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You can spot the flaws in humanity with a brief scan of the daily paper. Bombings, deceits, murders, lies, we have some pretty fatal tendencies. But if there was any doubt about our interest in the grotesque, Geoffrey Abbott’s Execution dispels it. The book covers the history of 70 different modes of execution, organized in alphabetical sections.


As a lover of Russian novels and Criminal Minds, this kind of history fascinates me. It’s alarming how creative people have been in the torture and destruction of their fellow man. What’s nice about this book is that, although there are some graphic details, much of the content is about the history of the processes, how they came to be, what famous people were executed this way, what areas it was most popular in, etc.

Abbott used to work at the infamous Tower of London and has written several books on the subject of capital punishment. His style is conversational and easy to read. If you have an interest in history, anthropology, or execution, I highly recommend it. Beyond answering the basic questions about each method, the text raises some larger questions about our desire to inflict pain on the people who have wronged us.