Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “What a Way to Go: The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death” as Want to Read:
What a Way to Go: The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

What a Way to Go: The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  125 ratings  ·  16 reviews
A gruesomely, hilarious and fascinating pop-history account of methods of execution from around the world and through the ages

In this wickedly humorous book, Geoffrey Abbott describes the effectiveness of instruments of torture and reveals the macabre origins of familiar phrases such as 'gone west' or 'drawn a blank'. Covering everything from the preparation of the victim
...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published April 4th 2006)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about What a Way to Go, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about What a Way to Go

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 284)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jennie
Jun 12, 2007 Jennie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Goth kids, history nerds
Sometimes I think that not everyone shares my macabre sense of humor, and then I feel slightly bad about laughing out loud while reading books like this in public. In my defense, this book is written in a darkly humorous tone, so it's hard not to laugh.

Execution: The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death, by Geoffrey Abbott, is broken into 70 small sections, each with a different method of execution. Abbott describes each m
...more
Keith
There were many parts of this book that were fascinating, unfortunately there were also many segments that went on for way too long. For example, they might spend 30-50 pages describing the guillotine and giving examples of when it was used, and then spend only a paragraph on some really interesting form of execution. Part of this is because more is known about forms of death like the guillotine and hanging than some of the more interesting ones, but that just means the book should be shorter. S ...more
Shanna
Nov 17, 2007 Shanna rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of the Macabre
I cannot believe some of the ways in which society has chosen to dispatch its unwanted members. This book is an incredibly well researched, albiet disturbing list of the many methods of torture and execution used all over the globe.

So far, it is proving to be an excellent read, but I can really only read portions every once in awhile-it's not really the book that I can imagine tearing through in one sitting...
P.
Apr 02, 2008 P. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Macabre teens/Goths?/History fans
66 awful ways people were executed. It is appallingly graphic. The author was a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London and lived with his wife on the grounds. His is a very chatty, informal style and he includes personal opinions and jocular remarks in the work. He does a nice job of estimating how many miscreants were burnt alive, guillotined, etc.
Diana
An encyclopedic look at the various ways that people have been executed throughout history.

I've always been a little bit morbid, so this was right up my alley. I enjoyed it for the most part, although it does get a little dry with certain entries, as the first-hand accounts get a little boring at times.
Marisa
Fun, little read that runs the gamut and really covers alot of truly horrible ways to die as well as some high points(?) during the type of execution. This book provides a wealth of information, background and brings love some of the people that either lived or died by the methods covered
Jennifer
For anyone who's ever been fascinated with or mildly amused by the various and real historical methods by which people met their ends. The chapters are short. It's a dip-able book. Much easier to digest than that horrible "1000 Ways To Die" television program!
Jennifer Daniel
I am so deranged! I was fascinated by the more obscure means of execution such as being sewn up in a donkey corpse and left in the sun to rot. The human mind apparently has no limit to the creativity of killing one and other.
Jeni
Jul 31, 2010 Jeni added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs & fans of the macabre
It was really interesting. I love reading/learning about different historical eras. It was interesting to finally understand the punishments I have so often read about.
Ian Mathers
Overly dry at times, overly repetitive at others, and sometimes he forgets to explain things I'd really love him to explain, but still interesting reading.
Tim Knight
A truly enlightening book on how we've managed to kill off undesirables in our societies. In a macabre way, an enjoyable book.
Becky
Not as interesting as I had hoped. Too much detail on the things we've heard about, and not enough on the lesser-known ones.
Mike
Super entertaining and quite informative! "Essential reading for all gore junkies" pretty much says it all.
Tom
Light reading. Proves the point that we aren't as civilized as we like to claim.
Jennifer
Dec 28, 2007 Jennifer marked it as to-read
Just got this for Christmas...sort of an inside-family-joke thing.
Margaret
This book was weird, creepy, and hilarious. Check it out.
Shelly Morrow
Shelly Morrow marked it as to-read
Aug 25, 2015
Nancy
Nancy added it
Jul 11, 2015
Ava Grant
Ava Grant marked it as to-read
Jun 27, 2015
Maggie Miller
Maggie Miller is currently reading it
Jun 20, 2015
Lindsey
Lindsey marked it as to-read
Jun 14, 2015
Ian McGaffey
Ian McGaffey marked it as to-read
Jun 14, 2015
Robin Camacho
Robin Camacho marked it as to-read
Jun 03, 2015
Braden
Braden marked it as to-read
May 05, 2015
Christina Allen
Christina Allen marked it as to-read
Apr 09, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Victorian Celebration of Death
  • Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die
  • Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts: A History of Burial
  • Mad Kings & Queens
  • Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America
  • 5 People Who Died During Sex: and 100 Other Terribly Tasteless Lists
  • From the Diary of a Snail
  • Rum: The Epic Story of the Drink That Conquered the World
  • Eyewitness to History
  • The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death
  • The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Paranormal
  • Dust on the mountain
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul: Loving Our Dogs: Heartwarming and Humorous Stories about our Companions and Best Friends
  • Thinning the Herd: Tales of the Weirdly Departed
  • The Whole Death Catalog: A Lively Guide to the Bitter End
  • Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography
  • After the Funeral: The Posthumous Adventures of Famous Corpses
  • 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Science
Geoffrey Abbott served for many years as a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London. Author of nineteen books and contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica/, he has made numerous television appearances. He lives in London.
More about Geoffrey Abbott...
The Executioner Always Chops Twice: Ghastly Blunders on the Scaffold Rack, Rope and Red-Hot Pincers: A History of Torture and Its Instruments The Book of Execution: An Encyclopedia of Methods of Judicial Execution Amazing True Stories Of Execution Blunders Execution

Share This Book