Book Review: The Official Darwin Awards 3 by Wendy Northcutt (2003)

I got this book, in hardback, from the Quality Paperback Club for like a buck. I’ve been a fan of the Darwin Awards since I joined the IT industry and realized that I had an Internet browser right on my computer desktop and learned all the amusing little sites with which I could amuse myself when I needed a break from breaking the software (even when I was a mere technical writer, I was hell on code, werd). So I’m already familiar with the concept of the Darwin Award.

A Darwin Award goes to people who make spectacularly poor decisions that lead to their own deaths. Not just bad decisions; having a few beers and then driving up the Pacific Coast Highway while calling your ex-girlfriend and then going off the road and into the surf, that’s a bad decision, but not spectacularly bad. Spectacularly bad is drinking a couple of beers, climbing a telephone pole, and peeing onto electric wires. Macabre, no doubt, but amusing from a distance.

Because the book comes from a Web site, one has to wonder what the book format brings that the Web site does not. For example, I’ve read F’d Companies as well as and urban legend encyclopedia that resemble printed versions of Snopes, and in many cases, the answer is not much. As it is with this volume.

The book, as a value-added nod to the print medium, also contains an essay that begins each chapter. Unfortunately, the essays are rather short–600 words or less, I reckon–that lightly touches upon a topic unrelated to the chapter. These essays are light overviews of topics such as how the entries are picked, flame wars on the Web site, and transgenic animals, and they offer the depth one might find in a syndicated newspaper feature. A short one. But they’re unrelated

Each actual Darwin Award vignette is properly sized for a screen of text, so each is about a page or so in print. They’re quick and easy to read. That’s the plus for the book, but it’s also what’s on the Web site. So now that’ve said something nice about the book, I’ll sum up.

This volume doesn’t add much to the Web site, so it’s worth the money if “the money” is only a buck and/or you like to read this stuff offline or cannot type into a Web browser.

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