New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • A “journalistic masterpiece” (The New Yorker) about a nation careening into violent autocracy—told through harrowing stories of the Philippines’ state-sanctioned killings of its citizens—from a reporter of international renown
“Tragic, elegant, vital . . . Evangelista risked her life to tell this story.”—Tara Westover, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Educated
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW’S TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, Time, The Economist, Chicago Public Library
“My job is to go to places where people die. I pack my bags, talk to the survivors, write my stories, then go home to wait for the next catastrophe. I don’t wait very long.”
Journalist Patricia Evangelista came of age in the aftermath of a street revolution that forged a new future for the Philippines. Three decades later, in the face of mounting inequality, the nation discovered the fragility of its democratic institutions under the regime of strongman Rodrigo Duterte. Some People Need Killing is Evangelista’s meticulously reported and deeply human chronicle of the Philippines’ drug war. For six years, Evangelista chronicled the killings carried out by police and vigilantes in the name of Duterte’s war on drugs—a war that has led to the slaughter of thousands—immersing herself in the world of killers and survivors and capturing the atmosphere of fear created when an elected president decides that some lives are worth less than others.
The book takes its title from a vigilante whose words seemed to reflect the psychological accommodation that most of the country had made: “I’m really not a bad guy,” he said. “I’m not all bad. Some people need killing.”
A profound act of witness and a tour de force of literary journalism, Some People Need Killing is also a brilliant dissection of the grammar of violence and an important investigation of the human impulses to dominate and resist.
About the Author
Patricia Evangelista is a trauma journalist and former investigative reporter for the Philippine news company Rappler. Her reporting on armed conflict and disaster was awarded the Kate Webb Prize for exceptional journalism in dangerous conditions. She was a Headlands Artist in Residence, a New America ASU Future Security Fellow, and a fellow of the Logan Nonfiction Program, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Her work has earned local and international acclaim. She lives in Manila.
“A journalistic masterpiece . . . One of the most remarkable pieces of narrative nonfiction I have read in a long, long time.”—David Remnick, The New Yorker
“Evangelista makes us feel the fear and grief that she felt as she chronicled what Duterte was doing to her country. But appealing to our emotions is only part of it; what makes this book so striking is that she wants us to think about what happened, too. She pays close attention to language, and not only because she is a writer. Language can be used to communicate, to deny, to threaten, to cajole. Duterte’s language is coarse and degrading. Evangelista’s is evocative and exacting.”—The New York Times
“In this blindingly ambitious, unfathomably brave, fiercely reported book, Patricia Evangelista exposes the evil in her country with perfect clarity fueled by profound rage, her narrative voice at once utterly brutal and terrifyingly vulnerable. In short, clear sentences packed with faithfully recorded details, she reveals the nature of unbridled cruelty with an insightfulness that I have not encountered since the work of Hannah Arendt. This is an account of a dark chapter in the Philippines, an examination of how murder was conflated with salvation in a violent society. Ultimately, however, it transcends its ostensible subject and becomes a meditation on the disabling pathos of self-delusion, a study of manipulation and corruption as they recur in conflict after conflict across the world. Few of history’s grimmest chapters have had the fortune to be narrated by such a withering, ironic, witty, devastatingly brilliant observer. You may think you are inured to shock, but this book is an exploding bomb that will damage you anew, making you wiser as it does so.”—Andrew Solomon, National Book Award–winning author of The Noonday Demon and Far and Away: How Travel Can Change the World
“In this haunting work of memoir and reportage, Patricia Evangelista both describes the origins of autocratic rule in the Philippines, and explains its universal significance. The cynicism of voters, the opportunism of Filipino politicians, the appeal of brutality and violence to both groups—all of this will be familiar to readers, wherever they are from.”—Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism