Thursday, January 18, 2007

Books

Here's a few books that have two things in common: 1. They're all non-fiction, but still light and easy to get into. No 1200 page "History of the Peloponessian Wars" here. 2. They all involve evil in some way. You'll see what I mean. The bad guy sure does make for an interesting story, though, doesn't he? Torture, murder, and genocide are never boring.

The rating system is based on how difficult a book is to read, not how good it is. All the books at Hansisgreat come highly recommended.

* <-----------> ** <-----------> *** <-----------> **** <----------> *****
Easy - - Pretty Easy - - Moderate - - Pretty Challenging - - Challenging

The History of Torture, by Daniel P. Mannix
$12.95 at Bn.com ISBN: 0750932716
*** (moderate)
Enter a world where severed head are used as lawn ornaments (really!). Here are a few of my favorite methods of torture as described by Mannix: having molten metal poured down one's throat and/or forced up one's rectum. Being raped by a wild animal (they had to train the animals to do this, apparently). And of course, all the old stand-bys are here as well: being tarred and feathered, the iron maiden, the snake pit. The Roman Emperor Claudius always liked having criminals tortured as he ate breakfast, and asked them to be turned so he could see their faces as they died. Military strongmen, religious fanatics, jealous kings, and ordinary lunatics all get mention for the innovative ways they brought agony to their subjects. 100% guaranteed not to be boring.
King Leopold's Ghost, by Adam Hochschild
$13.50 at Bn.com ISBN: 0618001905
*** (moderate)
King Leopold II of Belgium established a colony in central Africa called the Belgian Congo, over forty times larger than the nation of Belgium itself. In it, he brutalized the population, killing millions and selling just as many into slavery, and plundered the territory of its resources, using forced labor. He used the money he made to build himself a fabulous mansion the size of Versailles, all the while publicizing himself as a great philanthropist and humanitarian, helping the people of Africa. Relations between Europeans and Africans have rarely been stellar: this guy is one of the worst exploiters of the bunch. Set around the turn of the century with lots of adventure and plenty of interesting characters, Hochschild is a great storyteller whose work reads as easily as a novel.
Devil in the White City
, by Erik Larson
$13.45 at Bn.com ISBN: 0375725601
*** (moderate)
Set at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, fascinating because of all the innovations it introduced to the world: electricity, skyscrapers, automobiles, the ferris wheel, zippers: people saw all these things for the very first time at the most elaborate fair ever built. In the midst of all the excitement was another "first": the fair was host to America's first serial killer. The turning point from horse-and-buggy America to industrialization is a fascinating story on its own. You'll learn plenty about architecture and big business. As the bodies start to pile up you'll become even more engrossed. Would you believe this guy had a torture chamber including a gas chamber built into his house! Check it out. Murder and mayhem amidst the excitement of the greatest fair the world has ever seen. An overlooked winner!

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