By Jeffrey A. Kottler, Prometheus Books, $25.00, 311 pages

10“Although I am a relatively nonviolent, sensitive guy, prone to avoid direct confrontation whenever possible, there is a part of me that really enjoys watching others in the midst of conflict, especially when it leads to bloodshed. This is true whether I am watching a fight break out in a hockey arena or a bar. Furthermore, I know that I am not alone.”

Video games. Movies. Television shows. News documentaries. Real life.

Our daily routines expose us to bouts of violence and glimpses of depravity. Why do we watch? What piques our interest in horrible situations? Psychologist Jeffrey A. Kottler examines the basic desires that propel human instincts in his latest book, The Lust for Blood: Why We Are Fascinated by Death, Murder, Horror, and Violence.

Instead of focusing on the perpetrators of these violent and horrific crimes, Kottler investigates how violence and blood affect the average person exposed to these types of episodes. From emergency room workers to mafiosa to serial killers on death row, Kottler pushes to understand what draws these individuals’ attention to the macabre. By using examples from history, sports, true crime, and movies, Kottler explains the difference between normal and abnormal behavior and reaches conclusions about society’s beliefs and attitudes about violent behavior.

Kottler succeeds in sharing heavy and detailed information in a conversational tone, approaching the subject in a practical manner. Unfortunately, Kottler misses a key point: explaining why the human brain gravitates toward blood and death. From a psychological point of view, a connection between the brain and behavior would add an extra dose of insight into this morbid subject.

Reviewed by LuAnn Schindler