I like reading obituaries. They're small biographies of people who may not have been the most famous, or whose achievements have been forgotten, and it offers an opportunity to read and learn and reflect.
One of my favorite obituary writers is Margalit Fox at the New York Times. Here are a few of her obituaries from 2013, and excerpts of language I enjoyed from each.
Allan Calhamer, inventor of Diplomacy: "He almost certainly took pleasure, too — for this thought was doubtless not lost on him — in the idea that on any given day, slung unobtrusively over his shoulder, there might lurk a letter from one Great Power to another, filled with all the threats, blandishments and cunning hollow promises Diplomacy entails, awaiting delivery by its creator."
Garry Davis, world citizen: "He periodically ran for president of the world, always unopposed."
Seamus Heaney, poet: "Throughout his work, Mr. Heaney was consumed with morality. In his hands, a peat bog is not merely an emblematic feature of the Irish landscape; it is also a spiritual quagmire, evoking the deep ethical conundrums that have long pervaded the place."
Larry Lujack, disc jockey: "Frequent targets of his opprobrium included the very albums he was playing, the very stations he was working for and various rival D.J.s. (Mr. Lujack once stormed a competitor’s show and threatened, on the air, to ram the man’s head through a wall.)"
George Beverly Shea, gospel singer: "Mr. Shea’s vocal style, by contrast, was characterized by a resonant bass-baritone, impeccable diction, sensitive musical phrasing and an unshowmanlike delivery that nonetheless conveyed his ardent religious conviction."
Marc Simont, children's book illustrator: "Even before he received the Caldecott Medal, Mr. Simont contributed valiantly to the success of another Caldecott winner, Robert McCloskey’s 'Make Way for Ducklings,' published in 1941. The time was the late 1930s, and the place was Manhattan, where he and Mr. McCloskey, friends from the design academy, were roommates. Wanting to study ducklings deeply for his book-in-progress, Mr. McCloskey acquired a flock and brought it home. For some months to come, with Mr. Simont’s sympathetic assent, the ducks lived in the bathtub of their Greenwich Village apartment."
Manson Whitlock, typewriter repairman: "In recent years, however, until he closed the shop in June, Mr. Whitlock was its entire staff, working with only a bust of Mark Twain for company. He reported each day in a suit and tie, as he had from the beginning. On Sundays he sometimes cheated and dispensed with the tie."