Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving (Hardcover)

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Perhaps you know Mo Rocca from his frequent verbal appearances on NPR's Wait  Wait... Don't Tell Me! Perhaps you've seen him as a correspondent on CBS Sunday Morning. And maybe you've discovered his podcast, Mobituaries, which supplies some of the material for this book of the same name. We all admire a well-written obituary. Well, Mo realized many people deserving of a big sendoff just didn't receive it.  And not just people - places, objects, and entities sometimes don’t get the farewell they ought.  In Mobituaries, he restores some justice to the universe, and exposes us to fascinating facts and trivia we never knew.

Some well-known personalities in their day make it into Mobituaries--Sammy Davis, Jr., Fanny Brice, Marlene Dietrich--but not necessarily for what you would think.  Sammy's Mo-bit elicits the battles he faced against racism and anti-Semitism, always with conviction and grace. Fanny Brice (who you may know best as the subject portrayed by Barbra Streisand in  Funny Girl) sends Mo on a riff of related Mo-bits of famous people overshadowed by those who played them in movies. (T. E. Lawrence can't hold a candle to Peter O'Toole.)  And Marlene? She makes a couple of appearances -- one as a celebrity subsumed by Madeline Kahn's Blazing Saddles role; the other as the German-turned-American citizen who seriously thought of a plan by which she might assassinate Hitler. 

But it's Mo's explorations of non-humans that open the doors to history we never consider. His farewell to the American station wagon is also a fond remembrance of mid-20th-century Americana and family trips (and amazement at how some of us survived road trips in pre-seat belt days). Honoring the short-lived days of post-Civil War Reconstruction leads to poignant memorials for many African-American legislators who briefly shone. Mythological creatures such as the unicorn and dragon are mourned, as we learn just how sure experts were of their existence, until they weren't.  And his chapter on the funeral held for the dead oak trees of Auburn University, poisoned by a U of Alabama fan, explores what drives sports fans. 

So crack open Mobituaries at any chapter and be entertained and educated.

— Rosemary


From beloved CBS Sunday Morning correspondent and humorist Mo Rocca, an entertaining and rigorously researched book that celebrates the dead people who have long fascinated him.

Mo Rocca has always loved obituaries—reading about the remarkable lives of global leaders, Hollywood heavyweights, and innovators who changed the world. But not every notable life has gotten the send-off it deserves. His quest to right that wrong inspired Mobituaries, his #1 hit podcast. Now with Mobituaries, the book, he has gone much further, with all new essays on artists, entertainers, sports stars, political pioneers, founding fathers, and more. Even if you know the names, you’ve never understood why they matter...until now.

Take Herbert Hoover: before he was president, he was the “Great Humanitarian,” the man who saved tens of millions from starvation. But after less than a year in the White House, the stock market crashed, and all the good he had done seemed to be forgotten. Then there’s Marlene Dietrich, well remembered as a screen goddess, less remembered as a great patriot. Alongside American servicemen on the front lines during World War II, she risked her life to help defeat the Nazis of her native Germany. And what about Billy Carter and history’s unruly presidential brothers? Were they ne’er-do-well liabilities…or secret weapons? Plus, Mobits for dead sports teams, dead countries, the dearly departed station wagon, and dragons. Yes, dragons.

Rocca is an expert researcher and storyteller. He draws on these skills here. With his dogged reporting and trademark wit, Rocca brings these men and women back to life like no one else can. Mobituaries is an insightful and unconventional account of the people who made life worth living for the rest of us, one that asks us to think about who gets remembered, and why.

About the Author

Mo Rocca is a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning, host of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, and host and creator of the Cooking Channel’s My Grandmother’s Ravioli, in which he learned to cook from grandmothers and grandfathers across the country. He’s also a frequent panelist on NPR’s hit weekly quiz show Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! Rocca spent four seasons as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He began his career in TV as a writer and producer for the Emmy and Peabody Award–winning PBS children’s series Wishbone. As an actor, Mo starred on Broadway in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Rocca is the author of All the Presidents’ Pets, a historical novel about White House pets and their role in presidential decision-making.

Praise For…

"Once again Mo Rocca delivers a funny and smart offering whilst punning off his first name.” —Jon Stewart

“I'm dead keen to read it and alive with joy at not being included.”—P. J. O'Rourke, author of, most recently, None of My Business

“In our fact-challenged times, Rocca’s joyful tour through the “didja know”s of history is an unexpected antidote.”—The New Yorker

"There’s an attention to detail in Rocca’s book (which he penned with college friend and current professor Jonathan Greenberg) that makes it readable in both long and short bursts....You can pick up the book for a few minutes or an entire afternoon and have a satisfying experience."— Forbes

"[Mo Rocca’s obituaries have] a rare and welcome generosity of spirit…They revisit people who died long ago but were denied full appreciation. They’re exhumation as celebration. —Frank Bruni, New York Times Opinion Columnist

“With wit, exuberance and a touch of mischievousness, Mobituaries provides fascinating facts for all ages.”—Shelf Awareness

“Mo Rocca is like a box of chocolates; the more you taste him, the more you love him. And he just gets better and better. Read on and enjoy slowly.” —Angie Dickinson, Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning actress

“Mo Rocca has given us a candy bowl of tasty morsels: tales of fascinating folks that we don’t know enough about. It’s a joy for curious minds, and addictive reading.” —Walter Isaacson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci

“A spicy blend of humor, irony, wit, facts, fable, and heart.” —Kirkus 

"Impeccably researched, this book is packed with facts that are sure to give you a leg up at pub trivia.... a delightful, hilarious romp through history. Put this book in the hands of history buffs or anyone who loves a good laugh."—Booklist


Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9781501197628
ISBN-10: 1501197622
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: November 5th, 2019
Pages: 384