5 Books On Capital Punishment

5 Books On Capital Punishment

These fiction and true crime selections go deeper than soundbites and headlines to accurately depict the full impact and consequences of capital punishment, otherwise known as death row, as well as question the process, ethics, and validity of the practice.

1. The Green Mile by Stephen King

“Welcome to Cold Mountain Penitentiary, home to the Depression-worn men of E Block. Convicted killers all, each awaits his turn to walk “the Green Mile,” the lime-colored linoleum corridor leading to a final meeting with Old Sparky, Cold Mountain’s electric chair. Prison guard Paul Edgecombe has seen his share of oddities over the years working the Mile, but he’s never seen anything like John Coffey—a man with the body of a giant and the mind of a child, condemned for a crime terrifying in its violence and shocking in its depravity. And in this place of ultimate retribution, Edgecombe is about to discover the terrible, wondrous truth about John Coffey—a truth that will challenge his most cherished beliefs….”

2. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

“Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, A Lesson Before Dying is a deep and compassionate novel about a young man who returns to 1940s Cajun country to visit a black youth on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting.”

3. The Sugar Maple Grove by John E. Espy

“In early twentieth century Van Lear, Kentucky, miners in a conscripted coal town go down to work in the shaft only to come back up in pieces. Company-hired detectives and preachers terrorize the workforce, their women and widows, and children into submission with threats of violence and eternal damnation while the Knights subject blacks to acts of unspeakable violence. Slavery is a way of life. Murder is a daily occurrence. Then one day in the Sugar Maple Grove, Moses Kitchen takes a stand against the members of the Ku Klux Klan sparking a small but enduring revolt against corporate, religious, and racial tyranny that finds its way throughout the generations from the son of a shoe salesman to a feisty, young female lawyer and beyond in this epic Southern Gothic about race, poverty, religion, and barbarism, and those brave enough to dare to see a different society.”

4. Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

“They are an unlikely pair: George is “small and quick and dark of face”; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a “family,” clinging together in the face of loneliness and alienation. Laborers in California’s dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations of a flirtatious woman, nor predict the consequences of Lennie’s unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.”

5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

“On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.”

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