell's head come to mind), now we have a book on the subject. Fifty fascinating stories are included, both detailing real events and, in some cases, debunking popular myths. To say that many of these cases are strange is a vast understatement: some of this is just gruesome - and funny.

The most interesting aspects of these stories is the often convoluted journeys these body parts (or remains) make once separated from the famous body: I have always admired Dorothy Parker's writing and her persona and to read how her ashes ended up being buried - twenty years after her death - on the grounds of the NAACP headquarters is one ridiculous story, a story worthy of Parker's famous sense of humor. The infamous stories of Napoleon's penis, Mussolini's head, Einstein's brain, Geronimo's skull and many more are included; others include Milton, Hitler, Lee Harvey Oswald, Beethoven, Charlie Chaplin, Elvis and Jesse James. Reading this, you will wince, laugh, and wince some more. Edgar Allan Poe would have loved this book (well, except for the part about his own death in the "(Un)Solved Mysteries" section).

This is not a thin, "entertainment"-type book: it's a thorough, 352-page volume with citations, an index, and an appendix with a not-for-the-squeamish analysis of what happens to a body after death. An excellent book - but a little unsettling, to tell you the truth.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William S. Kennedy on March 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very interesting book, a bunch of (well documented) stories about the remains of some famous people. From Alexander the Great to modern times. Also shows how differently we regard human remains than people did in the past.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Laurie A. Brown VINE VOICE on June 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Most people know about the resurrectionists, the grave robbers who provided bodies for medical students in the 19th century, but a lot of other things have happened to corpses. They have been stolen to use as religious relics, held for ransom, used as exhibits, moved from place to place- not always in complete form, shot into space (at least that one was the wish of the deceased), destroyed to prevent it being used as a political symbol, and preserved and displayed them as political symbols. Most of these things were done without the permission of the deceased, and most often without the permission of the family. Lovejoy recounts 51 short tales of the adventures of the deceased, from Alexander the Great to Hunter S. Thompson. All manner of people appear in the book: scientists, dictators, saints, poets, athletes, outlaws, philosophers, composers, presidents, singers, Native American chiefs, authors, assassins and more all take a turn.

While a grim subject, the book is amusing and interesting. But I read the book straight through, and that was a mistake. I started to weary of the subject and started getting the various chapters mixed up in my mind. I think this book would be better read in bits, picking it up to read a chapter or two at a time.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I absolutely adored this book. It was a very intriguing read, and I cannot believe some of the things people have done with others' remains in the name of love, hate, or just owning some cool memento to brag about. It also is kind of sad that in all of these different stories, very few of them got their dying wishes. Some of the ones that did had to wait years, others had the exact opposite imposed upon their remains. This is a must read for anyone who loves medical curiosity, urban legends, history buffs, or crazy stories about famous people. Also it is a fine example on how mankind deals with death & how different eras, cultures, and people do & believe in very opposite things & are ready to defend those beliefs obsessively-even to the eternity which some of them believe in. Also, the appendix is a nice little treat at the end for the readers that don't usually read about stuff like this & may not know what happens to our bodies after death. I loved that the author packed it full of source material that I can't wait to scour through & read. READ THIS BOOK!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a quirky book with short chapters about the different fates of famous corpses. It introduces the unsettling notion that our final resting place may be just an interim stop along the way. Another disquieting notion is the fetish that can occur concerning a corpse or a part of a corpse. One has only to travel to see the fascination of this subject from the traditional cemetery to public mausoleums. In our celebrity driven culture, this book combines two subjects of interest in these vignettes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kuniklos on May 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a fun book that I enjoyed reading. I have a quite a few macabre books like this and actually read a few things I had never read before. It was clearly written and very entertaining. It's even given me idea for other books to read like "Stalin's Embalmers."

Reading about dead bodies isn't for everyone. Some people might be uncomfortable reading about re-saturating famous dead willies or something equally ghastly, but if you have the stomach this is a fun read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. Shanahan on July 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I always enjoy a great compendium of corpses! Nothing demystifies our strange cultural and human responses to a process as natural as birth than a book like this. Written in a well researched but never stuffy style, Ms. Lovejoy takes us on a wonderful tour of the graveyard whistling all the way. Somehow you come away knowing what's really important in life and it isn't the final resting place.
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