Reviews: e-books and audiobooks - on suicide, money in marriage, the electric chair
What would you write in a suicide note? Philosopher Simon Critchley, who held a workshop two years ago in which participants wrote their farewell thoughts, received expected criticism from people who thought him sick and/or irresponsible. He also received a note a social worker had kept from a parasuicide (someone who tries without success to kill themselves) that read: "DARK. Light. DARK." In this thought-provoking book, prefaced by a declaration that the above is not a suicide note, the author examines different societies' takes on that most final of acts. Where it is freely committed (not because of factors outside one's control such as severe depression or illness), he writes, there is condemnation. His Kindle single, however, attempts to provoke discussion about suicide that is more forgiving and reflective. Critchley looks at the writings of Sigmund Freud and 17th-century cleric and poet John Donne (who defended the right to "self-homicide"), and high-profile deaths of Japanese author Yukio Mishima and grunge musician Kurt Cobain.
Suicide by Simon Critchley (Thought Catalog Books) e-book
You'll wonder why more people haven't written a version of this book because it must resonate with every couple that have divorced, or considered splitting, over money issues. Crazy Stupid Money tells of how Rachel Shukert became the sole provider after her husband decided, after years of working in advertising, that he'd had enough of the insane hours and impossible clients. The trouble was, Shukert, a freelance writer, had an unstable monthly income, and there was no master plan. So the pair rowed, sometimes viciously, over how to live frugally. "We fought because we were broke, and we were scared, and we couldn't remember any other way to speak to each other," she writes. The last straw came when he starts using her credit card (to see a doctor, to keep up his website) on the sly. The book ends positively, but that's because she ended up working full-time, and her monthly salary allowed balance to return. Readers will find Shukert's rationalising dissatisfying. But they will also pause to consider their own relationship with money, gender roles and what is important.
Crazy Stupid Money by Rachel Shukert (Amazon Digital Services) e-book
Shocking yet thought-provoking, Old Sparky lays it all out for anyone curious about the ways in which different countries, America in particular, carry out the death penalty. The book begins with the execution in 2013 of Robert Gleason. Having murdered two inmates to secure his own demise, he was among a minority of death-row inmates opting for the chair instead of lethal injection. His death went "smoothly", but sometimes, as Anthony Galvin writes, prisoners need up to five cycles of electricity to die. The US is one of four industrialised democracies using capital punishment, with the electric chair "a peculiarly American institution", Galvin says, underscoring how out of step the country is on the issue. You'll learn about the experiments that led to the chair's development, including the electrocution in the 1880s of a horse, and about notorious criminals who have faced the chair. Galvin says the US will probably abolish the death penalty this century. The message is that it's already too late.
Old Sparky by Anthony Galvin (Audible Studios) audiobook