Review: Evil – The Science Behind Humanity’s Dark Side by Julia Shaw

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★★

Abrams Press | 2019

Opening Thesis: Evil is just a misunderstanding.

Main Evil: Apparently pedophiles aren’t that bad?

Thesis Conclusion: Shockingly shallow.


I really wanted to like this and I’m having a hard time with the rating because I didn’t like this, and frankly parts of it are so off-putting I want to toss it out a window.

But it’s not a bad book either in terms of writing quality.

My biggest problem really comes down to the fact that this book is not about the science behind humanity’s dark side, as the cover suggests.

I wanted to learn about the brain, human chemistry, nature vs nurture; I wanted case studies and scientific journals and theories and experiments. What I got was the author explaining why evil is subjective and nothing is really bad because all humans fuck up. The overall theme boils down to “rethinking evil.”

While that may be a provocative topic to tackle, I wouldn’t have necessarily started the book with the argument that we should reconsider labelling Hitler as evil.

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Review: Stiff – The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

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★★★★

Penguin | 2004

Overall Grossness: You put that monkey head back where it came from, or so help me!

Best Cadaver: They were all beautiful, in their own dissected ways.

Plot Educational-ness: Thinking about your own expiration date has never been more fun!


I think if you’re into the macabre and the dark side of life, or death as it were, then this book is probably required reading for you.

Truth be told, I am not a science-brained kind of girl. Or history. Or geography. Or math. Really anything that requires a level of intelligence that is based on facts and an excessive amount of information and concentration.

These are just not my strong suits. As much as high school teachers would want to make me feel bad about that with those shitty grades I kept getting, I’ve accepted myself now, as an adult. I fully embrace that I will never be able to help my kids with science or math homework. They could ask me about English and art though. But, I do appreciate logic and thoughtfulness.

I do have some intelligence, y’all!

With that in mind, Mary Roach makes heavy scientific topics, experimentation and the history of anatomy and scientific discovery, easy enough for this dumb-dumb to understand. And even find funny! Roach imbues her writing with levity and a flirtatious tone that makes this more entertaining and less textbook-y.

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Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

This is how it ends for you. “You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once. Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light.

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★★★★½

Harper | 2018

Crimes: 12+ murders, 50+ rapes, 120+ burglaries

Crime Fighter: A true crime junkie who should be alive to witness the conclusion of her life’s work

Plot Truthiness: Everything you could want to know without being a cop on the case


This is a beautiful work of non-fiction/true crime.

The East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, the Visalia Ransacker, the Easy Bay Rapist, the Dollner Street Prowler, the Diamond Knot Killer…

This killer has gone by many names, but the one you’ll be hearing the most is the Golden State Killer. A term coined by the late Michelle McNamara, a true crime writer/junkie/amateur detective, whose life mission was to see this most prolific villain unmasked after a reign of terror that lasted more than a decade, and getting away with it for over 40 years.

Michelle McNamara died on April 21, 2016. She was nearly done her tome about GSK. Her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, as well as Michelle’s research partner and a journalist friend, finished the book for her. They knew Michelle needed to see this published. It was her life’s work, her greatest obsession.

There are parts of the book with editor’s notes and annotations to let the reader know Michelle hadn’t finished a chapter, or that Michelle had written a note to follow up on something, but she never had a chance. These were constant reminders of this woman’s tragic passing that made this a much more emotional reading experience for me than I usually would have with a true crime novel.

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Review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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★★½

Random House | 1966

I have an unhealthy obsession totally normal interest in true crime. I love mystery-crime fiction. And I’m not comfortable just resting on my laurels and staying in the here-and-now. I want to know the history of the things I love. I want to have developed an appreciation for those that came before and helped contribute to making these genres as accessible as they are, and as artistic as they’ve become.

I also want to be that girl who reads classic novels and has a nighttime face routine and wakes up early to take her dog for a walk before making a fresh smoothie full of kale or cucumber or like avocado toast. Whatever the healthy people are doing these days.

But if my reading experience with In Cold Blood has taught me anything it’s that I’m none of those things and classic novels are boring as shit. I got out of bed this morning fifteen minutes before I needed to leave. And I don’t give a fuck.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. I give a tiny baby of a fuck and not all classic novels suck. #NotAllClassicNovels.

Honestly, I’m super disappointed that I didn’t like this. I feel like I should have. It’s almost a rite of passage to read this book if you’re in the murderino scene. It’s so popular and has all those keywords on the cover – “spell-binding”, “masterpiece…”

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? This book is giving me an extensional crisis.

In Cold Blood was written over a period of seven years and published in 1966. It was not the first true crime novel ever written, but it is the first to bring the true crime genre to mainstream culture. Capote created the blueprint. He’s a trailblazer.

And I didn’t like it?! I DIDN’T LIKE IT.

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