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Darwin Awards #1

The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action

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"Only two things are infinite-the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not so sure about the universe." -Albert Einstein

Named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, The Darwin Awards vividly portrays the finest examples of evolution in action, and shows us just how uncommon common sense can be.

Marvel at the thief who steals electrical wires without shutting off the current. Gape at the lawnchair jockey who floats to a height of 16,000 feet suspended by helium balloons. Learn from the man who peers into a gasoline can using a cigarette lighter. All three -- and many more -- contend for Darwin Awards when their choices culminate in magnificent misadventures.

These tales of trial and awe-inspiring error--verified by the author and endorsed by website readers--illustrate the ongoing saga of survival of the fittest in all its selective glory.

352 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2000

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About the author

Wendy Northcutt

23 books38 followers
Wendy Northcutt graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in molecular biology. She began collecting the stories that make up the Darwin Awards in 1993 and founded www.DarwinAwards.com shortly after.

Northcutt is the author of the international bestsellers The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action, The Darwin Awards 2: Unnatural Selection, The Darwin Awards 3: Survival of the Fittest, and The Darwin Awards 4: Intelligent Design. Her newest addition to the series is The Darwin Awards: Next Evolution."

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5 stars
1,229 (23%)
4 stars
1,694 (32%)
3 stars
1,674 (31%)
2 stars
508 (9%)
1 star
185 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 322 reviews
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,242 reviews2,256 followers
April 28, 2015
This is a HORRIBLE book.

Horrible in its attitude, that is. Actually, it is very cleverly written and readable.

The book narrates incidents where people die or lose their reproductive capability through stupid acts (the so-called "stupidity" is debatable in some cases, though)and thus contribute to the cause of evolution of a smarter homo sapiens by removing their "stupidity" genes from the gene pool. For this service, they are presented with a Darwin Award.

The website is immensely popular, and the book is supposed to be hilarious: but I failed to see how we can laugh at our fellow human beings snuffing themselves out, even if it is through their own foolish behaviour. As a Head of Safety, I can tell you that death is no laughing matter. Most industrial accidents happen through silly oversights, which would seem like stupidity in hindsight - but the chilling fact is that it can happen to any of us. A momentary lapse of concentration is enough. It is sad enough to think of a lifetime of sorrow engendered through a silly mistake - it is adding insult to injury to see someone making snide remarks and laughing snarkily at it.

Then why the two stars?

Even though I disapprove of the intent, the content of the book forces one to think. Life is so fragile ("like the dewdrop on a lotus leaf", to quote Sankaracharya), and a small misjudgement, laughable in its silliness, is enough to take it away. So this book was instructive in a sense; how we are still so innocent regarding safety, even in this so-called "enlightened" age.
Profile Image for Emily Coffee and Commentary.
371 reviews108 followers
April 29, 2022
I remember taking turns reading these stories out loud with friends in middle school. For anyone that has a morbid curiosity or a sense of humor heavy with schadenfreude then this may be an interesting read for you.
Profile Image for Kirsty.
475 reviews74 followers
July 1, 2009
This book was hilarious. I am now seriously wondering how the human race has managed to survive for as long as it has. Surely for each idiot mentioned in this book there are loads more just waiting to do something fatally stupid? And doesn't it seem that it's the stupid ones that breed more frequently than those who possess a brain?

Anyway, this book chronicles the bizarre ways in which people have 'improved our gene pool by removing themselves from it in an astonishingly stupid way'. Also eligible for a Darwin award are those who have successfully rendered themselves unable to reproduce by doing something equally stupid.

Some of the stories are not for the faint-hearted, but most of them are hilarious to the point that I got some funny looks from people around me because I was laughing out loud. Straight into my list of favourites.
41 reviews1 follower
January 31, 2022
A good bathroom book. Although entertaining, I found the book's self-righteous tone unnecessary. I am perfectly capable of finding entertainment in the misfortune of others, without having to be convinced that they were somehow deserving of their misfortunes.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,339 reviews1,630 followers
March 22, 2015
This book, despite being about death and mutilation, is actually displaying a kind of up-beat hopefulness. It says, "Fear not, humans, for the stupid among you are killing themselves and therefore the smarter among you will breed and thus, humanity gets smarter!" Only, that's pretty much a lie. One needs only watch the first 5 minutes of Idiocracy to see why.

Here we have Trevor and Carol (IQs 138 and 141 respectively) vs Clevon (IQ 84). Carol and Trevor are waiting for the right time - in their marriage, in their careers, in the economy, etc - to bring a child into this world. By contrast, Clevon's only waiting for a willing sperm recipient to lift her skirt. And his kids, who have fallen down as close as possible to their father-tree, have the same hum-everything gene... and their kids, and so on. Like bunnies. If you know what I'm sayin'.

So, yeah. This book MEANS to make you feel all reassured that evolution has a betterment plan for us, meaning humanity, but human stupidity and ignorance is not a force to be trifled with. It may win out just from sheer weight of numbers.

There were some humorous accounts in this book, though most of them just left me baffled at how people can possibly be SO stupid. If you're working on the roof of your home, and you want to tether yourself to something so that you do not fall to the ground and injure yourself (admirable forethought!), then I fail to see the logic in attaching the other end of the rope to the bumper of a car that is on the ground. The bumper of a car. That can be driven. With you attached.

I mean, I know that this is The Darwin Awards, and it's a celebration of momentous and usually fatal stupidity, but... wow.

I did rather appreciate some of the intros to the different sections. There was some interesting stuff in there - as well as little tidbits strewn throughout the text regarding the debated veracity of some of the claims, or FYIs about the key facets of a claim, etc. Pretty nice of them to include that stuff. Though toward the end of the book, I did start seeing several typos and errors in the text.

I'm going to assume that working on this book actually reduced Ms. Northcutt's IQ points. It's the only thing that explains it.

Anyway, this was an OK read, but I didn't think that any of the stories were as humorous as some of the ones on the site. I got this book used for super cheap, so I don't feel like I wasted my money, but if you're interested, I'd suggest reading the site instead. Or, hell, if Idiocracy is right, just read the news.
1 review1 follower
November 9, 2007
The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action is by far one of the funniest books I have ever read. The book has no real linear story but it is extremely funny and says a lot about the world we live in and the people who are in it. The book can generally be called tongue and cheek, but I think that the thought behind the concept deserves explanation.
Named after Charles Darwin, the father of evolution and the theory of natural selection this book uses his ideas to critique the stupidity of humanity. The basic idea behind The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action is that, for each person who meets their death in a stupid and hilarious way, an award is given to them as a thank you for removing themselves from the gene pool. By rewarding people for being “removed” by natural selection the book, right from the beginning, takes on a dark type of humor that I have always loved.
The book started as an online conversation using the network “Usenet”, created in the 80’s by Duke Grad students. From here stories were collected using the Internet community and news reports to gather a history of human mistakes. Instead of getting old or predictable, the book made me laugh over and over and over by continually presenting more and more unbelievable acts of ignorance and hilarity.
Some examples of the type of stories in the book are a man playing Russian roulette with an automatic pistol (which reloads on its own), and a man juggling hand grenades (live ones). The book is fair though and has requirements for the type of submissions they accept. The nominee must be dead or sterile (so that they are removed from the gene pool), they must be “uniquely foolish”, victims of their own stupidity, and above 18.
The Darwin awards is a great book because it give me a sense of the people who I share the world with and answers a lot of the what-ifs raised in my head when my mother told me to be cautious. It is a good collection of things not to do and a better collection of things that will make you laugh till it hurts.
Profile Image for Connie D..
26 reviews13 followers
April 18, 2015
Humorous if you are in that sort of mood. Mean spirited if you are not.
Profile Image for Brandon Sawyer.
32 reviews2 followers
February 26, 2008
It is what it is. If you know the website, then this is that. In book form. Which is much easier for toilet reading (for some reason, people still look at you funny if you bring a wifi connected laptop into the crapper).
Profile Image for Barbara.
114 reviews
September 1, 2013
You know those days.

You head off chipper to work only to have your spirit crushed by the struggle to learn new computer software. Meanwhile, a coworker, the office suck-up, spent his weekend reading the entire help section and proceeds to show off his tech prowess to the boss.

Needing a pick-me-up after a hellish day, you swing by the grocery store on the way home to invest your life savings in a tub of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. However, you only manage to increase your level of frustration by fighting with the cashier because... you can't count change.

Instead of drowning your sorrow with chocolate chip cookie dough, I suggest picking up "The Darwin Awards," a sure-fire recipe to chase away the dark cloud hanging over your head. Because as dumb and as defeated as you feel right now, this collection of stupid criminal and unskilled adventurer stories will prove you're still a valuable member of the gene pool.

Take Ronnie and Steve, for example. The bored teens decided to sail an old hot tub across a canal one day. Their makeshift sailboat couldn't handle the weight of two strapping boys, of course, so it started to sink only a quarter of the way across the canal. They decided to remove the water overtaking the tub by -- wait for it -- pulling out the drain plug. Needless to say, the pair of defeated sailors had to be rescued from the canal.

See? Doesn't that already warm the darkened embers of your heart?

If you're in need of such a pick-me-up, Wendy Northcutt's "The Darwin Awards," based on the popular online forum of the same name, is the perfect remedy. Don't expect to walk away with the wisdom of the ages, but you'll learn a few valuable lessons: stay clear of poisonous snakes, avoid playing with fire, and above all, penises and vacuum cleaners don't mix.
Profile Image for Donna.
427 reviews26 followers
April 27, 2016
The descriptions of the book and the opening vignettes of each chapter were varying levels of actually funny, but 90% of the stories themselves were just sad. I was expecting some light bathroom reading, but what I got were just some dry facts about stupid mistakes ending predictably horribly peppered with the occasional clever turn of phrase.
Profile Image for Ashley Brown.
9 reviews10 followers
October 5, 2019
The Darwin Awards - something I had been planning on reading for a very long time. Some of the tales in this book are reminiscent of the show 1000 Ways to Die - in fact, I recognized some of the Unconfirmed tales as very similar versions as tales from the show. Whether that gives more credence to the show or less to the book, I've yet to decide. As it stands, the Darwin Awards simply is what it is - a collection of deaths or near-deaths that will cause you to simply shake your head at the antics our species can get up to.

A good read, though fairly repetitive after a while, the Darwin Awards catalogs some of the ways human beings have 'improved the gene pool by removing themselves from it', usually in cringe-worthy acts that seem so farfetched that you wouldn't believe they happened - and in some cases, they haven't. The book does carry a few Urban Legends along for the ride, and while amusing (I do love a good Urban Legend), I'd rather if it had more confirmed/true stories. I know it's important to add the little tales we all know and love, but if they didn't truly happen, then they act more as a warning rather than helping the book achieve what it set out to do. And sometimes the tone of the book is simply disrespectful.

Being said, I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and I'm definitely going to read the others in the series.
Profile Image for Vaishali.
1,032 reviews262 followers
January 13, 2015
I lost interest in this book because the premise of willing people's deaths is simply deplorable. While the rest of humanity works toward a more compassionate society, this book makes an attempt at reviving a humor more prevalent in the 6th grade. You actually have to read it by telling yourself to forgo some morals ... which then brings to question if the author had any at all.
1,222 reviews10 followers
May 14, 2020
Hilarious collection of accidents leading to deaths. (I know, not funny but still . .) The judges take their selections very seriously and have a rigorous process to include entries. They believe the finalists are contributing to the survival of the fittest theory by eliminating themselves from the gene pool. Bet you can't help but laugh.
Profile Image for Greg Meyer.
44 reviews11 followers
September 6, 2009
These books are kinda horrifying. They portray these people's deaths as a funny anecdote. This is a portrayal of how our society has become desensitized to the point of not even caring about death except as a casually funny story.
Profile Image for ``Laurie.
196 reviews
January 30, 2015
A mean spirited but guilty pleasure book. Some of these "accidents" are absolutely mind-boggling. Snark galore in this series if you are looking for a few laughs.
Profile Image for Vivone Os.
554 reviews13 followers
April 14, 2019
Book Club - travanj 2019.
Ne mogu reći da sam nešto oduševljena ovom knjigom. Većinom sam u nevjerici čitala i razmišljala kakvih sve budala ima na ovom svijetu. Al opet, ok je i tako nešto pročitati s vremena na vrijeme da se utješim kako nisam najsmotanije biće na planetu.
Profile Image for Dane Cobain.
Author 25 books312 followers
May 6, 2017
First off, I feel like I need to explain what the Darwin Awards actually are in case you somehow haven’t heard of them. The idea of a Darwin Award is that it’s a posthumous accolade that’s given to people who have removed themselves from the gene pool – therefore acting as examples of the theory of evolution and natural selection in action – by dying in unusual or idiotic ways.

And thus the Darwin Awards were born, and whilst it originally built up momentum as a mailing list at Stanford University, it moved on to becoming a fully fledged website soon afterwards. In fact, it was one of the earliest examples of a viral website on the internet, which is why I get annoyed when people haven’t heard of it – it’s like they missed out on a geeky bit of history.

This book was written by the woman who launched the site, and it gathers together “180 bizarre true stories of how humans met their maker”. Now, it did admittedly feel a little dated, because it was published in 2000 and because each of the entries had their date listed, but it wasn’t so dated that it was inaccessible.

In fact, it was pretty well done, and I’m impressed that there’s a book this old that was created due to an internet phenomenon – it must be one of the first books of its kind. My only problem with it is that it actually started to get depressing – after all, you’re reading about the deaths of real people. It’s entertaining, but also sad to think that people have lost their loved ones.
Profile Image for Simon.
1,103 reviews23 followers
February 19, 2012
Very entertaining, but gruesome too. People are stupid and stupid people die in stupid ways, most likely because they did something stupid.

My absolute favorite story is on page 222. The one where the couple have sex on a mountain and get hit by lighting (through the ass).
The girl is killed and the condom fuses the flesh of the two together, Ouch! The male throws up when he realizes he is stuck to a dead body by his penis. Then he passes out. He is rudely awakened by a bear eating the face of his girlfriend, then the bear bites his head and he struggles to fight the bear off, while being naked and stuck by his penis to his dead girlfriend.

The bear goes away and the male drags himself and his unwanted cargo to the side of a road and collapses.

The duo are discovered the next morning by a camp of Girl guides. Surprise!

When his penis is finally un-fused to his girlfriend, witnesses said it resembled a piece of cauliflower.
His gene pool fried up with the lightning.

Hilarious camp stories for sure.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Travelin.
461 reviews45 followers
July 28, 2013
Forgetting the fact that Darwin was inspired very late in his researches to add the idea that every squirrel and beetle on earth is secretly engaged in some zero-sum conflict, and that his inspiration was the misinformed misanthrope Malthus, who wrote from a much bigger, far more British island than Darwin studied in South America, many years and species earlier, The Darwin Awards is a very entertaining way to feel superior and understood at one and the same time.

A similar award, the Ignobel, has its origins in Boston, which is an island version of Hull, without the culture, but keen to keep Victorian standards of social brutality alive. There, I named-and-shamed for general entertainment too!

Profile Image for Ashley.
84 reviews5 followers
March 13, 2011
I love these Darwin Awards books. They're great to read when you have other things going on because each story is so short. I can literally pick this up when I have 30 free seconds and get a laugh. Many of them I read out loud to my husband as well. My 10 and 8 year olds also enjoy them, although the 8 year old misses a lot of references. A warning: I did wind up having to explain, "Mom, what's S&M sex?" to the 10 year old. Oh well, gotta explain it sometime... At least the guy it referred to was a moron, so I liked the context. :)
Profile Image for Jeff Guertin.
30 reviews2 followers
May 18, 2011
I've always been a fan of reading about Darwin Awards online, so I was excited for this book. The stories were good, but I was disappointed in the amount of "unconfirmed" and "urban legends" that were presented. I would much rather read a book full of stories that were actually confirmed via news/police reports, etc. I hope the subsequent versions of the Darwin Awards have more confirmed stories.
Profile Image for Monica.
43 reviews1 follower
January 31, 2011
This is one of my coffee table books. (I am grossed out by the whole bathroom book idea.) It's fun for guests to scan through or fidget with when they come over. Compared to other books I have put out this book was the most popular with my company. Everybody couldn't resist picking it up and reading at least one story from it. It started many light conversations and helped break the ice.
Profile Image for Debra.
1,910 reviews109 followers
August 3, 2015
I'm disturbed that I had a few laughs while reading this book. I mean these people DIED! But I just couldn't help it. Some folks are just not meant to continue populating their gene pools.
Profile Image for Claudia.
1,210 reviews36 followers
September 19, 2021
If you are at all familiar with the Darwin Awards are, you already know what this is about. If you don't, well - let's say that some humans are climbing back down the evolutionary tree.

Some are the tales are actually Darwin award winners who have managed to either kill themselves in an innovative manner or sterilized themselves so that their genes are now removed from the pool. The story has been verified through reporting by reputable media outlets. The unconfirmed Darwin tales which could be urban legends - the editors do note could not be credibly confirmed as well as which ones are urban legends and provide some explanation behind their reasoning. Honorable mentions which are usually due to the individual surviving their idiotic antics but display the spirit of the Darwin awards. And then there are the personal stories. Not, this happened to a friend of my brother sort-of reporting. This happened to the teller (and they admit it)or they saw the happenstance themselves.

I've heard many of them over the years so I'm certain you've heard several as well. The fisherman who uses a stick of dynamite to stun the fish and having tossed it out into the lake, watches with horror as his retriever does his genetic imperative and brings it back. The man who attaches a mass of helium balloons to his backyard lounge chair and then has to figure out how to get down! The terrorist driving a car bomb to his destination but fails to take into consideration the difference of Daylight Savings Time verses Standard Time and had set the timer for the wrong - for him - one. The man who uses a cigarette lighter to check the barrel of a muzzle-loader and the patient who sneaks a cigarette while in a hospital oxygen tent.

Some are amusing, most will have one wonder how they had managed to live as long as long as they did. Certainly, this is not a book that you can read front to back in one or a few gulps. The idiocy just gets to the point where I had to put it down and read something a bit less - - foolhardy, reckless, silly - - pick the adverb of your choice.

Northcott has collected more stories in several more sequels so in time, I will likely see what other stupid human tricks have managed to chlorinate the gene pool.

Profile Image for Alex Telander.
Author 16 books152 followers
January 24, 2011
Think of the stupidest thing a person could ever do. Multiply this by a factor of ten. Then imagine that this person gets killed in the process of carrying out the stupid act. This is an example of a Darwin Award.

In the founding days of the Internet, these Darwin Awards were one of the first chain letters to be created, named after the father of evolution, Charles Darwin. In 1993, UC Berkeley began collecting them, finally starting a website www.darwinawards.com. Since July of 1999 there have been one and a half million unique visitors to this site; it was also named “Coolest Wacky Site of the Year” in April of 2000.

In October of last year, these many amusing yet fantastic stories were brought together in book form, under the same title. It is now possible for one to have a traveling companion to the Darwin Awards, for those times when one needs a “little something” to read.

But how does one become an entry or at least a nominee for a Darwin Award? Northcutt has set out five strict rules that one must adhere to:

1) The candidate must remove himself from the gene pool.

2) The candidate must exhibit an astounding misapplication of judgment.

3) The candidate must be the cause of his own demise.

4) The candidate must be capable of sound judgment.

5) The event must be verified.

So basically, if you can get someone to film this wacky “idea” you want to try, where in the process you kill yourself or render yourself unable to reproduced, you are eligible.

This book is recommended in any library for any person, for the simple reason that it is one of those books you can just pick up and begin skimming through anytime, anywhere and be extremely amused. What is interesting about The Darwin Awards is that it does not only contain the essential Darwin Awards, but also has a selection of possible winners and runners-up, as well as Honorable Mentions and Urban Legends.

“Darwin Award, Junk Food Junkie: The 1994 Darwin Award went o the fellow who was killed by a Coke machine, which toppled over on top of him as he was attempting to tip a free soda out of it.”

“Honorable Mention, Official Drug Test: A woman called the police with a complaint that she had been burned in a drug deal. She declared that a man had sold her a rock of crack cocaine, but when she brought it home, it ‘looked like baking powder.’ The police dispatched a narcotics agent to her house who tested the rock and verified that, despite its appearance, it was indeed cocaine. The woman was promptly arrested for drug possession.”

“Urban Legend: Cow Bomb: A dairy worker who heard that bovine flatulence was largely composed of methane, and potentially explosive, decided to apply the scientific method to the theory. While one of his contented cow charges was hooked up to the milking machine, he waited for the slight tail lift that dairy workers know signals an impending expulsion, generally something one avoids. The hero struck a match. To his satisfaction at seeing the resulting foot-long blue flame lasted mere seconds, before the flame was subsumed by a rectal contracting The poor Holstein exploded, killing the worker, who was struck by a flying femur bone.”

Originally published on March 19 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

For over 500 book reviews, and over 40 exclusive author interviews (both audio and written), visit BookBanter.
Profile Image for Lisa (Harmonybites).
1,834 reviews331 followers
October 22, 2012
The Darwin Awards commemorate ""individuals who ensure the long-term survival of our species by removing themselves from the gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion." The subtitle is "evolution in action." The description on the back cover asks you to "Marvel at the thief who tries to steal live electrical wires. Gape at the lawnchair jockey who floats to a height of 16,000 feet suspended by helium balloons." These purport to be true, verified stories: I guess that's why in the end I just can't find them funny. The book is filled with short notations explaining how these individuals overachieved, and are usually less than two pages each, often just a few paragraphs. Let me give you a flavor by sharing a short one with you:

Silenced by the Lambs

(28 January 1999, England) A flock of sheep charged a well-meaning British farmer's wife and pushed her over a cliff to her death. Betty, 67, was charged by dozens of sheep after she brought them a bale of hay on the back of a power bike. The sheep rushed forward and rammed the vehicle, knocking Betty and her bike over the edge of a vacant quarry near Durham. "I saw the sheep surround the bike. The next thing she was tumbling down the incline," a neighbor told reporters. Her husband is being comforted by friends.

I guess I'm a party pooper, and I admit I've snickered at "Darwin Award" anecdotes told to me over instant messenger and email. But being told these are verified and realizing there was a real person (and this story doesn't make her sound all that stupid, just unlucky) takes all the fun out of it for me. I should add though, I'm really not a joke book person and this is very unlike my usual read. I read it because it was in the Humor Section of "The Ultimate Reading List" which I had been working through. Oh well, maybe Nora Ephron or Dave Barry will suit me better.
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