The Mansion of Happiness

The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death by Jill Lepore

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This book of essays covers many disparate topics, from abortion politics to board games to children’s literature to cryogenics. Lepore pointed out how particular cultural phenomenon like “The Game of Life” or breast pumps all carried implicit and explicit arguments about the meaning of life and death. All of the essays were informative and interesting, and I learned a lot from them and generally agreed with Lepore’s perspective. I would have liked the book better, though, if Lepore had tied her essays together more clearly and shown how the various events and ideas were connected to each other. The title made me think the book would be more comprehensive than it was. Any “history of life and death” should surely go farther back than a century or two.

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