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The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action Paperback – Bargain Price, April 30, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

Warning: The Darwin Awards are not for the tenderhearted. The vastly popular Web site, now a book, recognizes "individuals who ensure the long-term survival of our species by removing themselves from the gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion." Who wins a Darwin Award? Terrorists who set their bombs on daylight saving time and delivered them on standard time, blowing themselves up. Folks who put garlands around a Bengal tiger's neck. Guys in Cambodia who took turns stomping on a land mine they'd brought into a bar. The six Egyptians who drowned trying to rescue a chicken that fell into a well. (The chicken alone survived.) The Buenos Aires husband who threw his wife out an eighth-floor window during a spat, noticed she'd gotten caught in power lines, and jumped after her, "angrily trying to finish the job, or remorsefully hoping to rescue her." He went splat; she escaped unscathed. There are some urban legends, like the sergeant said to have attached a Jet-Assisted Take-Off unit to his Chevy and hit a cliff 125 feet up (not true, says author Wendy Northcutt), and all-too-true honorable mentions, like the man who put weather balloons on his lawn chair, soared to 16,000 feet, crashed into power lines, blacked out Long Beach, California, and told police, "A man can't just sit around." My favorite winner: the man who was bitten nine times by the same king brown snake because he put it in a bag on his car seat and kept sticking his hand back into the bag. Why did he pick up the snake with his left hand? "Because I was holding a beer in my right one." And where did this take place? In Darwin, Australia. If you think somebody up there doesn't have a wicked sense of humor, The Darwin Awards may change your mind. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Anyone who has e-mail has probably already been entertained by the Darwin Awards, honors that stand out from the miasma of e-humor for several reasons: they are often genuinely hilarious and they are supposedly true. For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are given to people, mostly now deceased, whose actions reveal an astounding lack of common sense. The awards go only to those who have either died or rendered themselves unable to breed, confirming Darwin's belief in the survival of the fittest. Among the winners: terrorists who set their bombs on daylight saving time and delivered them on standard time, thus blowing themselves up; and a lawyer who crashed through a skyscraper window while demonstrating its safety. The audiobook also contains an honorable mention category for those who survive their idiotic behavior. This set provides hours of bizarre yet disturbing listening, mostly drawn from the author's popular Web site, Jason Harris does an excellent job of reading each reported incident; basically, they sound like standup comedy: yarn after yarn of such astounding stupidity that one cannot help but laugh. The lack of common sense exhibited here is undoubtedly comical, but Harris's reading accentuates the fact that beneath the laughter lurks a kind of pathetic sadness. Based on the Dutton hardcover. (Sept.)n

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 345 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; First Printing edition (April 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452283442
  • ASIN: B000HT2OZI
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,835,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

124 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Before describing this book, let me just say that if you do not find death and mutilation humorous, avoid this book.
If you find fatal mishaps funny, you will enjoy the book greatly. In fact, this has to be the best book ever written about stupid ways to die and lose fertility. Anyone will feel smarter and better about themselves after reading these stories!
This book is about "celebrating self-removal of incompetent genetic material for the human race." In essence, the book proves that "common sense is not so common."
The book's premise is very well framed to put you in a humorous mood. The idea is that when people do stupid things that get them killed or keep them from having children, they thus perform a service by improving the gene pool for the remaining humans. Ms. Northcutt uses many witty quotes to emphasize this point, and establishes the mood well.
She has rules for these awards. To win the Darwin Award, you must (1) die or be unable to procreate, (2) show really bad judgment, (3) cause your own downfall, (4) have the ability to use sound judgment (are not permanently mentally impaired) and (5) have the incident verified by someone else. If you don't meet all these tests, you can still get an honorable mention, or be described as an urban legend or a personal account. I thought these distinctions made good sense, because the story's focus and credibility weighs heavily on the interest it creates for the reader drawn to this subject.
The stories are grouped around themes: comeuppances with animals, problems with relatives, criminal misadventures, problems with fire and explosives, fatal falls, military goofs, macho errors, unsafe sex, watery deaths, and genital-related stories.
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for my teenage son for his birthday -- he is a big fan of the related [...] website. Before I wrapped it, I read the inside flap and was completely drawn in by the concept: namely, how fatally dumb people can be. Once I started reading the book I couldn't put it down. It is THAT funny. There are some cautionary tales, of a rather gruesome nature, that impulsive types (such as my son!) should take heed of. Perfect for teenagers, and the teenager in all of us!
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70 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Marcy L. Thompson VINE VOICE on December 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is full of amazing anecdotes. Some of them are gut-bustingly funny. Some hurt just to read. I really enjoyed this book. So, I started its rating as 5 stars. However, I had three complaints, each of which lost the book a star.
First, the book categorizes stories as "Confirmed by Darwin" and "Not confirmed by Darwin". However, even some of the not confirmed stories have citations to newspapers and other seemingly impeccable sources. It would have been very nice to have an appendix which indicated how the confirmed ones had been confirmed. (Down to 4 stars.)
Second, the introductions to the chapters are not terribly well-written. They aren't awful or anything, but they do contrast with the crisply-written stories themselves. Moreover, some of these introductions are *real* stretches. The contortions at the end of these particular introductions to make them seem connected to the stories in the chapter made me roll my eyes. These would have been better omitted, or turned into interludes, or something. (Down to 3 stars.)
Third, the book seemed like a huge plug for the website. Yes, I realize this material started out in email and morphed into a website, and there really is some interesting additional information on the website. However, I think the book has considerable general appeal, and tying it that closely to the web makes it less appealing as a present for technophobes who appreciate this kind of humor. (Down to 2 stars.)
In the end, I'm giving it one star back because it really is good fun. (Finished at 3 stars.)
Warning: don't read more than five or six stories in one sitting. They lose something when they are bunched together.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By J. Cowling on December 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those books that you want to loan to friends (or buy as a gift -- perhaps using the money in the "stupid tax" jar in the kitchen).
I'd been reading the annual awards on the Net for years, and mailing the funniest ones to friends; the tale of the man who welded cargo plane takeoff-assist jets to his car is so outlandish as to not be believed -- and apparently, shouldn't be, so take some of these stories with a grain of salt, even when they're purported to be true.
We all love to read about people from the "shallow end of the gene pool"; it makes us feel that perhaps we're not as dumb as we worry we might be. If you've ever thought about doing just about anything listed in this book...well, um...maybe we'll see you in the next edition.
The Darwin folks have been doing fine, fine work for years, and it's good to see a payoff for them, especially when it's as funny as this. I think it could have been longer (or denser), but it's certainly a good value.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Curtis on January 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who has an internet account or e-mail has read about the Darwin Awards and marveled at the stupidity of our own race. While I'm sure each episode was tragic for those who knew and loved the Darwin Award winners, those of us who didn't cannot help but be amused by their exploits. It is not meant to be disrespectful to the dead and maimed, but only so the survivors might learn from the winner's mistakes (while, admittedly, having a giggle).
Ms. Northcutt offers a comprehensive introduction explaining the criterion for the awards and the book's inclusions of nominees and urban legends. As you read the stories, you will be amazed at the lack of common sense employed by many of these people as they met their demise (or inability to reproduce). It is the perfect "bathroom book" and would make a great gift for anyone with a wry sense of humor!
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