Saturday, November 27, 2010

"How to Die in the Outdoors: 110 Grisly Ways to Croak" by Buck Tilton

By living a normal, boring life, you have an excellent chance of becoming yet another statistic on the list of leading causes of death. Of course, the process can be accelerated by forgoing exercise, eating lots of fat, smoking, drinking heavily (not water), and worrying. Buck Tilton prefers to ponder the alternatives. In How to Die in the Outdoors, he presents 110 far more interesting and unique ways to perish, from such intriguing scenarios as snake bite, elephant foot, walrus tusk, and rhino horn. In a straightforward style, with easy-to-understand terms and all laced with his trademark wit, Tilton describes not only the details of how you can die - some intriguingly gory, yet all based (more or less) on facts - but also ways to avoid death should a life-threatening situation arise before you're ready to leave this world for whatever afterlife there might be.

This book reminds me of the "Worst-Case Scenario Survival" series written by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht. Those brilliant little books gave us all sorts of ways to survive different "worst-case" scenarios, such as "life", "college", "travel", etc. This book by Tilton isn't quite as humorous as that series, but it's got some interesting information.

The blurb on the back of the book is correct in that the information is presented in a very-easy-to-understand formula. In fact, I found myself skipping over some of the beginning basic info on each of the critters/poisons/etc that can kill you and just getting into the meat of the thing, also known as the "Why You Die" section. The descriptions in some cases are very grisly (such as being stomped by an elephant), while others proved to be quite informative. For example, in the section "Fooled by Frozen Water", Tilton explains that most people think you die from hypothermia after falling through thin ice, such as the type found on a lake or river during early winter. But that's not how you meet your end - you die by drowning. What happens is the sudden fall catches you off guard, and as you fall into the frigid water, you inhale... a mouthful of water. And it doesn't take much water to drown. Hypothermia would typically take almost thirty minutes to kill a person, and most of the people who choose to walk out on a not-fully-frozen-lake drown minutes after they fall through the thin ice. Good to know!

I also like the small ending codas on each section, also known as "How to Live". Most of the scenarios involve getting immediate medical attention, especially for the venomous bites of snakes, spiders, scorpions and other such creepy-crawlies. Tilton often advises the reader to stay away from the danger, such as raging rhinos and cranky crocodiles. But if you can't stay away, sometimes you just need to stand still; a lot of the bigger animals have poor eyesight and might not realize you're "food" if you stand statue-still. And don't run away - a lot of the animals find that very enticing and will give chase.

It's a fun little book, and it certainly gives one food for thought, if you'll pardon the pun. I recommend it for light weekend reading.

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