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Obituary Writer to Present New Book at the Book Loft of German Village

James R. Hagerty, the Wall Street Journal’s lead obituary writer, will present his new book, “Yours Truly,” a guide to writing life stories, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Book Loft of German Village.

Hagerty’s humorous and upbeat book was named by the Washington Post as one of 10 noteworthy books published in December.

The author, who has written more than 900 obituaries for The Wall Street Journal over the past seven years, is famous for finding fascinating stories in the lives of people who weren’t famous.

Now he wants everyone to have something better than the drab, formulaic death notice that serves as the only lasting reminder of many people.

Most of us make wills to provide for what happens with our money after we die. Hagerty asks: Why not take equal care of our stories? If they aren’t recorded or written while we’re alive, they vanish. Telling those stories can be the best gift we ever give to friends and family. And it’s a gift only we can give.

Hagerty explains why and how to preserve these stories and urges readers to start now rather than waiting until they are on their deathbeds. We should ask ourselves three questions: What am I trying to do with my life? Why? And how is it working out? That provides not just a framework for our stories but a periodic check-up on how we’re doing with our life goals. It isn’t too late to improve the narrative.

The author advises people to write a short summary of their life that might serve one day as a public obituary and a longer version for friends and family.

For Hagerty, obituaries are about life, not death. They should record our triumphs, defeats and lessons learned. They also should include humor whenever possible. Hagerty’s motto: If obituaries can’t be fun, what’s the point of dying?

His advice: After you take in the latest horrors in the daily news, turn to the obituaries to cheer yourself up. The best of them inspire us with stories about people who have overcome worse things than most of us will ever know.

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1 Comment

Mary McFarland
Mary McFarland
Feb 20, 2023

In all the bookstores in all the world, why'd he have to walk in the one closest to me?

😃I love what Hagerty is doing. And to think . . . just a few short words needed by everyone in the world, and Hagerty's the only author IN the world who found a way to reach us and teach us. Hoping to go!

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