The Death of Democracy by Benjamin Carter Hett – A Review

The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic by Benjamin Carter Hett
Nonfiction | History
Published by Henry Holt and Company
Released March 29th, 2018
Goodreads

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m currently learning to speak and read German. While I have read a ton of books about British history, I realized recently that I had never read a book on German history. To correct that, I purchased Benjamin Carter Hett’s The Death of Democracy alongside several other non-fiction historical accounts of German history.

The Death of Democracy is an account of how the Nazi party, and Adolf Hitler in particular, came to power in Germany in the 1930s. It’s extensively detailed, to the point where the meticulous reporting of German politics can become overwhelming. However, it’s such a complete account that I have to recommend it.

Without getting into details about current American politics, there was an uncomfortable number of times that I found similarities between this period of German history and our own modern era. History is vitally important in order to have a complete understanding of current events, and I found it fitting to be reading The Death of Democracy at this point in America’s history.

Author Benjamin Carter Hett did a wonderful job of showing the reader how a completely unremarkable soldier during World War I became one of the world’s most despised leaders. Most people are going to have a very basic understanding of who Hitler was, but through The Death of Democracy, you end up really seeing how Hitler’s sociopathic tendencies led to him having certain gifts that allowed him and the Nazi party to end up in power.

I’ve read a lot of non-fiction history books throughout my life (probably inspired by my father who reads nothing but historical non-fiction), and The Death of Democracy is clearly a well-researched book. I greatly commend Hett for the time he must have spent working on this project.

I am recommending this book not only because it’s such a great account of a very important time in world history, but because of the lessons we should take away from that time. From “fake news” to censorship and beyond, one can gain an understanding of the horrors that await a society that isn’t careful.


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Death is But a Dream by Christopher Kerr – A Review

Death is But a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life’s End by Christopher Kerr, MD, PhD
Nonfiction | Memoir | Medical
Published by Avery Publishing Group
Released 11 February 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Most of the non-fiction I read tends to have self-help or historical themes. Lately, however, I’ve been more and more interested in the more spiritual side of things. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but who knows.

When I was approached by a publicist to review Dr. Christopher Kerr’s Death is But a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life’s End, I was hesitant but interested. I’m glad I agreed to read and review it, however, because it taught me a lot about the end of life process.

Dr. Christopher Kerr

Dr. Kerr is a hospice doctor, and this book is a collection of his observations about what patients experience on their death beds. He takes a strikingly non-spiritual and non-religious view of the dying process, which made the book even more interesting to me. His views on the experiences of his dying patients were based on science and his own observations.

With tons of patient stories and anecdotes, Dr. Kerr recounts the plethora of patients who have experienced seeing their loved ones, who have passed on before them, in their last few days of life. Likewise, he discusses the overwhelming sense of peace that many people experience in their last days or hours.

While many people might chalk these experiences up to hallucinations, senility, or the side effects of heavy doses of medications, Dr. Kerr makes the point that it doesn’t necessarily matter what is causing these visions – the only thing that matters is how they make the patients feel, which is overwhelmingly more peaceful and happier during an otherwise stressful time.

My only complaint about this book is that I wished Dr. Kerr had used more statistics and stories from other types of doctors – possibly trauma surgeons or ICU nurses – to get a different perspective on other types of patients. It’s a very small gripe though because overall, reading this book was an enlightening experience.

I’d recommend Death is But a Dream to anyone interested in death, the experiences of terminally ill patients, and those who want a non-religious look at the end of life. Death is But a Dream is a beautifully written account of the experiences of dying patients of all ages, their families and loved ones, and the doctors and nurses who care for them in hospice.


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Live Oak, with Moss by Walt Whitman – A Review

Live Oak with Moss Walt Whitman

Live Oak, with Moss by Walt Whitman
Illustrated by Brian Selznick
Poetry | Graphic Novel | LGBTQ+
Published by Harry N. Abrams
Released April 9th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

I’ve always been a bit intimidated by classic poetry. When we read it in high school and college, I never really got them and found myself frequently frustrated with the flowery language, as well as the teacher making us pull apart each line of the poem until I found myself hating it.

Recently, however, I’ve been getting into modern poetry and really loving it. When I was at my local library browsing their poetry collection, I came across this beautiful edition of Walt Whitman’s Live Oak, with Moss.

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I’d never heard of this poem, but I was intrigued by its format – the poem is told through Brian Selznick’s wonderful art. Of course, the actual poem is included as well!

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I will say that if you’re unfamiliar with the poem, the art isn’t going to make a lot of sense. At least, it didn’t for me. However, once I read the poem and went back through the art, I got it, and loved it.

Live Oak, with Moss is one of Whitman’s more obscure poetry collections. Written in a small book that he made himself, sewing the pages together, he wrote about his attraction to, and relationships with, men. At the time that Whitman wrote these poems, in 1859, “homosexual” wasn’t a word yet. There was a burgeoning homosexual subculture emerging in New York City during this time, of which Whitman was a part.

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Walt Whitman

The poems are passionate and personal and touch on lust, desire, love, and loss. They’re beautiful to read, and I’m glad that these poems were discovered and published in this manner.

Along with Walt Whitman’s words and Brian Selznick’s art, scholar Karen Karbiener’s essay about the poems and the author’s sexuality shed a lot of light on his life, the evolution of these poems, and their discovery.

Overall, I’m so glad that I picked this book up from my library’s shelf. It was an absolute pleasure to read, and I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in classic or LGBTQ-positive poetry.




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Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty – A Review

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs Caitlin Doughty

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty
Nonfiction | Science | Humor
Published by W. W. Norton Company
Released 10 September 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

“We can’t make death fun, but we can make learning about it fun. Death is science and history, art and literature. It bridges every culture and unites the whole of humanity!”

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love the work that Caitlin Doughty does to promote death-positivity. Like many people, I found her via her incredible YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician (which you should definitely go binge-watch after reading this post). Her non-fiction books have been on my radar since the first, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, was published in 2014. I’m baffled that I haven’t read her books yet since, again, I’m a huge fan.

Having recently gotten in the mood to try audiobooks again, I found the audiobook version of Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? on Scribd, narrated by the author herself. I’ll probably buy the physical book and re-read it at some point, but the audiobook is a perfect way to take the information in. Caitlin’s personality shines through so much, and the listening experience is an absolute delight.

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Caitlin Doughty

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? is a collection of questions from children about death. The questions are both profound, important, and, in many cases, hilarious. Caitlin’s answers are likewise perfect, relatable, and, well, hilarious. Are you a fan of light, yet very dark, humor? You’ll love this book.

The questions that Doughty answers in this book range from things like “What would happen if I swallow popcorn kernels before I die and then get cremated?” to “What happens to astronaut bodies in space?” My favorite question (and largest disappointment) was her answer to whether it’s okay and possible to have a “Viking” funeral. You know, laying the body on a small boat and having someone epically shoot a flaming arrow at it, and then watching as the body burns away. Not gonna lie – that was pretty much how I wanted my body disposed of upon death. Spoiler: it’s not possible. Whomp whomp. 

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Although the questions come from children, the book is appropriate for readers of all ages. There were certainly times when I wished that the answers had been longer and explained in more detail, but Doughty has plenty of detailed videos, and two other books, for that. Part of the charm of Will My Cat Eat My Eyeball? is its accessibility. Not everyone wants a ton of detail on decay and funerary practices, so for those people something lighter like this is a great introduction to the topic.

I’m sure there are people that aren’t going to agree with this opinion, but I feel that it’s really important to embrace death and frame it in a positive way. As I mentioned before, that’s something that Caitlin Doughty specializes in, but I want to emphasize it again. I’m unsure if this is true in other countries around the world, but in America, it seems as though people actively avoid thinking about death.

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I get it – no one wants to think about something as scary as death. Guess what, though? It’s inevitable. By not growing up in a death-positive environment, it makes grief so much harder to handle. I’m not saying that death will ever be easy because it won’t. Losing the people you love is hard. All I’m saying is that if, as a culture, we become more aware of dying, death, and funeral processes, it would be easier to know what’s ahead of us.

If you’re looking for answers to your burning death questions, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs is the perfect place to start. Whether you read it physically or listen to the amazing audiobook, you’ll find yourself laughing at Caitlin’s infectious personality and learning about corpse disposal at the same time. Never thought you’d do that, huh?


Have you read any of Caitlin Doughty’s books? What are your thoughts? Let me know down in the comments!




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