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Things I've Learned from Dying: A Book About Life Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; 1 edition (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455575240
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455575244
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"David R. Dow's stories are always compelling. His observations are unflinching and true. Death is a part of daily routine, and in this remarkable book he takes us to the grave and back."—John Grisham

"David Dow is a lawyer who writes like an angel."—Steve Weinberg, Dallas Morning News

"He is a gifted storyteller. And regardless of your opinion on the death penalty, he sounds like good company."—
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


"Gracefully told.... Dow weaves elegantly each person's story into a colorful and emotionally wrenching narrative that covers his fiercely honest struggle to make sense of life and death."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Dow's lyrically written prose shimmers as he traces life's final moments for his death-row client, father-in-law, and dog Winona. Its exploration of the elusive line between life and death will leave readers speechless."—Library Journal

"Sooner or later, death touches every life. Sometimes, though, it comes in legions. This is the story of a death penalty lawyer from Texas who simultaneously watched his father-in-law die of cancer and defended a convicted murderer who didn't deserve to be executed. Few of us can begin to imagine such a shattering coincidence, and fewer still could ever hope to come to terms with it. But David R. Dow did, and has now written a profoundly poignant, singularly wise memoir of his experience. In the midst of death he was-and is-in life."—Terry Teachout, drama critic, Wall Street Journal

"In clear, powerful prose, David R. Dow reminds us of an essential truth: that human life remains cheap to the state, and for the rest of us, it is precious, momentary, and wholly fulfilling when embraced."—Bryan Mealer, author of Muck City, All Things Must Fight to Live, and the New York Times bestseller The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

"David R. Dow has delivered a profound and penetrating meditation on the end of life-through the deaths of his father-in-law to cancer, a death row inmate he was representing to lethal injection, and his family's beloved dog to liver failure. The writing is clear-eyed and intimate, as he exquisitely weaves the stories of these staggering losses together. Better still, along the way he reveals the lessons for living that come from them."—Dick Lehr, author of Whitey, the Boston Globe bestseller The Fence, and the New York Times bestseller and Edgar Award-winning Black Mass

"In terse, spare prose, David Dow mines the shadows between dying and death, work and family, law and justice, love and pain. A stunning meditation on all the ways in which irreversible endings can make us whole."—Dahlia Lithwick, Supreme Court correspondent, Slate.com

PRAISE FOR THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN EXECUTION

"David Dow's extraordinary memoir lifts the veil on the real world of representing defendants on death row. It will stay with me a long time."
Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nin

"Powerful . . . a brilliant, heartrending book."—New York Times Book Review

"His prose is captivating."—Christian Science Monitor

"Chilling . . . authentic and heartfelt . . . He will transfix you."—Los Angeles Times

"A riveting and compelling account of a Texas execution written and narrated by a lawyer in the thick of the last minute chaos. It should be read by all those who support state sponsored killing."—John Grisham, author of The Innocent Man

About the Author

David R. Dow is professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center and an internationally recognized figure in the fight against the death penalty. Nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for The Autobiography of an Execution, he is also the founder and director of the Texas Innocence Network and has represented more than one hundred death row inmates in their state and federal appeals. He lives in Houston, Texas.


More About the Author

David R. Dow is the Cullen Professor at the University of Houston Law Center, and the Rorschach Visiting Professor of History at Rice University. A graduate of Rice and Yale, Dow's areas of expertise include constitutional law and theory, contract law, and death penalty law. Working with students in his death penalty clinic, Dow represents death row inmates during their state and federal appeals. He is also the founder and director of the Texas Innocence Network.

He lives in Houston and Park City, Utah, with his wife Katya, their son Lincoln, and their dog Franklin.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Because of my own journey, I found the book insightful.
William Isaacs
Through direct, sparse prose, Dow has given us a great meditation on death and on life.
Dennis Diehl
Hopefully other adult children will read this book and respect their parents' decision.
Dr. Cathy Goodwin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sammy on January 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Life teaches all of us many important lessons if we are paying attention. Sometimes we have to make mistakes in order to learn our lessons. Dow shows us through the deaths of his dog, his father-in-law, and his death row clients about living life. I was expecting it to be primarily about the morality of capital punishment. Happily it was not. The story balanced three entirely different deaths and brought them together by surrounding each with his personal experiences when faced with death. It was about choices people make when they die or those around them are in the dying process. It is a personal, heartfelt, and authentic story that draws us in to his world for moments in time and reveals life lessons to ponder. Very well done.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gary T. on January 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a well written non-fiction book about three dyings: a father-in-law, a death row inmate, and the family dog. It is also the story of the heartless Texas justice system (disclosure: I live in Texas).

This book is a quick read, as the author jumps between the dying stories of these three living beings by using short chapters.

As for lessons learned, I suspect the main lesson is that life seems too short for those who bring a positive impact to our lives.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on January 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The premature death of a beloved husband, father and grandfather after a fitful struggle against cancer; the passing of an aged dog; and the execution of a convicted murderer on Texas’s death row on the surface couldn’t be more different events. And yet, as David R. Dow shows in this deeply felt memoir, the universality that links these circumstances ultimately overwhelms their differences. Displaying the same brilliant storytelling skills that earned his memoir, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN EXECUTION, a National Book Critics Circle nomination, Dow succeeds, above all, in evoking both our sympathy and our understanding.

Dow, who teaches at the University of Houston Law Center and founded the Texas Innocence Network, has been fighting on behalf of death row inmates for more than 20 years. Since 2010 there have been 171 executions in the United States, with Texas responsible for just over one-third of them. A lawyer doing what Dow does there obviously faces formidable odds. Here, he tells the story of Eddie Waterman, sentenced to death for his role in the murder of an elderly woman in her bed. Now, eight years later, the 27-year-old Waterman watches with grim fatalism as his appeal windows slam shut, one by one. Dow deftly explains the complex, often daring legal strategies employed by death penalty lawyers to keep their clients alive, maneuvers he must deploy before judges he fearlessly denounces as “bureaucratic hacks who reach results that melt their political butter no matter how much violence they have to inflict on legal principles on their way to getting there.” He’s no less adamant that the death penalty doesn’t deter crime, and that “anybody who tells you the criminal justice system is an even playing field has no idea what she’s talking about.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
David Dow lives with death. As a lawyer, he works with inmates on death row in Texas, one of the most hard-core states when it comes to executions. One judge famously turned down an appeal from an inmate whose lawyer slept through a trial ("wasn't he merely dozing?"). Other judges just don't want to know an inmate is out of touch with reality or has turned his life around. Nobody asks about the costs and the outcomes. They just kill people.

Dow wrote this book when he was also dealing with deaths of his beloved father-in-law and his wonderful dog, Winona. He writes movingly and clearly and he balances these stories of death with stories of life - his own family and young son.

What stands out in this book is the cruelty of everyone associated with these deaths. The judges cling to an ethical code that seems rooted in an outdated ethic, forged before modern science and psychology. They're not interested in rationality.

But then neither are the doctors who force procedures on Peter, Dow's father-in-law. I've heard horror stories about M. D. Anderson as a cancer center without a heart. and that's where Peter was treated. The doctors keep recommending procedures, sometimes because "it's protocol." They refuse to discuss treatment outcomes. They don't return phone calls. They don't answer questions. In many ways they resemble the hard-nosed judges who refuse to listen to anything that might challenge their opinions.

Peter's daughter, Katya, is Dow's wife. She begs Peter to keep accepting treatment and surgeries. This response seems common among adult children whose parents face a fatal diagnosis and who don't realize what they're asking. Peter gains nothing from surgeries except more pain.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Khamneithang Vaiphei TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Things I've Learned from Dying: A Book About Life by David R. Dow is insightful, stark and candid. “One thing I’ve learned,” he writes, “is that there is a time to be silent and there’s a time to hold nothing back. What I might not have learned is which is when.” It subtly examines the plight of the dying, be it from cancer or one on death row.

Things I’ve Learned From Dying is a rare and much needed book. It is intense and gripping, filled with sincerity, love and tenderness. It is a book not to be missed.
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