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

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  192 ratings  ·  28 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
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Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published April 4th 2006)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  192 ratings  ·  28 reviews


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Start your review of What a Way to Go: The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death
Jamie
While some chapters were a few pages long, the majority of the "ways to go" were maybe just a page in length-some even only a paragraph.
The chapters or the short descriptions on the types of death and torture instruments are in alphabetical order-some examples on what to expect is info on death by axe, the iron maiden, scaphismus, twenty-four cuts, and so forth.
Was a quick and interesting read-overall, was just wanting more out of it.
Mary-Esther Lee
A horrific testament to human ingenuity and/or barbarity depending on your point-of-view.
Jennie
Jun 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
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Kirby R.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: macabre-sorts
This is a brilliant little encyclopedia of extermination methods, be them well known and infamous or obscure and horrifying. Each chapter undergoes a similar pattern of description, method of use, and examples (both successes and failures, some of which appear in Abbott's "The Executioner Always Chops Twice"). Most of the chapters are very short, some not even a paragraph, and those that are exceedingly lengthy are so for good reason, such as the guillotine and hanging. It's grisly and descripti ...more
Seth Heasley
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Proposed alternate title: A History of People Suck. No way a book about executions should be this entertaining.
Kelsey Burke
Oct 21, 2018 rated it did not like it
The content obviously being intriguing I really thought this book would be more fun to read, but it ended up being sooo slow and a real chore to get through.
Kurt Weber
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, nf
Interesting anecdotes but found much of the information on Wikipedia afterward
Amber
May 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Overwhelmingly disappointing.

For one, Abbot focuses mainly on executions used in Europe, mainly Spain, France, and England. China is mentioned in one entry: Death by a Thousand Cuts with, admittedly, quite a bit of detail. The United States is also mentioned in the more modern methods, gas chamber, lethal injection, etc. But outside a few throw away lines about "tribes in Africa", Abbott has very little on the methods of execution in South America, Asia, Africa, Australia or really anywhere tha
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Keith
Sep 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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
Nicholas Carter
Aug 18, 2020 rated it liked it
A fun creepy book about the different forms of execution from ancient times to current, interesting tales of famous and botched executions as well as stories of executioners. My only gripe would be that there wasn't as much details on the lesser known forms of execution which were ones I wanted to know more about.
Shanna
Sep 23, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  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...
Hel
Oct 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Eesch. Yes, this book is exactly what you think it is. You know how people can make just about any awesome thing they can think of? Well, they can make any terrible thing too.
It was a good and interesting read though, apart from the copious grammatical and other errors (Raleigh, North Virginia, I ask you?)
P.
Apr 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Apr 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
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.
Jennifer Daniel
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Marisa
Oct 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lindsey Rojem
Jun 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book a bit annoying, he dwelt way too much on the methods we already know a lot about, and too little on the things we aren't as familiar with. I didn't find it necessary to know the history of each executioner, and what they had for breakfast.
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!
Ian Mathers
Oct 13, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Margaret
Mar 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: have-read
This book was weird, creepy, and hilarious. Check it out.
Tom
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Light reading. Proves the point that we aren't as civilized as we like to claim.
Becky
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Super entertaining and quite informative! "Essential reading for all gore junkies" pretty much says it all.
Jennifer
Dec 28, 2007 marked it as to-read
Just got this for Christmas...sort of an inside-family-joke thing.
Jeni
Jul 27, 2010 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.
Tim Knight
Jul 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A truly enlightening book on how we've managed to kill off undesirables in our societies. In a macabre way, an enjoyable book.
Linda Collier
rated it it was amazing
Jul 30, 2014
Tyran
rated it it was amazing
May 19, 2008
Matthew
rated it liked it
Dec 07, 2016
Cheryl
rated it it was amazing
Jul 07, 2017
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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.

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