cover image The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever

The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever

Adam Leith Gollner. Scribner, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4391-0942-7

In an effort as ambitious as it is (probably) impossible, former Vice editor Gollner (The Fruit Hunters) embarks on an epic quest to understand the nature of immortality. His exhaustive research leaves no fountain of youth untasted, no faith unexamined, and no pseudoscience unquestioned. This book is both a personal journey and an extensive overview of the ways in which humans cope with the idea of death and attempt to defy the aging process. Gollner approaches a number of religions with respectful curiosity, chatting with Jesuits, Sufi Muslims, Hasidic Jews, and more to gain perspective on the nature of the afterlife. He hobnobs with magician David Copperfield (who claims to have discovered a fountain of youth on his private island) and heads to Florida in search of Ponce de León’s fabled find. He tours cryonic facilities, attends a get-together of “immortalists” and a Harvard-sponsored anti-aging symposium, and wraps it up with a Buddhist Elixir of Life ceremony. It’s an engrossing, immensely fascinating tour of beliefs and attitudes about death, presented with a relatively unbiased, if skeptical, eye. There is no one true answer provided here; in fact, there may be too many answers. As Gollner puts it, “We haven’t yet found certainty. We can uncertainly state that we likely never will.” His attempt may be the next best thing. Agent: Michelle Tessler, Tessler Literary Agency. (Aug. 20)