“The Thing About Life is That One Day You’ll Be Dead” by David Shields (Knopf, 2008)

The Thing About Life is That One Day You'll Be Deadstarstarstar

David Shields, author of Dead Languages and Body Politic: The Great American Sports Machine, tackles a heavy subject that most of us spend each and every day trying to ignore and pretend will not happen as much as possible: death.  The title says it all, and Shields doesn’t beat around the bush, putting the irrefutable truth right there in front of you.  It’s the one guarantee in life and Shields wants to tell you all about it.

Part science lesson into our slow but inevitable demise, and part personal experience from Shields’ life; The Thing About Life is That One Day You’ll be Dead is divided into four parts: Infancy and Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood and Middle Age, and Old Age and Death.  The book began as an idea when Shields forced himself to come to terms with his father’s old age, at 97, and the fact that he would soon die; while his father maintains a vitality and optimism that he’s going to keep on kicking.  Shields takes you on a step by step journey, from birth when the process of death truly begins, offering nonstop facts about growth, development, and the progressive steps towards death; while throwing quote after quote from every person you can think of about life and death.

The book doesn’t attempt to answer anything, nor force the reader to make a decision on death or life.  It is an introspective journey into the biology of humanity, peppered with personal anecdotes from Shields, leaving the reader to make his or her own decision on how they feel about the fact that they will – as we all will – one day die and cease to exist.

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Originally written on March 10th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.