Book Review: The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead

thing_about_life.gifThe Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead contains a mixture of an autobiography and facts about the body’s growing and aging. The stories told and the given facts both humor and depress readers. Rather than linearly cover author David Shields’ life from childhood to adulthood sprinkled with quotes and stories about his and his father’s lives, the chapters jump around with random thoughts and stories.
One chapter might tell a story about Shields’ teen years, or another support facts that his father’s quite the stud, while another does nothing but quote statistics. Whether a reader will like this roundabout tactic probably largely depends on the reader’s life, age, and gender. The description of Shields’ father sowing-oats lifestyle might turn off a woman in her 30s. However, I can relate to some of Shields’ writing as a fellow parent. He discusses living and thinking as a father.
Though Shields explores the father-son relationship, it won’t tap a female reader’s memories much as it would a male’s. I recently lost my own father and had a great relationship with him. This book didn’t compel me to think about our times together. However, men past their 30s might recall their relationships with their fathers or see hope for them as they age.
Sometimes the reader will think, “Who cares?” or “That’s fascinating.” Sometimes readers will laugh and sometimes readers will turn depressed at the thought of aging and dying. No matter the age, readers will go through a range of emotions in reading this stream of thoughts writing.
Readers wanting to understand the aging process without the scientific-speak might appreciate Shields’ approach with its mix of storytelling and giving facts in a flowy way instead of the way a doctor would describe aging. Shields’ writing easily captivates, whether or not readers like the contents.
Shields shares embarrassing and personal things about his teen and adult years that many wouldn’t share with anyone. This provides readers — especially men — with the opportunity to know they aren’t alone in experiencing similar situations. As a woman, I know I would appreciate a female sharing such experiences to confirm I’m not the only one who experienced something or felt a certain way about something.
Truth is – whether you’ll like Shields’ writing depends on your experiences, taste for a non-linear style book, and the flip-flopping between story and statistics. The Thing About Life should please those who’d love to be fly on the wall in a man’s life or read about health and living in the same way as a history book, only without the dull educational writing style that tends to appear in many health and history books.

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