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5 Great Books : Disaster and the After Effects
The News - Natural Disasters
March 23, 2012
Mother nature is the ultimate thriller writer. She is also a cold, heartless.... well you know. She can go from giving you the perfect sunny day, to wiping thousands off in a heartbeat.  These 5 book take a look at some of the worst natural disasters on record, and delve deeply into the short and long lasting effects they had on people, populations, and future planning.

5 Great Books : Disaster and the After Effects

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America

An American epic of science, politics, race, honor, high society, and the Mississippi River, Rising Tide tells the riveting and nearly forgotten story of the greatest natural disaster this country has ever known -- the Mississippi flood of 1927. The river inundated the homes of nearly one million people, helped elect Huey Long governor and made Herbert Hoover president, drove hundreds of thousands of blacks north, and transformed American society and politics forever.

Barry does a great job of describing the terrifying events of the flood itself and the mismanagement that exacerbated it, but it's his follow-up of the sociological and political aftermath that sets this work apart from a typical disaster book.

The Johnstown Flood

At the end of the last century, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was a booming coal-and-steel town filled with hardworking families striving for a piece of the nation's burgeoning industrial prosperity. In the mountains above Johnstown, an old earth dam had been hastily rebuilt to create a lake for an exclusive summer resort patronized by the tycoons of that same industrial prosperity, among them Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Mellon. Despite repeated warnings of possible danger, nothing was done about the dam. Then came May 31, 1889, when the dam burst, sending a wall of water thundering down the mountain, smashing through Johnstown, and killing more than 2,000 people. It was a tragedy that became a national scandal.

Graced by David McCullough's remarkable gift for writing richly textured, sympathetic social history, The Johnstown Flood is an absorbing, classic portrait of life in nineteenth-century America, of overweening confidence, of energy, and of tragedy. It also offers a powerful historical lesson for our century and all times: the danger of assuming that because people are in positions of responsibility they are necessarily behaving responsibly.

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded

Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman, examines the legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa, which was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly forty thousand people.

The effects of the immense waves were felt as far away as France. Barometers in Bogotá and Washington, D.C., went haywire. Bodies were washed up in Zanzibar. The sound of the island's destruction was heard in Australia and India and on islands thousands of miles away. Most significant of all -- in view of today's new political climate -- the eruption helped to trigger in Java a wave of murderous anti-Western militancy among fundamentalist Muslims, one of the first outbreaks of Islamic-inspired killings anywhere. Krakatoa gives us an entirely new perspective on this fascinating and iconic event.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 (Great Historic Disasters)

This book covers the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004 at both a macro and micro level, and succeeds in all respects. I was impressed with how much information the author was able to pack into a 127-page book meant for pre-teens, and still maintain a lucid and interesting narrative thread. "The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004" isn't just for kids.

Adults may read it with interest for a succinct overview of the most devastating natural disaster of our new millennium.

If "The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004" piques your interest in this subject, I also highly recommend Wave of Destruction: The Stories of Four Families and History's Deadliest Tsunami - (2005), in which author Eric Krauss focuses on the lives of four Thai families who experienced the horrific 2004 natural disaster and its aftermath.

The Greatest Disaster Stories Ever Told: Seventeen Harrowing Tales

There are plane crashes, floods, volcanic eruptions, storms, and raging fires. And, of course, the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 are covered in heart-wrenching detail.  This book contains true accounts of such monumental disasters as: The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York; the sinkings of the Titanic and the Lusitania; the Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood; the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens; the destruction of Galveston, Texas by the deadliest hurricane in American history; the B-25 bomber crash into the Empire State Building; the sinking of the USS Indianapolis; the runway collision between Pan Am and KLM 747s that resulted in 578 deaths; the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800; the Bhopal, India toxic chemical leak, which claimed 2,500 lives; the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy; the Hartford Circus fire; the Chicago Orphanage fire; the New York Triangle fire; and more.

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