100 Places to See After You Die by Ken Jennings

100 Places to See After You Die: A Travel Guide to the Afterlife, by Jeopardy! host and former standout contestant Ken Jennings, is both like, and unlike, traditional guidebooks for would-be travelers. Like many travel guides, the book describes, in broad strokes, what you might expect to find when visiting various locales. Unlike many of its more serious counterparts, it affects a tongue-in-cheek tone and offers plenty of laughs along the way. Plus, its subject matter is a little further off the beaten path.

The book’s first two sections, titled “Mythology” and “Religion,” explore images of the afterlife drawn from a broad spectrum of myths and belief systems. These sections whisk the reader to 32 locations—far short of the 100 in the title—and I was starting to wonder, where’s he going next? The next four sections, dealing with books, movies, television, and music/theatre, answered that question. A final “miscellaneous” grouping deals with visions of the afterlife from media that don’t fit neatly into the previous sections; for example, comics, paintings, and even Dungeons & Dragons.

Jennings includes sidebars and subheadings covering off “When to Go,” “Top Attractions,” “What to Pack,” and similar topics. These segments offer slyly humorous advice. For example, in a chapter dealing with Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life, a sidebar titled “Local Dress” comments, “The closet in your room will be full of identical white caftans called tupas. They fit everybody! You’ll never have to worry about what to wear here.”

Throughout the book, Jennings offers a nice blend of matter-of-factness and wittiness. In the chapter covering All Dogs Go to Heaven, he notes “You’ll see dogs sunbathing and getting massages—but never scratching. (Fleas go to the other place.)”

Jennings covers a broad spectrum of cultures, beliefs, and literary artifacts, spanning across time. There’s everything here from Norse Mythology to pop culture. Some of the underlying material, such as the Narnia series, the Harry Potter books, Field of Dreams, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, and Beetlejuice, I was familiar with. Others, like Mark Twain’s “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven,” or Brian O’Nolan’s The Third Policeman, I’d never heard of. Thanks to Jennings’ skilful descriptions, I was able to follow along and appreciate the humour even in the case of stories that I hadn’t previously encountered. As a side benefit, Jennings introduced me to some books and movies I may choose to follow up on later.

100 Places to See After You Die is witty, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea. First off, humour, particularly when it comes to religion, can be a slippery slope and those who would take offense to seeing their beliefs about the afterlife used as a springboard for laughs may want to give the book, or certain chapters at least, a pass. Secondly, some of the descriptions of Hell and its counterparts contain disturbing, creepy, or gory elements. (Hell is, by its nature, not meant to be pleasant). Squeamish readers can skim past these sections if so inclined while still having plenty of material to enjoy.

I’ve read a number of books written by celebrities. Some have been delightful, and others disappointing. Happily, 100 Places to See After You Die fell into the former category. If you enjoy humour and don’t mind a satirical approach to the topic of the Afterlife, 100 Places to See After You Die is a fun and surprisingly informative read.

Ken Jennings was an anonymous Salt Lake City software engineer in 2004 when he unexpectedly became a TV celebrity after his record-breaking seventy-four-game, $2.5 million winning streak on the syndicated quiz show Jeopardy! Today, he is the author of thirteen books, including the New York Times bestsellers Brainiac, Maphead, and Because I Said So!, as well as the Junior Genius Guides for children. He grew up in Seoul, South Korea, but for the last fifteen years has lived in his native Seattle with his family and dogs.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Scribner (June 13 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1501131583
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1501131585