Bragg’s follow-up to How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous (2011) reveals the failures of 14 notables from history.
Bragg’s cheeky humor is on display with chapter titles like “Till Beheading Do Us Part” for Anne Boleyn, “The Law’s in Town” for Isaac Newton, and “Stinker, Traitor, Soldier, Spy” for Benedict Arnold. She describes Gen. Custer as “a peacock with a pistol” and reveals that Ferdinand Magellan, credited as the first man to sail around the world, actually only made it halfway. Queen Isabella of Spain is remembered for financing Columbus’ expeditions, but she also started the Spanish Inquisition. J. Bruce Ismay commissioned the “unsinkable” Titanic but then jumped to the front of the women-and-children lifeboat line to save his own skin when an iceberg proved the ship sinkable. Beneath Bragg’s flippant tone is an insightful, informative narrative explaining how these individuals earned a place in history, including both their accomplishments and embarrassing and sometimes-tragic failures. Between each chapter is a page or two of information related to the work of those profiled and their times. O’Malley’s cartoon illustrations are a great complement to Bragg’s informal, conversational style. Meaty backmatter includes seven pages of audience-appropriate suggestions for further reading and surfing, keyed by fail-er.
Readers will be entertained and fascinated by the flawed humanity depicted within. (notes, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)