Book Review: A Question of Torture

This book is the very reason why I hate ordering things online

I had to do a book review for a Journalism class I took in university and this book was on the reading list of potential options.

The book report was due in early December, so I started the assignment, like a good student, in late November, even though it was given to us the first day of class.

I ordered a copy of the book and it should have arrived with ample time to read it and make a report on it.

A week later the book still hadn’t arrived and I had only a week and a half till the due date

Slightly panicked I emailed Amazon and had another book sent to replace the one that didn’t arrive.

Fast forward to three days before the assignment was due. Still neither book came and I couldn’t wait any longer. 

Also, none of the books on the reading list were available at any bookstore in the city.

I had a small hope that I could download the book on my Kobo (e-reader) and to my luck it was there. I then spent the next 2 or so days reading this book and making a 10 page report on it. 

Now time for the actual review.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a researched account of the use of torture by the US.


“An indispensable and riveting account” of the CIA’s development and use of torture, from the cold war to Abu Ghraib and beyond (Naomi Klein, The Nation


In this revelatory account of the CIA’s fifty-year effort to develop new forms of torture, historian Alfred W. McCoy locates the deep roots of recent scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo in a long-standing, covert program of interrogation. A Question of Torture investigates the CIA’s practice of “sensory deprivation” and “self-inflicted pain,” in which techniques including isolation, hooding, hours of standing, and manipulation of time assault the victim’s senses and destroy the basis of personal identity. 

It is really fascinating to learn of the methods that the US developed and tried to spread around the world, but at the same time disturbing when you hear of the people that were being tortured.

It is also a different view on torture that I think a lot of people have.

I think most people think torture is someone beating the crap out of another guy to get information, which is what we see in a lot of action movies.

What McCoy talks about is torture that involves much less physical harm and much more psychological harm. 

I am a little bit of a history nerd so this book shed some light on a part of history that I had never really thought of before. 

Fair warning, it can get a bit gruesome at some points. It gives some pretty detailed account of different torture techniques.

Another little interesting fact from the book, the US was doing torturing people and trying to teach their allies how to do so also, all while speaking out against torture internationally…some may not be surprised.

Verdict: Worth the read, only if you can stomach it and if you love history. I think that torture is something that not a lot of people want to think about but its something that needs to be known.

I want to hear what you guys love about history, or some of your favorite moments from history. Let me know in the comments or send me an email. Feel free to contact me for the ending of my book fiasco too, I’ll tell you what happened to the 2 copies I ordered.

Next week I’m gonna take a look at the first and only graphic novel I’ve ever read about a popular fantasy show/book series.

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