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1. Isaac's Storm : A Man, a Time,
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2. Krakatoa : The Day the World Exploded:
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3. The Children's Blizzard
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4. Catastrophe: An Investigation
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5. Sudden Sea : The Great Hurricane
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6. Danger Stalks the Land : Alaskan
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7. The Perfect Storm : A True Story
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8. Sound Truth & Corporate Myth$:
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9. The Great Earthquake and Firestorms
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10. Mount st Helens: The Eruption
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11. A Dangerous Place : California's
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12. When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest
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13. RISING TIDE: THE GREAT MISSISSIPPI
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14. Snakes of North America: Eastern
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15. Ecology of Fear : Los Angeles
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16. Fire on the Mountain : The True
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17. Young Men and Fire
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18. Nights of Ice
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19. Mean Season : Florida's Hurricanes
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20. No Apparent Danger: The True Story

1. Isaac's Storm : A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
by ERIK LARSON
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 0375708278
Catlog: Book (2000-07-11)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 2995
Average Customer Review: 4.16 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history--and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devestating personal tragedy.

Using Cline's own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac's Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature.
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Reviews (197)

5-0 out of 5 stars Isaac's Storm a near-perfect book -- 4 1/2 stars
At the turn of the century, the most vicious hurricane in recorded history hit Galveston, Texas, with such fury that it knocked the city back to the 1800s.

Erik Larson, using the diaries of survivors, builds a classic tale of tortured humanity. The narrative grows like the mounting winds of the hurricane, reaching a sudden crescendo that surprises the reader as much as the storm might have surprised its victims.

I'd give this book five stars but for the lack of photographs. Larson describes existing photos in vivid detail, but for some reason hasn't included them in the book. After reading about the devastation and heartbreak, I wanted to see it for myself, however morbid that may be. It's hard to believe that one storm could do so much damage and kill so many.

Isaac's Storm surpasses The Perfect Storm, its closest rival in storm-disaster books, in narrative, structure, language, detail, and pacing. Well done, Mr. Larson.

Next up: In the Heart of the Sea.

4-0 out of 5 stars A review from a decendent of survivors of the 1900 Storm
My mother was born on Galveston, so I grew up hearing about Galveston hurricanes. This included the 1900 storm.

Larson's book is a superb historical account of the 1900 storm. I give "Isaac's Storm" very high marks for it's huge wealth of information. This is most significant considering the scope of the disaster and the limited amount of literature concerning it.

On the other hand, Larson's account of the storm failed to convey to me the horror and sheer magnitude felt by those who survived. I recall hearing of the 1900 storm as a boy. I can remember still the raw and hollow feeling those tales left inside me, not unlike how the world felt after another horrible September tragedy, September 11th, 2001. The lack of emotion was as if Mr. Larson were writing one of Isaac's Cline's reports to Moore - rather dry and impersonal.

For those interested in a little less history and more of the impact the storm had on the lives of Gavlestonians, I would recommend another book that I have read more than once about the 1900 storm. It is "A Weekend In September" by John Edward Weems and is available through Amazon.com. Of the two books, Larson's has greater depth of historical information. Weems' book conveys more of the personal tragedy. Weems' book also includes much about Isaac Cline, but is written from the perspective of a young Galvestonian school teacher.

4-0 out of 5 stars Another solid Larson book
Just as in Devil in the White City, Larson brings a time and place to astonishing life in this tale of turn of the century scientific hubris. Galveston literally jumps off the page, with every ill-fated decision draped with tragic historical significance. As with other Larson titles, the prose can occasionally drag with details that may not be immediately relevant or interesting; however, sticking with the narrative is nicely rewarded by page-turning drama once the hurrican kicks into gear. Overall, a compelling read about a shocking disaster that many of us know nothing about.

4-0 out of 5 stars WOW - great and scary....
Another one of those tremendous events that most people today know nothing of. More people died in this hurricane than many battles fought and this gets little to no attention.
Go read it.

4-0 out of 5 stars The best book
Students of the 1900 storm that destroyed Galveston "cut their teeth" on older books like "Death From The Sea" and "Weekend In September". But Larson's work has become the definitve. ... Read more


2. Krakatoa : The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883
by Simon Winchester
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
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Asin: 006093736X
Catlog: Book (2004-03)
Publisher: Perennial
Sales Rank: 6226
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

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.

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Reviews (109)

3-0 out of 5 stars Krakatoa, from discovery to rebirth
This remarkable treasure chest of historical trivia is laid out as a history of the Dutch East Indies, with center place being given to the island of Krakatoa. Anyone uninterested in the social, political, historical, and geological background to the famous eruption can just skip to its chapter, about halfway through the book. Simon Winchester has done an admirable job collecting and collating interviews, logs, diaries, reports, barographs, tide meter readings, you name it, to recreate the the horrific disaster, and set a few earlier errors straight.

One observer looks towards the beach, and see a monstrous wave, higher than the palm trees, sweeping along the shore. Others take note of the sea in the strait, writhing and surging, even though there is no wind and no clouds. Sailors caught in the ashfall suffer electric shocks from the charged cloud. A stone residence on a hill 110 feet high is destroyed by a wave that overtopped it by twenty feet. The sea becomes a slick of ash, pumice, debris, and bodies. (Winchester announces that he is censoring himself, in that last detail.) A woman in Ceylon who is killed by a surge is the most distant victim of the volcano. The airwave circles the globe seven times. The violent sunsets are recorded by landscape painters for years afterwards.

The run-up to the dramatic parts is a fairly interesting history of the Dutch in the East Indies, stuffed to bursting with footnoted asides. Krakatoa is the focal point throughout, though. Winchester even pinpoints the earliest Dutch map to represent the island, and then the first one to name it. There is an unmistakeably British thatchy-tweedy-fussiness in his manner. Even in the climactic narrative of the disaster, he finds room for a footnote to explain that Macassar was the source for an oil that spoiled wood finish, and necessitated the invention of a lace furniture drapery called an "antimacassar".

As for his idea that Krakatoa launched radical Islam in Indonesia, that's probably impossible to prove. The Japanese takeover of Dutch Pacific possessions in World War II, and the Saudi practice of exporting and subsidizing fundamentalist Wahabhi madrassas around the world probably had more to do with it. But it is certainly something to think about.

All in all, this is an informative and at times exciting account of one of the biggest and certainly the loudest natural disaster in recorded human history.

5-0 out of 5 stars A PBS documentary, but on paper
Having read Winchester's "The Professor and the Madman", and after hearing about the book on the radio, I decided that I couldn't help but read this book. Though Winchester refers to Krakatoa as a widely-known event, I can confess to having only a slight recognition of the name prior to this book. I won't forget now.

Winchester covers enormous ground in this book, writing about evolution, plate tectonics, Islam, the telegraph, imperialism, the Line of Demarcation, the flora of the East Indies, and more. Do not be fooled, you will leave this book with a greater understanding of much of the origin of the modern world.

One delicious tidbit: Winchester argues that the relative cultural size of the world shrank much more at the eruption of Krakatoa than at the dawn of the Internet. On the other hand, Winchester seems to be constantly implying apology for the last 800 years of Western European history. He has a few particular zingers for the nosy British.

Overall, this book is lot of little bits. And, oh yeah, the central part of the book -- Krakatoa's explosion -- was absolutely riveting. My vision of hell now involves something of Dante and something of Krakatoa.

I recommend this book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Krakatoa: The History
Krakatoa by Simon Winchester is a very informative, enlightening, and researched work. Rather than just being a recounting of the day Krakatoa exploded (which the title seems to imply), the damage it caused, etc., the book does much more. It recounts the historical significance of Indonesia (and the Dutch rule there), the importance of the Sunda Strait (where Krakatoa is located), the underlying reasons for massive volcanic explosions (plate tectonics and continental drift), and the social and religious aftermath due to Krakatoa.

I enjoyed the treatment of each of these issues, but at times some of the information seemed to be a stretch in relation to the subject at hand. The first half of the book, the build-up to the massive explosion if you will, was slower and not as engaging as the second half which was absolutely a joy to read and learn. Winchester does a great job of convincing the reader that Krakatoa was truly the first major event that the world of global communication (due to the telegraph and transatlantic communication lines) came to know. Winchester also does a good job explaining why the Krakatoa legacy has endured. Interestingly, much of it has to do with the unique name itself.

Krakatoa is a very good read. From an intellectual standpoint, the book is great, everything that you want to know about Krakatoa you'll find here. From the standpoint of enjoyable reading, the first half and some of Winchester's digressions are difficult to get through, but the second half is a great read. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the subject, or just history itself, but beware if you're looking for a book solely focused on the explosion/destruction of Krakatoa on August 27, 1883.

1-0 out of 5 stars Skip it
I was looking forward to reading "The map that changed the world" by the same author after this book. However, reading "Krakatoa" has made me quite wary of any such adventure. This book is as tepid as Krakatoa was explosive. This is one of the very few instances when I have actually calculated the remaining pages of a book while reading; just to know how much longer I had to sit through it (.... "Finish thy book" is the first of my personal commandments). And mind you, I enjoy reading about the allied scientific aspects of any subject matter including geology (the discussions on petroleum geology in "Hubbert's Peak" being a case in point). The author seems to have started off with the noble aspiration of seamlessly interweaving the history, geography, social context, geopolitics, technological deveopments of the age and other issues keeping Krakatoa as the central theme. However, he ends up serving an unappetising stew with even the meaty part about the dramatic explosion somehow leaving you uninspired.

There are tidbits of interesting factual information but this is not enough to classify as saving grace for any book; especially one with such a compelling central subject, rich in possibilities.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not the page-turner it's reputed to be.
I guess I'm like most people--I find forces of nature (volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.) fascinating. The review blurbs on the back cover refer to this book as "a page-turner," and "terrifying." Well...not really. I have no doubt Mr.Winchester knows his stuff. However, my experience with this book is like that of a number of people who have left reviews here--do you HAVE to go into this much set-up to talk about a volcano? Perhaps it's me. One of the best "disaster" books I ever read was John Hersey's "Hiroshima." It dealt with a few major characters, dropped you right in the middle of the situation, and you were exhausted and heartbroken for the characters when you finished--and it was less than 200 pages. Reading "Krakatoa" is like being told a story by a professor whose train of thought is easily derailed by the amount he knows. If you are interested in geology, I have no doubt you will find this book fascinating. If you are an average reader, like me, you will find this book slow at best, mind-bogglingly tedious at worst. ... Read more


3. The Children's Blizzard
by David Laskin
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
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Asin: 0060520752
Catlog: Book (2004-11-01)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Sales Rank: 770
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Book Description

The gripping story of an epic prairie snowstorm that killed hundreds of newly arrived settlers and cast a shadow on the promise of the American frontier.

January 12, 1888, began as an unseasonably warm morning across Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Minnesota, the weather so mild that children walked to school without coats and gloves. But that afternoon, without warning, the atmosphere suddenly, violently changed. One moment the air was calm; the next the sky exploded in a raging chaos of horizontal snow and hurricane-force winds. Temperatures plunged as an unprecedented cold front ripped through the center of the continent.

By Friday morning, January 13, some five hundred people lay dead on the drifted prairie, many of them children who had perished on their way home from country schools. In a few terrifying hours, the hopes of the pioneers had been blasted by the bitter realities of their harsh environment. Recent immigrants from Germany, Norway, Denmark, and the Ukraine learned that their free homestead was not a paradise but a hard, unforgiving place governed by natural forces they neither understood nor controlled.

With the storm as its dramatic, heartbreaking focal point, The Children's Blizzard captures this pivotal moment in American history by tracing the stories of five families who were forever changed that day. Drawing on family interviews and memoirs, as well as hundreds of contemporary accounts, David Laskin creates an intimate picture of the men, women, and children who made choices they would regret as long as they lived. Here too is a meticulous account of the evolution of the storm and the vain struggle of government forecasters to track its progress.

The blizzard of January 12, 1888, is still remembered on the prairie. Children fled that day while their teachers screamed into the relentless roar. Husbands staggered into the blinding wind in search of wives. Fathers collapsed while trying to drag their children to safety. In telling the story of this meteorological catastrophe, the deadliest blizzard ever to hit the prairie states, David Laskin has produced a masterful portrait of a tragic crucible in the settlement of the American heartland.

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4. Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of Modern Civilization
by DAVID KEYS
list price: $25.00
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Asin: 0345408764
Catlog: Book (2000-02-01)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Sales Rank: 181467
Average Customer Review: 3.84 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Everybody knows the Dark Ages weren't really dark, right?Not so fast, counters archaeological journalist David Keys, maybe it's more than just a slightly judgmental metaphor.His book Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, based on years of careful research spanning five continents, argues that sometime in A.D. 535, a worldwide disaster struck and uprooted nearly every culture then extant. Given contemporary reports of the sun being blotted out or weakened for nearly a year and a half, followed by famine, drought, and plague, it's hard not to think that so many reports from all over the world must be related.

Keys shows a keen grasp of both the written historical record from Asia, Africa, and Europe and the archaeological evidence from the Americas, and tells many tales of great havoc destroying old empires and laying the ground for new ones.Rome may have fallen, but Spain, England, and France rose in its place, while farther east, Japan and China each unified and gained strength after the chaos.Could an enormous volcanic eruption have had such influence on the world as a whole, and could the same thing happen tomorrow?Catastrophe makes no predictions, but leaves the reader with a new sense of history, nature, and destiny. --Rob Lightner ... Read more

Reviews (45)

4-0 out of 5 stars How Forces of Nature Shape Human History
"Catastrophe" refers to a mid-6th century climactic cataclysm that author David Keys believes destroyed the geopolitical status quo of late antiquity and gave birth to the protomodern era from which our current world circumstances derived. According to the hypothesis put forward in "Catastrophe", around the year 535 AD there occurred a major atmospheric disturbance that blocked out much of the Earth's sunlight all over the globe. Tree ring and ice-core evidence, as well as archeological and contemporary written accounts indicate that there was, indeed, severe climactic disruption at this time, and that it almost certainly was the result of a tremendous volcanic explosion. In "Catastrophe", David Keys describes the ways in which he believes the famine, drought and plague that resulted from this explosive event directly and indirectly led to the downfall of the contemporary political powers and the emergence of the new political entities and forces which shaped the world we live in today. As every continent was affected by the loss of sunlight, Keys hypothesizes that the fall of the Roman Empire, the emergence of Islam and the Arab and Ottoman Empires, the reshaping of Eastern Europe, the creation of the modern nations of Japan, China, and Korea in the East and the European powers in the West, the collapse of the great Mesoamerican Empire of Teotihuacan and the emergence of the Mayans, among other great shifts in power, were all indirect results of the climactic changes unleashed in 535 AD.

I find it unlikely that all of the developments that David Keys attributes to the "catastrophe" would not have occurred otherwise. While the direct consequences of a single event are predictable and substantiable, the indirect consequences of something are, of course, impossible to know for sure as there are other factors involved. How many of the developments which occurred in the centuries following the eruption of 535 AD would not have occurred, or would have occurred at a different time, or would have occurred by different means, if the climactic catastrophe had not set change in motion is impossible to say. But David Keys' point is well taken: "Forces of nature and other mechanisms" beyond human control have played -and may continue to play- a fundamental role in human history, culture, and achievements. "Catastrophe" reintroduces the concept of determinism to the discussion of human history, which has been unfashionable for a while now and is due for reconsideration by the academic community. Keys also gives the reader a nice overview of the transition from the order of late antiquity to that of protomodern nations all over the globe, which is interesting and informative regardless of what may have instigated the changes.

4-0 out of 5 stars A New Explanation for the 535AD Catastrophe
That the Earth suffered catastrophic weather conditions starting around 535AD and lasting for many years thereafter, is becoming a scientifically accepted "fact." As explained in "Catastrophe: a Quest for the Origins of the Modern World," these conditions weakened the Eastern Roman Empire; created horrendous living conditions in the western part of Great Britain that were remembered and later incorporated into the Arthurian legend; contributed through drought in the America's to the fall of the Teotihuacan civilization in Mexico; and through flooding to the collapse of a major center of civilization in Yemen.

Almost wherever in the world that there was significant use of writing in the 6th century AD, from Constantinople to China, references to this catastrophe have shown up in contemporary documents. Many such documents are cited in this book. In the 20th century, the occurrence of the catastrophe and its worldwide impact has been confirmed by the analysis of ice-cores from Greenland and Antarctica and by the study of annual growth rings in wood from across the world that can be safely dated to the 6th century.

The author of "Catastrophe," David Keys, has a theory about the event - or closely related events - that caused of this catastrophe. I found his theory plausible and frightening. Plausible because of the way he lays out his facts, and frightening because there appears to be no reason such dramatic and devastating events could not happen occur again - in the next thousand years or in the next ten years.

Mr. Keys is an excellent writer. He certainly makes this book fully accessible to the non-scientist. He also is apparently quite well informed about both the historic and archeological record from around the world during the 6th century and for a long time afterwards. In fact, most of his book consists of plausible - usually directly climate related - explanations for all kinds of civilization collapses, barbarian migrations, and shifts in economic and political power in different parts of the world following the "event" of 535AD. These explanations are fascinating, and, as just mentioned, always plausible. On the other hand, I doubt that they can all be right, and wished that author had given a little more credit to happenstance and the decisions of individuals in shaping the "origins of the modern world."

5-0 out of 5 stars Rethinking the Dark Ages and the Origins of the Modern World
"Catastrophe" rocketed to fame as a result of a PBS series which devoted two one hour episodes to its thesis: that an eruption of what was probably a monstrous earlier version of the volcano Krakatoa created weather disruptions and tidal phenomena which wiped out many Classical civilizations, brought on LITERAL "dark ages" in many societies, and helped to create the Medieval world and lay the foundations of the modern.

The Keys theory is so widely accepted now (just five years after the publication of the book) because it is not only backed by masses of contemporary documentary evidence, but also because it explains, better than any other theory, the global decline of civilization in the 6th Century of the Common Era. In mathematical terms, it is "elegant." It is a latter-day Occam's Razor cutting through generations of theories based upon individual cultures or isolated events to show that they could all have at their heart a single event which triggered, as the title says, global "Catastrophe." (Definitely with a capital "C"!)

Keys uses Chinese records to show that a loud bang was heard over hundreds of square miles around 535, and that this was followed by a fall of yellow ash. Other records, from Japan and parts of modern Indonesia, support this occurence. Keys, after weighing and rejecting alternative theories, suggests that only a massive volcanic eruption could be the culprit for the event recorded by the Chinese, and shows, decade by decade, using historical records, dendrochronological (tree ring) records, ice samples, and other measurements, that what happened was no ordinary eruption, but possibly the largest volcanic eruption in history, which darkened skies around the world, creating a "volcanic winter" which brought famine and plague in its wake. Amazingly, he does it in plain, easy-to-read language, a hallmark of historiographic greatness.

Keys documents major climatic disruptions and uses established scientific models to project the impact of these changes on people as diverse as the Central Asian Avar and Turkish horse nomads, East African herdsmen, South American fishermen, and Anglo-Saxon and Britannic farmers in the modern British Isles. His conclusion is stunning: the eruption triggered waves of nomadic migrations which helped to bring about the decline of the recently revived Byzantine empire (which was well on its way to reconquering much of the old Roman Empire), destroyed flourishing urban cultures in the Americas, ruined the powerful Southern Arabian kingdoms which had existed for centuries (thus creating the power vacuum later filled by Mohammad's follwers), and also wrought devastation remembered in Arthurian romances.

One of the crucial contributions which Keys has made is an explanation of the otherwise unexplainable irruption of the bubonic plague out of Africa and into the Byzantine and Indian worlds. The plague -- which spread as far as Britain and permanently ended any chance that an independent Celtic Church would be established, separate from Rome -- killed millions of then and former Romaions (inhabitants of the original Roman Empire) and blasted any hopes of re-establishing the Empire, relegating it instead into an ever-dwindling Greek-centered Eastern Empire, subject to nomadic incursions from Arabia and central Asia.

In the Americas, Teotihuacan and Tikal alike suffered from near-simultaneous climatic disruption which ended their civilizations -- contemporaneously with the decline of the great cities of the Classical Eurasian world. Only the Keys Catastrophe theory explains BOTH phenomena -- the end of urban cultures in the Americas AND in Africa-Eurasia.

In east Asia, Keys blames the super-eruption for the famines whch led to the revolt of Hou Jing, which ended southern Chinese independence and led ultimately to the establishment of the Sui Dynasty and the near-continuous unification of China as a single cultural entity since then. In 535, the very year which Keys gives for the eruption, the Korean state of Silla, probably faced with climatic turmoil and famine as bad as China's, abandoned its pagan past and adopted Buddhism, laying the groundwork for the unification of THAT country, too. Again, no other theory provides a unified explanation for the near-simultaneous events.

The Keys theory is not without its weaknesses. I have particular doubts about the Indonesian chronicles which he utilizes, but which, if authentic, indicate that the Sunda Strait is a relatively modern phenomenon, and, until 535-536, Java and Sumatra formed a super-island, dominated by an unfortuante civlization (called Holotan by the Chinese). If the records Keys uses are correct, Holotan was destroyed (along with much of the island) by the super-eruption, putting it alongside Thera as a major cultural center destroyed by a single volcano. Undeniably, however, major changes took place in Southeast Asia after 535, including the establishment of Proto-Cambodia and Proto-Thailand only one generation later, along with other, more diffuse civilizations, presumably filling the gap left by the vanished Holotan.

The Keys theory will likely be subject to much criticism in the years ahead, and further refinements, but it is already so well-established as a convenient explanation for the catastrophic events of the Sixth Century C.E. that anyone who wants to understand histories of the period being written nowadays simply MUST be familiar with "Catastrophe."

I give "Catastrophe" Five Stars, the highest rating, for its historiographic significance, ease of reading, and current impact on historical thinking.

5-0 out of 5 stars A fascinating historical detective story
Recent years have seen the publication of several books offering radical new explanations of ancient events or presenting sweeping revisionist theories of history. Examples include Noah's Flood, Eden in the East, Voyages of the Pyramid Builders, and 1421: The Year China Discovered America.

Catastrophe is one of the best of these. Archaeological writer David Keys has assembled multiple arguments supporting his theory that a major natural disaster around the year 535 altered the world's climate for years, causing famine and plague and triggering the collapse of existing political systems. He gives us brief but well-written summaries of events that sprang from this catastrophe, including the rise of Islam. According to Keys, this event ended an old world and gave birth to a new one whose patterns we still see today. After a process of elimination, Keys proposes that the cause of this disaster was a volcano in what is now the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. He warns that natural catastrophes in the future could change the world we know. Even if you don't agree with his conclusion, you will learn much from his reviews of historical events. This is fascinating stuff, and highly readable.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Catastrophic....But a Little Suspect in Places
Catastrophe, by David Keys, is an effort to attribute several significant changes in history that occurred in or near the 6th Centuary AD to drastic global weather changes, and to attribute those changes to a volcanic eruption. Keys ammasses an enormous amount of evidence to support these attributions, enough by itself to make the work impressive. However, on the whole his trail of evidence is a bit suspect.

Keys offers ample convincing evidence that the 6th century AD saw startling changes in weather. In doing so, he presents data from literally around the globe; moreover, his various sources of information seem to corroborate one another. This represents the most solid part of his argument, although he didn't tell us if he omitted evidence that didn't support his conclusions. From here, Keys proceeds to suggest what affects this weather pattern may have had on the world.

Some of these suggestions are more believable than others. His attribution of plague outbreaks to the weather patterns seems reasonable. Similarly a discussion of impacts on the Roman Empire is well argued and somewhat supported. From there, though, Keys trots about the globe presenting marginal evidence that most of the major events of the 6th Century (and some thereafter) are directly attributable to this weather pattern. In doing so, Keys includes a lot of marginal evidence and reaches for some causal relationships that are probably a lot more complicated than his book suggests. In particular, I found his version of events in the Middle East, Europe and China not so well supported.

I was a little bothered by the language and evidence of some of these chapters. Frequently, Keys uses phrases such as "almost certainly" to describe a cause-and-effect relationship, without providing any real supporting evidence. In one place, his endnote to such a comment simply repeats the "almost certainly" phrase without offering any additional information or citing a source. I think this fact really weakens the credibility of his work.

As he moves toward the end, Keys tries to pinpoint the source of the weather patterns. Toward this end, he nominates the eruption of a volcano in Java. However, in doing so, he needs to significantly re-interpret Javan historical accounts based on second and third hand sources. And while there's some limited basis for doing so, the connection is, from my point of view, far from a slam-dunk. It's easy to see that Keys left this section for the end because it's the least supported part of his chain of argument and potentially unravels the whole thesis.

On the whole, the book is an impressive projection of a lot of focused research. Sadly a lot of the evidence presented is weak in supporting Keys premise. In the end, it's easy for the reader to see that some, perhaps even a lot, of the things that Keys suggests caused major historical changes are credible. Still, a lot aren't. I give the book three stars for pulling together and presenting this information, which is in itself an impressive feat. Keys is not convincing in telling us that a volcanic eruption in 535 AD rewrote most of human history from that point on, however. Other than that, the book is interesting and fairly readable, and worth the time to take a look. ... Read more


5. Sudden Sea : The Great Hurricane of 1938
by R.A. Scotti
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316832111
Catlog: Book (2004-08-24)
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Sales Rank: 16775
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

It was the Perfect Storm. But instead of raging far out in the Atlantic, the Great Hurricane of 1938 left a wake of death and destruction across seven states. It battered J. P. Morgan's Long Island estate, wiped out beach communities from Watch Hill to Newport, flooded the Connecticut Valley, and flattened Vermont's prized maples. Traveling at record speeds, the storm raced up the Atlantic Coast, reaching New York and New England ahead of hurricane warnings and striking with such ferocity that seismographs in Alaska picked up the impact. Winds, clocked at 186 mph, stripped cars of their paint. Walls of water 50 feet high swept homes and entire families out to sea. Sandwiched between the Great Depression and World War II, the storm had a profound impact upon a generation. "The day of the biggest wind has just passed," the newswires read the next day, "and a great part of the most picturesque America, as old as the Pilgrims, has gone beyond recall or replacement." Drawing upon newspaper accounts, the personal testimony of survivors, forecasters, and archival footage, SUDDEN SEA recounts that terrifying day in gripping detail. Scotti describes the unlikely alignment of meteorological conditions that conspired to bring a tropical cyclone to the Northeast. A masterful storyteller, Scotti follows the trajectory of that awful wind--and recovers for posterity the lost stories of those whose lives, families, and communities were destroyed by the Hurricane of 1938. ... Read more

Reviews (16)

5-0 out of 5 stars beautiful and dramatic
I picked this book up on a whim and once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. Not having been alive in 1938 I knew very little about this disaster before reading Ms.Scotti's well reserched book. The way she weaves personal stories so seamlessly with the factual information creates a riviting tale of a way of life that would never fuloly be seen again. Ms.Scotti talks about the death and destrction that ravaged the east coast (682 deaths, 432 in Rhode Island alone) but she also talks about the amazing, and in some instaces humorus ways that people surrived the storm.
One of the things that I really love about the book is that it is so full of information and stories, yet I never felt confused or lost, I can't say that for many of the books I have read these days. I think Ms.Scotti is one of the most gifted writers I have had the pleasure of reading. Her ability to tug at your heart strings and not have it be in least bit over done is very refreshing. Personaly I think she is a breath of air as welcome as the sea breeze that must have been blowing along the beach only hours before the storm touched down. I can not wait to read her next book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Sudden storm sends shockwaves to end summer on somber note
This is nice read, an almost pleasant (but, strangely, not gripping) saga of the great New England Hurricane of September 21,1938. Much of the focus of the storm and the story is on the wealthy Hampton areas of Long Island and the Newport area of Rhode Island. Scotti sets the time and place well: the end of the Depression (with the damage still evident), the brewing war in Europe, and the start of the university school year. This storm came not only at an unusual time but also at unusual places. Much of the damage to homes is the result of wealthy people taking advantage of splendid if dangerous views of the ocean. Some of the dead are domestics left behind to shutter summer homes.

"Sea" offers a clear companion and comparison to "Isaac's Storm," the epic of the Galveston hurricane of 1900. "Sea" is able to focus much more on the human element of the catastrophe, using interviews with survivors, photographs (fourteen glossy pages), and records that were just not kept in or saved from 1900. Survivors are alive today. "Sea" is more about the people who fought, including some who survived, the storm. In "Sea," a smug senior forecaster in Washington, DC dismisses the hurricane forecast of an assistant, striking the word 'hurricane' from the assistant's report for September 21 and leading to a lack of warning to the targeted, highly populated areas. The fact that such a storm was unique or that most of the Atlantic's similar storms pushed to the northeast and out to sea was not a good reason to ignore the disastrous consequences of the "Bermuda high" that kept the storm closer to land. The post-storm analysis may have been the real impetus for the modernization of weather forecasting. repairing the damage to railroads, telephone lines, livestock and roads helped usher in the modern age. Air passenger traffice between New York and Boston increased 500% in the week after the storm.

Scotti, a journalist and mystery novelist, uses words well. "Sea" is laden with brief, connected, poignant stories. Capturing the wildness of the sea and storms is no small task. Scotti even includes a brief set of scenes from the life of Katherine Hepburn from that day: swimming and golfing in Connecticut, before seeing her estate, Tara, being washed away. "Sea: has about five small maps; each could have used a bit more detail. And a larger map, tracking the entire storm of its short life, would have been a good, consistent visual reference point for the reader, and would provide more of the dynamic nature of the storm. Without it, some of the stories are static and difficult to connect.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Storm of the Century
I started reading this book on Saturday and was finished on Monday morning. It completely held my interest. I enjoyed the human element and couldn't wait to find out what happened to the many people in this devasting hurricane. Each account was breath-taking. It makes me want to know more...I am recommending this book to everyone I come in contact with. That anyone lived through this storm was amazing. It makes you realize what is really important in life. I enjoyed the author's telling of this story.

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting book on well-known and published hurricane
The beginning of the book hooked me...but somewhere mid-stream it became a hard read...it took about 6 sittings to read the 240ish page book. Meteorology was barely touched upon, which is fine, considering the Weather Bureau was only taking surface observations at the time and any other deductions would be mere guess-work. Besides, non-mets usually make all kinds of errors, such as assuming the Saffir-Simpson Scale was in use (I don't even think the term "Great Hurricane" had been coined as of that time.) One of the forecasters involved actually became one of the best-skilled hurricane forecasters around...it would have been nice if she expounded on his later career, but no matter.

It seemed like the author tried too hard to weave the individual stories together, and I got lost when going back and forth from different spots in Rhode Island and Long Island. I felt like I was adrift in the storm myself. I did like how she followed up on the characters who survived...that was a nice touch. If you're interested in southern New England and weather, this should be a good buy.

5-0 out of 5 stars "A strange ochre light came off the ocean..."
Powerful hurricanes are infrequent visitors to New England, but 'The Long Island Express' not only paid a visit---it dropped in unannounced on September 21, 1938 just as many summer residents were on the beach and closing up their ocean-front cottages, among them actress Katharine Hepburn and her mother.

The Weather Bureau gave no cause for alarm, at least not after the hurricane skirted Florida and headed north. The meteorologists in Washington D.C. assumed that the storm would dissipate in the cold waters of the Atlantic, as had happened to all north-bound hurricanes since the Great September Gale devastated New England in 1815.

According to the author, no one could have been prepared for the 1938 storm's speed and ferocity. Sweeping northward from Cape Hatteras, building tremendous momentum as it advanced, the hurricane raced over six hundred miles in only twelve hours. Only the captain of the 'Carinthia,' a small 20,000 ton luxury cruiser that weathered the ferocious brawl 150 miles north of Florida might have given warning. He did radio to shore that his barometer had dropped "almost an inch to 27.85 in less than an hour. It was one of the lowest readings ever recorded in the North Atlantic."

Author Scotti interviewed many survivors of this ferocious storm, and includes the story of Katharine Hepburn who had to escape her seaside house through a dining room window and then battle her way to higher ground:

"When the Hepburns reached high ground, they looked back. [Their house] which had endured tide and wind since the 1870's, pirouetted slowly and sailed away."

Many folks were not as fortunate as the Hepburns. The storm surge was so sudden and so high many houses were completely inundated before their inhabitants could escape. One survivor saw a submerged house leap twenty-five feet into the air and explode. Another watched as a school bus containing his children was overtaken by the onrushing water. Others climbed to the top floors of their homes, then clung desperately to pieces of their roof as their houses washed away beneath them.

It is estimated that 682 people died and another 1,754 were seriously wounded by the 'Long Island Express.' Scotti focuses on a few representative stories, and relates tantalizing fragments of many others.

If you would like to read a first-hand account of the 'Long Island Express,' September 21, 1938 was also the day that Everett S. Allen, recent college graduate and future author of "A Wind to Shake the World," began his first 'real' job as a reporter for the New Bedford 'Standard Times.' His book is one of the finest accounts of this vastly underreported hurricane. ... Read more


6. Danger Stalks the Land : Alaskan Tales of Death and Survival
by Larry Kaniut
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312241208
Catlog: Book (1999-11-29)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Sales Rank: 87437
Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Alaska is like no other state and few countries; men experience greater risk in her arms. This one-of-a-kind anthology captures the spine tingling adventures of daring men and women who venture into Alaska's vast wilderness and look death in the eye. Danger Stalks the Land relates gripping episodes of animal attacks, avalanches, aircraft disasters, fishing, hunting, and skiing accidents, and chronicles risky climbs and reckless mountaineering amid Alaska's fantastic peaks. Through exhaustive research and interviews, author Larry Kaniut has captured in one volume, the terror and beauty of man's attempt to explore a vast and unforgiving land.
... Read more

Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars This book made me want to stay indoors forever
I could not put this book down. It is so gruesome, but every story is true! There are bear attacks, people falling through ice, plane crashes, ice storms...you name it; if it can happen in Alaska, then someone has lived to tell about it! I find it facinating to read about unbearable situations that people have survived. This book isn't for those of you who don't want to read the gory details, but if that's what you live for, then this is your book!!

4-0 out of 5 stars Good for reading at bedtime or while camping
Alaska, despite its many cities and roads, is still a land with large vistas of wild, untamed territory. Kaniut's book is a collection of several dozen Alaskan tales of death and survival, ranging from plane crashes in poor weather to bear attacks, climbing accidents, entrapment in mudflats as the tidewater poured in, winter stranding on ice floes, badger mauling, frostbite on hunting forays gone wrong, and many other true dramas. While the book is rather limited in its straightforward, no-nonsense approach (one could, without being disrespectful, call the style prosaic), it does make for good bedtime reading before drifting off to sleep. The wildness of nature that demonstrates the numinous aspect of God's creation in the last few chapters of Job can be seen in these stories, reminding us that man is not the master of everything he surveys. Nature is wild, dangerous, and commands attention and respect. Ignore this and you might die or be severely crippled (as some of these stories demonstrate.) Overall, this was not a great book, but a good one, a decent selection to take along on a camping trip.

5-0 out of 5 stars THE ULTIMATE HUMAN TRIUMPHS AND TRADGEDIES
READING THESE REAL LIFE ACCOUNTS WILL LEAVE YOU MARVELING AT THE POWER OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT AND THE WILLPOWER SOME MEN HAVE TO LIVE. YOU WILL SEE HOW TRADGEDY CAN STRIKE EVEN THE WELL PREPARED AND HOW NATURE CAN PUSH MAN TO UNTHINKABLE LIMITS. BY FAR, LARRY KANIUT'S BEST BOOK.

5-0 out of 5 stars spine tingling tales make toes curl
As a long time Alaskan, I enjoyed the true to life tales shared by the adventurers within the covers of the book. I found myself pacing the floor as I scanned the pages of this book. Not only was I unable to put it down, I was unable to sit down and read it. Good, book, Mr. Kaniut and contributors.

Bill Zeddies

5-0 out of 5 stars Mind numbing true adventure!
This is easily the best collection of true adventure tales ever assembled. I was blown away by the courage, danger, and pure adrenaline running through these stories. My advice: run to your nearest bookstore and BUY THIS BOOK! ... Read more


7. The Perfect Storm : A True Story of Men Against the Sea
by Sebastian Junger
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060977477
Catlog: Book (1999-10-06)
Publisher: Perennial
Sales Rank: 20800
Average Customer Review: 4.05 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

October 1991. It was "the perfect storm"--a tempest that may happen only once in a century--a nor'easter created by so rare a combination of factors that it could not possibly have been worse. Creating waves ten stories high and winds of 120 miles an hour, the storm whipped the sea to inconceivable levels few people on Earth have ever witnessed. Few, except the six-man crew of the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing boat tragically headed towards its hellish center.

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Reviews (836)

5-0 out of 5 stars A modern day Moby Dick!
When I started this book, it grabbed me, and I couldn't put it down. Fortunately, it's a relatively short book and can be read in a few hours. Sebastian Junger introduces the reader to the world of long-line swordfishing off the Grand Banks. One comes to know the occasionally wild and sometimes desperate captains and crewmembers of the fishing boats. Junger minutely details the work done and dangers faced by the men (and women) who go to sea (his work as a freelance journalist for Outside and other magazines comes in here).

In this book, Junger gives a "true" account of the Andrea Gail and her crew facing and ultimately losing to the storm of the century in October 1991. He used interviews with the surviving associates of the crew and other research. He then made educated guesses as to what happened when the ship actually sank, since there were no survivors to tell, so that part is historical fiction, if you will.

I heartily recommend this book as a quick exciting read. It made a round-trip flight from Denver to Boston and back pass quickly and saved me from the in-flight movies. I have not seen the movie based on this book, so I cannot pass judgment on the cinema version.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Perferct Storm eclipses its self-named movie!
I had already seen the cinematic version of this book before reading it the other day, but decided to read it any way. Several folks I know had read it and enjoyed the book, so I was curious.
I'm glad I picked it up and read it. The books back story and additional information blew away what was covered in the movie. Many non-fiction books can be page-yawners, but this was a true page burner. Junger does a great job weaving the dialogue, facts, weather reports, and bits of history in the gripping work to make this so interesting.
The descriptions of Gloucester, it's haunts and people were intriguing. The fisherman's lifestyle of the rich and famous (for a week, anyway ) activities as decribed sounded harsh... but I empathized with their plight and silently applauded their lust for life.
Junger's words created a picture of the fiery sailors, ferocious mako, fighting swordfish, and frenetic actions on board a fishing vessel. It made me appreciate what these sailors deal with twenty hours a day for weeks at a time.
If some of you out there are still hesitant about reading this because you saw the movie... even if you saw it on the big screen... don't be... you need to get this book and devour it.

1-0 out of 5 stars EVER BEEN THERE?
9 OF 10 ADVENTURE STORIES (INC. WAR STORIES)i find lacking & Mr. Junger & His perfect storm qualifies.Perhaps as a novel it would have worked but unfortunetly it isn't that! While the best combat stories are NOT always written by those who've been there(and the same holds true for sea stories etc.-)the old journalism device of "joining the brotherhood" so as to "understand & qualify" generally doesn't work here.!Had Mr Junger been a commercial fisherman some years before writing his "storm " perhaps I could be less subjective.Conrad was a seaman not because He wanted a license to write! A working Class hero is still something to be (as Mr. Lennon said so well.)---"R.V.N. COMBAT INFANTRY 68-69,TAYLOR DIVING & SALVAGE North Sea -78-79 Ocean Sailor- Force 12experience-ongoing sailor.

3-0 out of 5 stars The Storm of the Century
Those who make a living catching fish from the ocean are always placing themselves at great risk. They often spend several weeks out in the ocean on a relatively small vessel (usually less than 100 feet in length), hoping that they will land that once- in- a- lifetime catch of fish that will improve their financial well- being.

When things go as planned, the life of a fisherman can be adventurous and rewarding. But when the search for sea- dwelling creatures is interrupted by a violent storm, a fun situation can turn critical and even fatal. Such is the case of the men and women who became stranded at sea in the "storm of the century", back in October of 1991. Also referred to as the "perfect storm", this violent act of nature left many people dead without a trace. Author Sebastian Junger wrote this book about the people who were aboard these boats, with quotes from some of the survivors and speculation about what could have happened to those who never returned.

The "Perfect Storm" occurred in the North Atlantic Ocean, just east of the New England states, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. This area is not normally known for producing violent storms, due to its northern latitude. This sudden turn in the weather took everyone by surprise, including those who were out at sea. They had no forewarning about the intensity of this storm, which seemed to brew up out of nowhere. Most of the captains and crew members have dealt with storms before so they knew what procedures to follow. But nothing could properly prepare them for the massive force with which they were suddenly faced.

Junger spends most of this book talking about the people who manned these boats, the events leading up to when they set sail, and the storm itself. Junger is best when he is describing the actual human events during the storms and the heroic efforts of the Coast Guard and Air National Guard to rescue these sailors. Throughout the book, he gets sidetracked from his story and starts talking about statistics and facts about hurricanes, drowning, rainfall, and other data. Some of these facts are interesting and they add to the enjoyment of the book. Other things are annoying and not very useful and they get in the way of the telling of the story.

Junger makes frequent mention of the "Andrea Gail"- one of the boats that was out in the water when the storm picked up speed and was lost without a trace of anything- people or vessel. It was obviously ripped apart in the storm. Junger mentions it from time to time, and he reports the few facts that are known. While the storm is taking place and afterward, when rescue attempts are being made, there is no more contact with the Andrea Gail. Junger provides some speculative guesses about what was likely taking place on the boat, in an effort to keep the reader informed about this particular fishing vessel. But there is no way to know what was really taking place after the radio communication ended suddenly on October 28, 1991.

Junger writes pretty well throughout this book, and he effectively captures the terror that must have been felt by those who were caught in this violent act of nature. The book could have been better, however, if he had included more interviews and quotes from survivors not only on the boats, but also those who were affected when the storm ran ashore and damaged their coastal properties. It also could have been improved with a better ending. Junger ends the writing suddenly, with a few paragraphs about another vessel whose crew was lost in a storm. There is no conclusion or anything to wrap up the book and summarize the key events. It just ends abruptly.

Finding ones' self caught in a bad storm in the middle of the open sea is frequently- occurring nightmare for some people, but it has become reality for a few. This book shows that the life of a fisherman is not all drinking, fun, and games. There are tremendous risks involved when one decides to spend several weeks at sea, and author Sebastian Junger presents a pretty good book about the perils of this lifestyle. It's a book worth reading, although it could have been better with a few improvements.

5-0 out of 5 stars Vivid and moving
Very detailed and moving account of the sinking of a ship off the coast of Massachusetts. Paints a very clear picture of the power and unpredictability of the sea and the weather, and what options humans have when they become caught in it. Occasionally overdid the technical information, but overall, a very vivid and good book. ... Read more


8. Sound Truth & Corporate Myth$: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
by Riki Ott
list price: $24.95
our price: $21.21
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0964522667
Catlog: Book (2005-01-01)
Publisher: Dragonfly Sisters Press
Sales Rank: 217553
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Riki Ott, PhD exposes the profound legacy of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and how readers can help reshape our global energy future.

The author chronicles the long-lasting environmental harm to Prince William Sound, Alaska, and investigates the health problems suffered by many cleanup workers. Exxon's spill provided a portal to understanding a startling truth: oil is much more toxic than we previously thought. Sound Truth and Corporate Myth$ frames the larger story of discovery of the truly toxic nature of oil. ... Read more

Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great book for college courses
Dr. Ott's book will serve as an excellent supplement to course syllabi around the country. The book's interdisciplinary approach makes it a perfect educational tool for a variety of departments - public health, environmental studies, ecology, and sociology to name a few. Ott's ability to combine rigourous science with an accessbile writing style offers an engaging expose of oil's effects on humans and nature.Perhaps just as important, the book also presents students and teachers with an inspiring model of how one scientist's passion and determination can uncover truths of global importance.

Highly recommended for teachers and students.

5-0 out of 5 stars People Need to Know
People need to know what happened in the Valdez cleanup and thankfully the injured and sick found a voice in Dr. Ott.She translates the multi-layered wrong doing hidden beneath corporate and political bureaucracy that lead to so many workers becoming sick in the Valdez clean up.She also translates the science and toxicology behind "what went wrong" in a way that average people can comprehend.

5-0 out of 5 stars A good read!
Dr. Ott , like the lone pedestrian facing a tank about to run him over, faces the giant Exxon.In Sound Truth and Corporate Myth$, Ott reveals the far reaching effects of the Valdez oil spill on human health, wildlife populations, and the environment.Worker safety and environmental laws based on antiquated science need to be revamped, the industry needs to be held fully accountable and finally we need to take a look at ourselves and the role we can play in reducing the toxicity of our environment.This journey with Dr. Ott, through the initial devastation and lingering after effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, tells the incredible magnitude of the disaster. Through her first hand account we are transported to Prince William Sound, and hear the silencing of the birds, see the slick lapping the shore and smell the inescapable fumes.We also learn that drilling is no longer necessary when looking for oil in Alaska, just scrap away some rocks and a little sand and there on the beaches you'll find it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Urgent action required
Dr. Ott's book is not only an exceptionally good read but her message must reach our Senators and Representatives now and action must be taken.Dependence on oil is NOT the way of the future.It is highly toxic not only to the environment but to human health as well.We need to start now, to conserve our oil reserves and develop alternative energy sources or the chances are, that our retirement years will be the setting for a major economic shift toward the worst.

If President Bush would like to enter the history books as a man of incredible foresight, he'd better pick up this banner and start leading us in that direction now.

5-0 out of 5 stars Alaska Resident Says Book Rocks
As a lifelong resident of the area affected by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, I was ecstatic when this crusader, Dr. Ott, accurately portrayed the spill. Not only does Dr. Ott expose Exxon's myths and public deceptions, but she does justice to the thousands of residents affected by the spill.

This book personalizes the disaster by adding a human dimension without compromising fact. If you believe that Prince William Sound has recovered from the effects of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Dr. Ott's book will show you how Exxon has deceived us all.

Overall, a groundbreaking worthwhile read!! ... Read more


9. The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906 : How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed Itself
by Philip L. Fradkin
list price: $27.50
our price: $18.15
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0520230604
Catlog: Book (2005-04-01)
Publisher: University of California Press
Sales Rank: 36292
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Book Description

The first indication of the prolonged terror that followed the 1906 earthquake occurred when a ship steaming off San Francisco's Golden Gate "seemed to jump clear out of the water." This gripping account of the earthquake, the devastating firestorms that followed, and the city's subsequent reconstruction vividly shows how, after the shaking stopped, humans, not the forces of nature, nearly destroyed San Francisco in a remarkable display of simple ineptitude and power politics. Bolstered by previously unpublished eyewitness accounts and photographs, this definitive history of a fascinating city caught in the grip of the country's greatest urban disaster will forever change conventional understanding of an event one historian called "the very epitome of bigness."
Philip Fradkin takes us onto the city's ruptured streets and into its exclusive clubs, teeming hospitals and refugee camps, and its Chinatown. He introduces the people--both famous and infamous--who experienced these events, such as Jack and Charmian London, Enrico Caruso, James Phelan, and Abraham Ruef. He traces the horrifying results of the mayor's illegal order to shoot-to-kill anyone suspected of a crime, and he uncovers the ugliness of racism that almost led to war with Japan. He reveals how an elite oligarchy failed to serve the needs of ordinary people, the heroic efforts of obscure citizens, the long-lasting psychological effects, and how all these events ushered in a period of unparalleled civic upheaval.
This compelling look at how people and institutions function in great catastrophes demonstrates just how deeply earthquake, fires, hurricanes, floods, wars, droughts, or acts of terrorism can shape us.
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10. Mount st Helens: The Eruption and Recovery of a Volcano
by Rob Carson
list price: $19.95
our price: $19.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 157061248X
Catlog: Book (2000-04-01)
Publisher: Sasquatch Books
Sales Rank: 331060
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

At 8:27 a.m. on May 18, 1980, Washington State's Mount St. Helens stood at 9,677 feet; in the next five minutes the mountain lost 1,300 feet, blowing its top in a blast so powerful that trees toppled 17 miles away. Hurricane-force winds stripped the soil from nearby ridges and hillsides, leaving bare rock. All plant life for miles around either vaporized or tore away from the surface of the earth. Once-pristine alpine lakes were transformed into "tea-colored swamps."Volcanic ash shrouded four states like snow while an ash plume high in the atmosphere circled the globe. All told, "57 people were dead, along with millions of birds, deer, elk, and fish." No longer would Northwesterners regard the chain of glacier-clad peaks extending from British Columbia's Mt. Garibaldi to Northern California's Mt. Lassen as benevolent dollops of recreational fun. For the first time they would see these peaks for what they are: volcanoes that could actually erupt. For scientists, Mount St. Helens would provide an ever-changing laboratory for study; indeed, important advances have been made in any number disciplines, from seismology to ecology.

Along with remarkable before-and-after images (including the famous Rosenquist photos of the initial blast), Rob Carson's 20th-anniversary retrospective captures the human drama leading up to the eruption and two decades of subsequent scientific discovery in its aftermath. The idea of a volcano erupting in the continental U.S. was certainly novel at the end of the age of disco. Washington governor Dixy Lee Ray hoped "to live long enough to see one of our volcanoes erupt." Sightseers rushed to the mountain, buying T-shirts with premature slogans like "I Survived Mount St. Helens." Harry Truman, "crotchety octogenarian" and whisky-packing owner and operator of the Mount St. Helens Lodge, made headlines by refusing to leave his home, claiming "that mountain will never hurt me." Truman perished under several hundred feet of ash. A geologist named David Johnston wasn't supposed to be near the mountain that day, but as fate would have it, he traded shifts; his last words shouted into his radio were "Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!"

While the human element figures prominently in Carson's book, the truly amazing story is the one of postblast ecological recovery. Take the humble pocket gopher: those that survived began mixing ash with underlying soil, playing a critical role in making the land suitable once more for plant and animal life. Unbelievably, just three years after the eruption, 90 percent of plant species and nearly all mammals had returned to the most devastated areas. Scientists quickly learned that recovery, rather than depending on colonizing species from outside the blast zone, relied largely on species that never left--like hibernating frogs and toads, lucky pocket gophers, and countless subterranean insects. Of course, life outside the blast helped, too; the woolly bear caterpillar parachuted in to reclaim territory and windblown fireweed seeds soon blossomed in the pumice. And meanwhile, the mountain itself (called "Fire Mountain" by the Native American Klickitats) is rapidly growing once again. --Martha Silano ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Don't mistreat the pictures
An excellent book, completely readable and very informative. I visited the devastated area by chopper within a year after the big one, and Carson's book told me that a lot of the interpretations I heard in 1981 are no longer considered valid. I particularly enjoyed the appraisal of Weyerhauser's tree farms vs natural reforestation. There are favorable points for both, and it's essentially a matter of choosing the scientific or the industrial benefits. I bought the book at the Monument (Forest Service, not Park Service) and reading it while I was there made it all the more exciting. My only complaint: the page layouts. Too many tall, narrow pictures are printed across the binding. Photos of these dimensions would easily fit on a single page, and their impact and beauty are diminished when so much of them is buried in the binding. Possibly this flaw would be less objectionable in a sewn hardcover edition. Also, pictures are often printed as insets in larger photos -- which suggests to me that the book design was considered more important than the photographs. The illustrations are great complements to a splendid text, and they deserve kinder treatment.

5-0 out of 5 stars An American volcano captured in photographic glory.
The eruption of Mt. St. Helens is captured in photographic glory for any who would learn about the explosion of the volcano and the subsequent recovery of its surrounding environment. Black and white and some color photos accompany extensive descriptions of the eruption, its short- and long-term effects, and environmental changes.

5-0 out of 5 stars wow wonderful writing!
i love this book and the doofus who thought this book wasnt that great(the one below me) needs to read it again he says it moved quickly to the recovery of the mountain: look at the title! thats what it is about retard.you should recognize a great writer when you see one. humph ... Read more


11. A Dangerous Place : California's Unsettling Fate (Images of America)
by MARC REISNER
list price: $22.00
our price: $14.96
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679420118
Catlog: Book (2003-02-11)
Publisher: Pantheon
Sales Rank: 32444
Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars apocalyptic & inevitable
As a geoscience educator, I'm often looking for new books that will engage freshman, introductory geology students, and I can think of no better way to compliment this book than to say that I'm going to require it for all my lower division classes.

Reisner doesn't reiterate ideas from Cadillac Desert, but rather infuses his understanding of the interaction of water, geology, and people into this new area. I learned a lot; for example, I didn't have a full appreciation of the precarious nature of the Delta and its role in supplying the southern half of the state with water.

The book was written pre-9/11, and one cannot help nodding bitterly at the accuracy of Reisner's descriptions of public reaction to, say, the deaths of thousands of citizens.

It's a terrible loss for us that Reisner won't write another book, and indeed didn't flesh this one out as thoroughly as his presentation in Cadillac Desert. As an example, the scope and inadequacies of legal changes to building permitting after the 1971 San Fernando earthquake could use further elaboration. Such omissions don't distract from the book--indeed, they may enhance its readibility--but I'm sure had he time, Reisner would have delved in more detail into many subjects. Nonetheless, this book should be a startling and resource-rich guide for the cataclysmic event that is guaranteed to happen in the near future.

3-0 out of 5 stars Little Book About the Big One
This will make me sound like a bad guy, but the untimely death of Marc Reisner lead to the very undeveloped nature of this book. This was surely a work in progress when he passed away from cancer in 2000. The book has the potential to be an environmentalist powerhouse of investigative reporting, like Reisner's masterpiece "Cadillac Desert." California in general offers the kind of story that Reisner mastered in the other book, as much of the state and its civilization are living on borrowed time and very unnatural social constructs. The state faces two potential catastrophes: running out of fresh water, and of course the inevitable BIG ONE - the ultimate earthquake that will ruin the state.

This book opens in Los Angeles, a megalopolis in a dismal location with zero natural advantages that can naturally support the population. L.A. would be little more than a dusty crossroads without 150 years of federal subsidies and gargantuan engineering schemes to import water, especially from Northern California. Meanwhile, that area has its own threatened megalopolis, as the San Francisco Bay area is just waiting for the big earthquake that will hit sooner or later. In addition to structural mayhem and wildfires, such a disaster would also devastate the water supply for both urban areas.

The problem here is that all of the above issues are covered convincingly, but merely in essay form with no notes or supporting bibliography. Reisner also did not get to the long-term financial and sociological catastrophes that would result from the disaster, which would have made this book far stronger. Meanwhile, much of the book is interspersed with a fictional account of the Big One that is mostly a doomsday scenario. It's a plausible story but indicates a lack of focus for the book overall. Sadly, Reisner was unable to deliver the powerhouse book that this subject promises, and of which he was surely capable. [~doomsdayer520~]

5-0 out of 5 stars Marc Reisner ¿ his last book, dammit
What a great guy Marc Reisner was. He wrote A Dangerous Place: California's Unsettling Fate as he was dying of cancer, and it's not just a benchmark of California's environmental history but also a profound and emotional valedictory effort. Living as I do within ¼ mile of the grumbling and growling Hayward Fault, I found Reisner's projections of the cataclysmic effects of the Big One to be more than unsettling. Those of us who are priviledged or doomed to live in this glorious state cannot fail to take heed of the picture he paints of the likely events surrounding our upcoming tectonic hiccups, belches, and sneezes.
The book is divided into 3 sections. The first retells Californias environmental history from the era of Junipero Serra's mission system right up to our own freeway system. The middle section deals with the fundamentals of plate tectonics. But it's that 3rd section that looks forward to (shudder) a hypothetical eruption of the Hayward Fault in 2005 that is most gripping. Yikes.
Sayonara to a great environmentalist and author.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Sobering Look At The Inevitable
Think of a writer with an ability to spin a convincing tale of fright, and Stephen King might come to mind. But after reading "A Dangerous Place: California's Unsettling Fate," you might want to add Marc Reisner to that list.

In this compact volume, Reisner first provides an overview of California's spectacular development from a largely unsettled desert to the most populous state in the nation. The desire for wealth drove the growth of the state's two great metropolitan areas. While gold fever was behind San Francisco's rapid rise, and land speculation fueled Los Angeles' frenetic expansion, the result was the same--two great communities situated atop extremely violent seismic zones.

Reisner recounts some of the most spectacular earthquakes of the 19th and 20th centuries in this region. But most frightening of all, at least from this reader's viewpoint, is his account of a disaster yet to be. In a vivid, yet fact-based account Reisner describes a quake that is NOT a worst-case scenario...yet it dwarfs its predecessors in destruction of life and property. Thousands of lives are lost, the damage totals soar into the billions, and even though the site for this hypothetical quake is the bay area, we learn why it will almost certainly have catastrophic consequences for southern California's water supply.

Reisner was apparently still working on this book at the time of his death from cancer, so this may be why the ending seems to fall short of a great summing up. Still, his message is clear. When--and it's truly a question of when, not if this disaster strikes--we will face little choice but to rebuild and go on. Our investment in these places is too great to do otherwise. We need to take his cautionary tale to heart, and be prepared as much as we can be for the enormity of the task ahead.

3-0 out of 5 stars Two books. One cover..............
A Dangerous Place begins as a concise, well-paced description of California's seismic potential and precarious water management systems. Blending history with present day infrastructure requirements, Reisner lays bare the fragility inherent when a populace exceeds the environments ability to support it. Though natural resources may fail on their own, Reisner suspensefully charts the mayhem when the inevitable 7.0 temblor arrives to accelerate the process.

Indeed, through two-thirds of the book, A Dangerous Place is an excellent, non-fictional read. But, then, for some inexplicable reason, Reisner decides to make believe. In the final third, the author imagines the next big earthquake and attempts the difficult shift from fast-paced factual reporting to fully fictional, wide-eyed, first-person narrative. It's him and his family against the fantasy earthquake. It's thrilling, it's chilling.......

Well, no, it's corny.

Reisner's shift from fact to fiction seriously harms his ability to achieve his goal. Where a feigned natural disaster is desired, one may always rent a 70's era movie starring Ernest Borgnine. Yet, when one desires to be provided the facts in an exciting, hard-hitting style, one would hope to have access to the format with which Mr. Reisner began. Had he maintained it, A Dangerous Place would merit 4 to 5 stars. ... Read more


12. When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time
by M. J. Benton, Michael J. Benton, Michael Benton
list price: $29.95
our price: $19.77
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 050005116X
Catlog: Book (2003-05)
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Sales Rank: 44840
Average Customer Review: 4.11 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Today it is common knowledge that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteorite impact 65 million years ago that killed half of all species then living. Far less well-known is a much greater catastrophe that took place at the end of the Permian period 251 million years ago: 90 percent of life was destroyed, including saber-toothed reptiles and their rhinoceros-sized prey on land, as well as vast numbers of fish and other species in the sea.

This book documents not only what happened during this gigantic mass extinction but also the recent rekindling of the idea of catastrophism. Was the end-Permian event caused by the impact of a huge meteorite or comet, or by prolonged volcanic eruption in Siberia? The evidence has been accumulating through the 1990s and into the new millennium, and Michael Benton gives his verdict at the very end.

From field camps in Greenland and Russia to the laboratory bench, When Life Nearly Died involves geologists, paleontologists, environmental modelers, geochemists, astronomers, and experts on biodiversity and conservation. Their working methods are vividly described and explained, and the current disputes are revealed. The implications of our understanding of crises in the past for the current biodiversity crisis are also presented in detail. 46 b/w illustrations. ... Read more

Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars A fabulous flatulence!
The public is being subjected to a litany of accounts of how life can, and has been, eliminated en masse. After learning ice ages may have swept away numerous creatures, we discovered dinosaurs may have been wiped out by the Big Rock. While trying to comprehend the amount of life an asteroid can dispose of, Michael Benton demonstrates the numbers pale in comparison to what a Big Burp can achieve. Combining his own field work with the research from numerous others, Benton skilfully builds a scenario of real mass destruction. His fine prose style keeps this book a compelling read throughout.

Sharply criticising Darwin's contemporaries and successors for clinging too resolutely to the notion that Nature's forces merely creep along, Benton notes the persistence of one theme. The "uniformitarians", he says, blinded scholars to the evidence - evidence that suggested life could end suddenly. Charles Lyell, one of Charles Darwin's inspirations, argued that what is seen today typifies the entire, and lengthy, history of our world. Slow, gradual change on today's surface is but the most recent example of the panorama of millions of years. Sudden change, "catastrophism", promoted by Baron Cuvier in France, was false. In life, Darwin's evolution by natural selection reflected the gradualist theme.

Benton dismisses Lyell and his adherents as overcommitted to gradualism. He contends they shut their eyes to contrary evidence. He admits the data was less than readily apparent, but argues some questions should have been raised long before now. New research, sometimes in places already once observed, finally brought reassessment. The Ural Mountains in Russia offered the first clues. Roderick Murchison toured there in the 1840s, naming the "Permian System" of rocks. Wars and revolutions interrupted the surveys and geologists and paleontologists peered at new ground. The Great Karoo of South Africa, China and other sites provided new information. A gradually emerging picture revealed a massive die-off 251 million years ago. What had happened?

After a long introduction of chapters recounting the researchers and their findings around the planet, Benton dismisses the notion of a bolide impact. This idea, fostered by the discovery that the Dinosaur Era had likely been concluded by the impact of a 10 kilometre asteroid, wasn't matched by the evidence. While the Permian Extinction may have been accompanied by darkened skies and deluges of rain, the real killer was something else. The dinosaur extinction wasn't typified by massive intrusions of poisonous gases, but the Permian was another matter. Benton surmises that 251 million years ago a series of volcanic fissures spewed immense waves of lava over the land near the North Pole. This area, now known as Siberia, is still covered by the remnants of the outburst. With the lava came noxious gas, mostly carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. These "greenhouse" gases warmed the seas, releasing life-killing methane. The catastrophe may have killed off up to 96% of all living things.

This is not simply an arcane analysis of events in the ancient past. It's a book that should gain a wide readership, since the events of all those millions of years ago have implications for today. Benton notes the sediments at the bottom of our seas contain a build-up of methane equalling or exceeding that of the Permian. Today's human-spurred global warming may be leading to the same scenario. Extinction, Benton reminds us, isn't limited to dinosaurs or other ancient life. It is clear that we must learn how these mechanisms work to make rational decisions about our dealings with the biosphere. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]

5-0 out of 5 stars A great long overdue book on the Permian mass extinction
Distinguished vertebrate paleontologist Michael J. Benton's latest book, "When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction Of All Time", is a long overdue popular account of the worst mass extinction in Earth's history, the end Permian extinction of approximately 251 million years ago. Other customers have complained that this book only devotes less than a quarter of its text to the Permian extinction. However, Benton does an elegant job describing the rise of a uniformitarian view of geology in the 19th Century (One major omission is not citing Scottish geologist James Hutton, who can be regarded correctly as Charles Lyell's intellectual precursor with respect to uniformitarianism.) which was eloquent expressed and defended by Charles Lyell in "Principles of Geology", his influential text on geology which helped shaped the careers of other distinguished scientists, most notably Charles Darwin. Next Benton gives a mesmerizing account of the career of Scottish geologist Roderick Murchison, who coined the name Permian for a suite of rocks found in the Ural Mountains of Russia. These lengthy digressions are important - and will become apparent to the astute reader - once Benton describes the Permian mass extinction.

The second third of the book discusses the nature of mass extinctions, describing why paleontologists were inclined originally to think of mass extinctions as the result of apparent bias in sampling of the fossil record, not as real events denoting substantial loss of the Earth's biodiversity. Benton devotes much space to discussing possible scenarios for the end Cretaceous mass extinction, noting that that the asteroid impact theory proposed by Luis Alvarez, his son Walter, and their colleagues at Berkeley is the one accepted now by scientists. And he notes how ecosystems recover following a mass extinction, noting some of the important work done by ecologists and paleontologists in their analyses of recent ecological data as well as the fossil record.

In the final chapters Benton describes what he thinks did happen at the end Permian mass extinction, offering a plausible scenario for this event (However, he dismisses a probable impact scenario which may be more likely in light of current understanding of planetary impacts, most notably the work done by the Alvarez team and others for the terminal Cretaceous impact.). And he gives a thorough overview of man's negative impact on current biodiversity, noting that this could be yet another important extinction in Earth's history. Students of paleontology, historians of science and the general public will find this fine book a splendid overview of mass extinctions, especially the Permian extinction. It is one of the best recent books on the history of geology and paleontology that I have come across lately.

5-0 out of 5 stars Mistitled book.
There was only one chapter donated to this subject, while the rest of the book dealt with the beginnings of paleoentology and the people who were promanent in this science. A lot of history and extraneous geological information. This is a good read and I managed to read the book in one and one half days. I could not put it down. I recommend this book for its history contents alone.

5-0 out of 5 stars A superb review of the science of extinction of species
Dr. Michael Benton, an eminent vertebrate paleontologist, has authored many books on the subject. This is one of his finest.
In this book, Dr. Benton addresses the multiple quandaries underlying mass extinctions, and ever-continuing, sometimes controversial, even acrimonious, effort to solve them. As per his high standards, Dr. Benton's text is highly readable, even though complex problems are being analyzed. He introduces the reader to alien or new concepts capably, and the text forms a seamless web along which any reader having a limited exposure to scientific disciplines may proceed without strenuous effort.

NOTE: Although the book's title appears to indicate a rather exclusive discussion about the largest mass extinction, the Permian-Triassic event, which ended the Paleozoic Era and ushered in the Mesozoic, the actual scope of the book is more broad. This is a pleasant, and very helpful, surprise.

Dr. Benton begins with the discovery of dinosaurs, and the history of the mapping of Europe's stratigraphy, before moving into the area of mass extinctions. Without this preliminary discussion, it would be far more difficult to understand how the concept and science of these events developed. I view this as a positive aspect of the book, since the concept of catastrophic events affecting the course of life's progress was most difficult for pioneers in the field to accept. The text admirably demonstrates that science is, after all, a human endeavor, complete with feuds, rivalries, and disputes. Indeed, much scientific progress has been achieved via disagreements and attempt to disprove the opponent's theories. I recommend this discussion to the students of ANY scientific discipline, not just paleontology.

The book moves to an examination of the five largest mass extinction events, with special emphasis being placed on the Mesozoic-ending extinction of the dinosaurs and the Permian-Triassic event. Smaller events are also addressed, such as the loss of species at the end of the Eocene epoch in our era. Dr.
Benton observes that the very large extinction episode at the end of the Cretaceous Period is almost universally accepted to have been the result of a colossal asteroid collision. He very properly notes that as one moves backward in time, the problem of causation of extictions becomes much more difficult to solve owing to plate movements, erosion and sedimentation, and diminution of appropriate outcrops of rocks.

Addressing the book's titled subject, Dr. Benton reviews the various claims that have been advanced for the cause of this "Mother of Extinctions". These include another huge collision with an extraterrestrial body, great climate change, enormous volcanic eruptions in what is now Siberia, a gigantic release of methyl hydrate gases in the oceans, a large drop in oceanic water levels, the uniting of all land masses into a single continent, the explosion of a nearby supernova, and on and on. Though he is taken to task by some reviewers, Dr. Benton reaches no categorical conclusion as to which of these events, singly or in combintion, offers the best explanation of the wiping out of over 90% of Earth's species of life. His best guess, phrased largely as such, is that the removal of so many lifeforms was a combination of large volcanic eruptions, only one land mass, and the freeing of enormous amount of carbon dioxide into Earth's atmosphere by the breakdown of methane hydrates in the oceans of that time.

NOTE: This writer disagrees, preferring the theory that an enormous impact event in the Falkland Island Basin caused antipodal supervolcnic Siberian lava flows, and that the combination of these two events almost destroyed the Earth's atmosphere, and its life. But am I right, or is the far more qualified Dr. Benton right? Or are we both wrong? The answer awaits further data and analysis of it. And coming full circle, this how the body of scientific knowledge grows.

In closing, this is one of the very best books I have ever read on science and its processes of growth. I recommend this book to one and all, and very, very highly. It is a true feast for the mind.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great story of science, scientists an scientific method
I found the detective story and the scientific method (and biases) it revealed to be engrossing. Apparently there weren't enough fireworks and special effects for the other reviewers, but I found the book hard to put down.

Do yourself a favor and read the book. ... Read more


13. RISING TIDE: THE GREAT MISSISSIPPI FLOOD OF 1927 AND HOW IT CHANGED AMERICA
by John M. Barry
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684840022
Catlog: Book (1998-04-02)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 8247
Average Customer Review: 4.51 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

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.

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award and the Lillian Smith Award. ... Read more

Reviews (57)

5-0 out of 5 stars an amazing book, likely to become a classic
Rising Tide has joined my short list of all-time personal favorites, and I am an eclectic reader who does not limit his choices to history. It's amazing both for its form, style, and substance.

Re: Form: It manages to synthesize seemingly unrelated material (engineering, the Klan, the decline of New Orleans, race, control of the media, just to give a few examples) in a way that not only works but opens your eyes to the world in new ways.

Re: Style: Several other reviewers have commented on how this book reads like a novel. Let me correct that,. It reads like a GOOD novel. Nonfiction is always trying to do this, but few succeed. This succeeds.

Re; Substance: Rising Tide very simply teaches a tremendous amount of information that gives you a far better understanding of why things are the way they are. Re: race & politics, the book gives considerable and very original and provocative insight into the history of race relations in the Deep South, and how changes-- some of which were made by the flood-- shifted black voters from the GOP to the Democrats. Re: presidential politics, even the emergence of the New Deal, the book has something piercing and original to say. And of course on anything to do with rivers, this is an absolte must. In fact, it's a must anyway.

4-0 out of 5 stars Epic Tragedy in the Yazoo Valley
I'm a native Louisianian (Baton Rouge), and this book brings to light a historical event I never really heard that much about growing up, which is strange when you learn that 95% of my living family's from New Orleans. Barry creates a vivid picture of the Deep South in the share- cropper period (for some people, it was always the Depression) and of New Orleans and Louisiana before Huey Long, when the state was under the thumb of the Old Bourbons and still mortgaged to Standard Oil. The different strata of society affected by the flood are given a good deal of exposure, and Barry does a good job of linking the Republican Administration's flaccid response to the catastrophe with the changing political loyalties of sharecroppers and others. I thought he could have gone deeper with some of his analyses, and perhaps commented on the similar phenomenon of the present-day Mississippi changing course, flooding the Atchafalaya, permanently destroying the wetlands, and perhaps altering the political universe in the Deep South once more. Altogether, though, this book is definitely worth reading, for its dramatic retelling of a catastrophic tale and its insights into 1920s Southern society.

5-0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive well-written history
This lengthy book can stand alongside Tuchman's STILWELL as one of those rare studies that combine personalities, good intentions, overwhelming events, and political fallout, and I was captivated by every page of it. With the exception of portraying the human tendency to "believe rather than understand," the Ku Klux Klan demagogue leaders, and General Humphreys (whose behavior indicates mental illness) there are few villains in this book except the weather and the inexorable Mississippi River.

I found Barry's portrayals of Eads, the Percys, Kemper, the hard-working African-Americans, even the dangerously erratic Humphreys fascinating. Isaac Cline (leading character of another well-written study of a major weather disaster, Larson's ISAAC'S STORM) reappears in this book to the reader's advantage. The author knows how politics works. Without expressing sympathy or holier-than-thou condemnation, he understands the often pathetic motivations of the 1920s Ku Kluxers -- highly relevant to today's anti-intellectual fundamentalist extremism -- and his review of the political repression under Wilson makes me thank God that things haven't yet gone quite that far under our present-day, similarly dimwitted, administration.

The author's conclusion, that a single preventable flood radically changed political history, was presented cogently and convincingly. Altogether this is a work of rare excitement and scholarship. Highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Read!
"Rising Tide" is a wonderful book and a facinating read!!! The author covers a history or flood control on the Mississippi, which might sound dull but is not, as well as some of the very important characters who shaped the history of this very important river in our history. His story of the Percy family and the powers of New Orleans is equally interesting. The events and stories that lead up to the great event are as interesting as the Great Flood of 1927 itself. This is one of those books that is near impossible to put down!!

4-0 out of 5 stars Fast paced, exciting...
A joy to read. History that doesn't get bogged down in superfluous detail. Excellent. ... Read more


14. Snakes of North America: Eastern and Central Regions (Lone Star Field Guide)
by Alan Tennant, Gerard T. Salmon, Richard B., Dr. King, Richard B. King
list price: $29.95
our price: $19.77
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1589070038
Catlog: Book (2003-08)
Publisher: Lone Star Books
Sales Rank: 190634
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This all-new edition of the popular field guide provides photographs and descriptions of all species and subspecies of snakes of eastern and central North America from Texas to Manitoba, to the eastern seaboard of the continent. ... Read more

Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Guide!
I just bought the 2003 edition of this book, and I must say it is great! The pics are very good! On some of the variable species, there are more than one photo to show you the different forms. The author provides great information on every aspect of the snakes' lives including size, reproduction, prey, habitat, and relative abundance. The book is very easy to read and is a steal at that price for 600 well written pages on North American snakes!- Anthony J. Chodan

4-0 out of 5 stars Good, accessible guide
A very good reference and field guide to snakes from Texas to North Dakota eastwards, aimed at enthusiasts and accessible to the average reader. It builds on Tennant's earlier books on Texas and Florida snakes (which were excellent), and in fact the text of the species accounts is often lifted more or less directly from those books. This makes this book less than original, but the detail -- over 600 pages worth -- is very good. Lots of photos, though each are a little small. This book is thicker, more thorough and generally stronger than the companion western volume (Snakes of North America: Western Region). It also has a good bibliography. One quibble, though -- the range maps often do not extend into Canada (though the Canadian ranges of the relevant snakes are discussed in the text), which reduces the usefulness of this book for Canadian readers. Recommended.

4-0 out of 5 stars Snakes of North America : Eastern and Central Regions (Field
Overall I thought this book was well written, very comprehensive, and quite easy to use. The copy I purchased has a problem with some of the pages being out of order. The Western guide I have has the range maps for the hognoses reversed. These may be a function of the printing company's sloppiness. However, I believe this book is an important addition to any serious amateur or professional herpetologist or budding herpetoculturist.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Field information
This book has the most comprehensive and up to date data down to sub-specific detail I've seen in a field guide, or any publication for that matter. This book is informative and easy to read. As a field guide it tries to group the animals by their appearance, which is occasionally annoying, but for a novice trying to identify something it is logical. The collection of pictures is quite complete, however, unusual color morphs of some species are depicted where it would be better to show clearer pictures of typical specimens(especially because it is a field guide). ... Read more


15. Ecology of Fear : Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster
by MIKE DAVIS
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375706070
Catlog: Book (1999-09-07)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 80895
Average Customer Review: 3.61 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (46)

5-0 out of 5 stars To all the "one-star" aggressors, back off, the jig is up.
This is an excellent, impassioned and rigorously thought out book. I am currently living in Boston, but had lived in Southern California for most of my life. As much as I enjoyed the area, it is a strange land, indeed. I enjoyed the author's earlier City of Quartz and recommend Ecology of Fear to anyone else who is interested/concerned about the social politics of L.A. Davis writes as one who cares enough to dissect and yes, criticize the city that he knows so well. To the earlier negative reviewers (who apparently thinks "Commie" baiting still works): come on, save your sabotage tactics for a city council meeting. If you really did read the book, you would know that you are only proving Davis' thesis...

5-0 out of 5 stars History for a history-less city
We all think we live near glitzy Hollywood-style Los Angeles; we've sung the praises of its temperate weather. We complain a bit about smog; but when a hurricane hits the East Coast, we feel smug that we only have earthquakes.

Every one in Los Angeles who has had any of these thoughtsmust read the Ecology of Fear. Anyone who has ever wondered just how urban sprawl came about must read this book. Mike Davis has done the perenially-new Los Angeles a favor by gathering together the facts and insights of this book. The Ecology of Fear reveals how this very real place and its problems are founded upon a number of very poor decisions. This book demonstrates how much of Los Angeles' disasters are simply a function of decisions that are poorly-made in light of the natural environment. Even though we have built and paved mightily, L.A.'s natural surroundings are not going away. Earthquakes, coyotes, hunters, xenophobia, fires (wild and otherwise), land grabs and twisters are all part of what makes up the fear ecology of Los Angeles. If you have ever addressed your local City Council, or worked on a general plan, or wondered why open space was vanishing, or even voted, you should read this book. It will open your eyes.

4-0 out of 5 stars trademark Mike Davis material
Not a sequel to City of Quartz, but a look at current and historical LA from an environmental perspective instead of Quartz's sociological view. Famous for its criticism as much as its content, Ecology Of Fear compiles a staggering amount of information into an informative and compelling story. LA's dynamism is a product of its people, land, water, air, wildlife, history, and future. This is the book that can tell you what life has been and will be like, for those who choose to live in the wilderness of Los Angeles.

4-0 out of 5 stars You'll like parts and be bored by others...
"Ecology of Fear" is unfortunately a necessary book in which Mike Davis once again denounces how the United States has managed to create a completely Apartheid-like society, but has done such a good job at it that people hardly perceive that they are living in a divided world (in this book, the divisions most commonly pointed out is the one between natural areas and inhabited areas, but we are also shown how a city is divided between poor and wealthy, and nature's role in this division). Nowhere is this more acute than in Los Angeles, the epitome of social division and exploitation of every natural resource. Davis convincingly shows how the natural world is utterly obliterated, with bogus re-creations made in its place where necessary, as a blind eye is turned to all of the destruction and the special interests of the wealthy are always put before those of the have-nots.

This is the aspect of the book that I found most interesting (more sociological and political), but there are chapters for people with different tastes and interests. For movie buffs or sci-fi novel readers, there are very well-documented sections on the portrayal of disasters in the Los Angeles area (I personally found this part less fascinating, because that is not my area of interest, but to many it may be). For environmentalists the book is a must-read on how NOT to manage an urban area. For local historians, there are some great anecdotes on LA history that I had never seen or read anywhere, and my family has lived in the LA area for decades. The saddest part of the book is discovering just how short-sighted people can be when making policy decisions and that capitalism's solution of allowing the power of money and majority opinion to solve everything does not lead those who possess power and wealth to make the soundest decisions in many, if not most, cases.

And who knew that there are tornadoes in Los Angeles?!

5-0 out of 5 stars Public Gem
Ecology of Fear is a public gem, if just, for its inquiry into fire prevention and policy in two differing socioeconomic enclaves of Los Angeles,Ca affluent Malibu and densely immigrant Pico-Union Westlake District. Why a public gem in this respect?? It is a broadly appealing insight into the intersection of 'fire' policy and human welfare. The fire related inquiries alone perhaps will equally interest busy professionals, students, politicians, et.al with a keen interest in policy awareness, yet left with little time or resources for conquering the wealth of information disseminated by Mike Davis. It is likely that a casual read of this book will land the reader into perhaps a fit of rage, or maybe a touch of shame, and possibly even numbness.
Ecology of Fear will likely capture the reader's attention and generate much deliberation. ... Read more


16. Fire on the Mountain : The True Story of the South Canyon Fire
by John N. Maclean
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743410386
Catlog: Book (2000-09-01)
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Sales Rank: 63186
Average Customer Review: 4.24 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

THE DRAMATIC TRUE ACCOUNT OF THE SOUTH CANYON
FIRE -- THE DEVASTATING FOREST FIRE THAT TOOK THE
LIVES OF FOURTEEN FIREFIGHTERS

In this acclaimed bestseller of investigative journalism, John N. Maclean chronicles the deadly 1994 Colorado forest fire that was wrongly identified at the outset as occurring in South Canyon. This misidentification was the first in a string of seemingly minor human errors that would be compounded into one of the greatest tragedies in the annals of firefighting as fourteen men and women firefighters -- experts in their field -- lost their lives battling the South Canyon blaze.

This stunning reconstruction of the fire and its aftermath, drawn from Maclean's exhaustive research and countless interviews, reveals fascinating insights into what went wrong, and how so many top-notch firefighters fell victim to nature at its most unforgiving. A page-turning adventure narrative brimming with action and intensity, Fire on the Mountain offers a powerful and indelible profile of a special breed of people who put their lives on the line as part of their daily jobs. ... Read more

Reviews (34)

5-0 out of 5 stars WHEN TRUTH AND TRAGEDY COME TOGETHER
John Maclean's "FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN" is subtitled "The True Story of The South Canyon Fire," and it is indeed the true story. Because the truth about what happened on that awful day in 1994 is so convoluted, so complex and multi-layered, and so strewn with conflicting viewpoints and cumulative errors and circumstances, writing the true story would have been impossible for anyone intimately involved with the fire. Maclean, however, brings his formidable background as a 30-year journalist to the story, and he makes the setting, the background, and the tragedy come alive for his readers.

With meticulous attention to detail and the unflagging search for facts that only a professional journalist can bring to bear, Maclean waded through stacks and years of documents, reports, interviews, and background material to produce a book that exceeded all expectations. The subjects of the book - wildland firefighters and wildland fire managers in state and federal land management agencies - nearly all agree that it's an accurate portrayal of both the South Canyon Fire and also the world of wildland fire. It's honest, it's well researched, and it's a compellingly good read. It explains and answers the many questions that nagged those of us in fire after the 1994 season.

If you're in fire, or you know someone who is, this book is mandatory.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Standard by which others will be judged
If there is one thing I have learned over the years of reading and writing book reviews, it is that not all newspaper reporters can write and not all writers are good newspaper reporters. However, once in a while someone comes along that can do both, sometimes very well. John Maclean, a former writer, reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune for 30 years, is such a person. He has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes and has written the definitive story of a wildfire near Glenwood Springs, Colo., in July of 1994 that resulted in the death of 14 men and women from Montana and Oregon. It is destined to become a classic, much as his father's books, "A River Runs Through It" and "Young Men and Fire." With the extensive media coverage of the wildfires burning in the West and the attendant cost in both property and lives, including the tragic death of a firefighter assigned to an Oklahoma crew, this book is timely and prophetic. This is the story of a wildfire that got out of control on Storm King Mountain near Glenwood Springs on July 6, 1994. Fourteen elite firefighters, both "smoke jumpers" and "hotshots," ultimately died in an inferno which was eerily similar to a fire in Montana in 1949 that claimed the lives of 13 firefighters. They all died by "inhaling fire," which leaves little to the imagination. The question is if such a "blowup" occurred in 1949 why did it happen again in 1994 to 14 of America's finest firefighters who had the training, equipment and experience to survive such an event? Maclean has meticulously researched the events leading up to the tragedy, beginning with the weather reports available to the supervisors on the ground and closing with the installation of the granite crosses on Storm King that mark the location of each body. The answer to the question of why the fire, which started with a lone pine tree and clearly visible from Interstate Highway 70, was not extinguished days earlier is enough to make your blood boil. The actions or more appropriately the inaction of government agencies is alarming and shameful. The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service are singled out for their role in the tragedy which some say borders on the criminal. Readers not familiar with these agencies will be amazed at their ineptitude, petty bickering and callous disregard for their employees and human life. To learn that two government agency managers that failed to fight the fire in the early stages were later given pay raises and public commendations by their superiors will be a real eye-opener. This for so-called experts who couldn't even get the name of the fire's location correct. Maclean has written not only an excellent account of the tragedy but has provided the reader with an inside look at the culture of modern wildfire fighting. He explains in a riveting manner how recent incidents in Los Alamos, N.M., as well as Storm King Mountain, can and do occur with alarming regularity. That he is able to objectively provide insightful analysis and credible conslusions while at the same time exhibiting sensitivity and compassion for the victims and their comrades is a testament to the skills of this master storyteller. The book is well researched, superbly written and will be the standard by which future accounts of wildfire incidents will be judged. His father would have been proud.

1-0 out of 5 stars Resubtitle : One of the Versions of the Storm King Fire
Gee -- this isnt the fire I remember fighting!! How eloquent and backbiting a report from someone who wasnt even there and who, while researching this book, appears to have devoted most of his time to the federal offices groups. To spend so much energy on the inability of politicos to get along when a fire is truly fought on the ground... And the truly amazing players, the local fire officers and firefighters who stepped up to the plate after the firestorm (prior to the arrival of the overhead team)and saved homes and each other -well, John you missed it, you missed most uplifting part of the story. So this isn't the "true" story of Storm King; it is one version, by someone who wasnt even there.

1-0 out of 5 stars A disservice to the memory of his father and firefighters
Norman Maclean, himself a former firefighter and woodsman, wrote an excellent account of the Mann Gulch fire. His work was tempered by the distance of time, benefit of age, and experience in the woods. This is obvious through his interaction with the survivors and his search for what happened on that hill.

In contrast, John Maclean's account of the South Canyon fire is riddled with accusations, contradicitions of his own statements and interpretations, and a generally muckraking tone. There is searching for truth and then there is searching for animus. I wish he had left this story to those with a little more time in boots than in Chicago.

Punctuation seemed OK - 1 star is generous.

5-0 out of 5 stars We hiked Storm King...
It was the hardest hike I have ever done for a few reasons. The book very accurately depicts the conditions of the mountain and the fire fighters working the fire. It's such a moving story about those that were lost on Storm King and their last day. Have Kleenex handy, but definitely read this book. ... Read more


17. Young Men and Fire
by Norman Maclean
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0226500624
Catlog: Book (1993-11-15)
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Sales Rank: 19745
Average Customer Review: 4.22 out of 5 stars
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On August 5, 1949, lightning came crashing down in the vast spruce forest above Seeley Lake, Montana, and touched off a roaring blaze. As every Westerner knows, lightning means fire, but the fire that raged through Mann Gulch that day was huge--the sort that occurs only every few decades. A battery of paratrooper-firefighters, many of them fresh veterans of World War II, had been anticipating it, and even looking forward to the chance to fight a great fire. Before the day ended thirteen of those smokejumpers lay dead, their charred remains evidence that something had gone terribly wrong. Norman Maclean gives a thorough account of the incident in language not meant for the squeamish: "Burning to death on a mountainside is dying at least three times ... first, considerably ahead of the fire, you reach the verge of death in your boots and your legs; next, as you fail, you sink back in the region of strange gases and red and blue darts where there is no oxygen and here you die in your lungs; then you sink in prayer into the main fire that consumes." After August 1949, he notes, the Forest Service came to recognize that not all fires need to be fought and that fire benefits most forest ecosystems. ... Read more

Reviews (60)

4-0 out of 5 stars Innocence in the Face of Danger
Have you ever known someone that has been involved with firefighting? Do you want to know more about the brave, young firefighters that are risking their lives on a daily basis? If firefighting is an interest of yours or if you want to ignite a spark that will increase your interest in firefighting, I recommend reading Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire. Maclean takes the readers through a devastating story of a young group of Smokejumpers that lost their lives in the Mann Gulch fire on August 5, 1949, in Young Men and Fire.
Maclean first captures the audience and draws them into his personal relationship to the story of the Smokejumpers. He does so by telling of his experiences with working in the forest service department. Maclean immediately presents the dangers and the horrible after effects that fires have. An emphasis on the fact that everyone is susceptible to the dangers of fire helps introduce the story. Maclean shows even the impacts that forest fires have on the animal. "A deer terribly burned. It was drinking and probably had been for a long time." (12) Maclean compares the deer's suffering to the suffering that some of the few survivors from the August 5 Smokejumping crew may have endured. It seems that fire brings life down to its barest form and demands that all things living be bonded because they are all vulnerable.
Smokejumping was a topic that I had never heard of before Young Men and Fire was suggested for my book group. I was both interested and excited at the chance to learn more about the mysterious world of Smokejumping as Maclean presents it in Young Men and Fire. Maclean's rhythmic language and detailed description all help to bring the Smokejumpers' story to life. The Smokejumpers, as people, come to life and it is easy to see them as more than just firefighters. I could see some of the same characteristics in these Smokejumpers as I see in my brother, father, uncles, grandfathers, etc. Maclean emphasizes the important characteristics that the Smokejumpers must have, "They had to be young, tough, and in one way or another from the backcountry." (26) As rough and as strong as these young men were, they still were young, innocent, and naïve to the fact that they were being sent to one of the roughest landscapes in the country to fight fires.
Maclean creates the landscape in a way that demands the readers to fear the beauty of the land before them. The Mann Gulch fire occurred in a rural area of Montana; Mann Gulch is only easily accessible by boat or by helicopter. A photograph insert is included in most copies of Young Men and Fire and it is very helpful to be able to see through photographs what Maclean is talking about. Maclean references to the included photographs and uses them only to emphasize the sheer greatness of the landscape. One aspect that Maclean elaborates on is the steepness of the land saying that the land possesses a, "76 percent slope having no shade." (192) In many of the photographs, the crosses of the 13 men that died fighting the Mann Gulch fire can be seen. Maclean particularly uses the photographs to elaborate on how details, such as crosses, helped him to reveal the truth behind the Mann Gulch fire.
At one point in Maclean's narrative, he revisits Mann Gulch with an expert friend and two of the fire's survivors, Sallee and Rumsey. Maclean continues his journey of revealing the truth behind what happened on August 5, 1949 through the first hand accounts of Sallee and Rumsey. A lot of controversy surrounds the events that occurred that day, most of which surround the foreman of that day's jump crew, Wag Dodge. Dodge and his fellow Smokejumpers knew that they were in trouble from the start because of the fire's unpredictable direction changes. Because of the steep landscape, it was impossible to keep the crew within shouting distance of one another and the group began to split apart. These young Smokejumpers quickly became terrified and began to, as Rumsey says, "'I was only thinking of my own hide.'" (96) I could not help but think that these young men were supposed to act as a team and yet, in a moment when they needed each other the most, they split and went their own ways. The majority of controversy surrounds the "escape" fire that Dodge created; an "escape" fire being a secondary fire that would create ashes for the men to lay down in and let the fire "jump" over them. Many people question the fate of the crew had they followed Dodge's instructions.
Maclean, the son of a Presbyterian minister, presents religion in Young Men and Fire in a very non-confrontational way, seeming to almost hint at the importance of religion. Maclean says that you can tell if a man is Catholic or not by whether or not he has a cross around his neck. The Smokejumpers' struggles through their journeys and their way of taking relief breaks causes me to see the allusions of the Stations of the Cross. Religion continues to peek its way through Maclean's narrative and adds to the question of fate.
Maclean does a wonderful job of telling the Smokejumpers' story and what they encountered in the last few hours of their lives. Maclean describes his own writing style in Young Men and Fire, as that of a storyteller. Maclean says, "A storyteller, unlike a historian, must follow compassion wherever it leads him." (102) As I progressed through Young Men and Fire, I could tell that Maclean is telling a story that he does not want to be forgotten. The tragedy of the Smokejumpers is one that Maclean found a great deal of compassion for and that is why he pursued the story. He spent nearly 25 years writing Young Men and Fire, only in an attempt to tell the Smokejumpers' story with the most precise details and stories. Young Men and Fire is a very accurate novel and it takes into account various viewpoints from many experts and survivors of the fire.
I would recommend Young Men and Fire to anyone that is interested in a glimpse into an often-overlooked piece of history. Smokejumping is a very interesting subject because it is rather new technique used in firefighting, coming into existence only around the early 1940's. Maclean's simple, storytelling technique will sooth you through a disastrous story of death and destruction. Maclean took great care when writing Young Men and Fire because he did not want to down play what happened to these young men. The story of Mann Gulch fire on August 5, 1949 will live forever through Maclean's Young Men and Fire. I would rate Young Men and Fire an A-. Enjoy this fantastic read about the journeys that Maclean went through to tell the most accurate story of the Smokejumpers.

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent story about a story
I've read a number of reviews that talk about how repetitive and disorganized this book is, but I really didn't find this to be a problem.

To me, the book read almost as though the story being told was not merely the story of the smokejumpers at Mann Gulch, but of the uncovering of the story of that tragedy. I almost imagined the story of the fire as the main character of the book and I was getting to know a little more about this character as the book carried on. It's hard to describe, but I thought it was an interesting angle to take. Perhaps it reads that way because the author wasn't finished when he died, but that didn't make a difference to me.

As pure literature, I might not find it so engaging -- the writing is beautiful, but if you are only interested in the events of the fire, this book takes the long way 'round. Taken as both a historical narrative and something of a literary exploration (the whole "story of the uncovering of a story" thing), however, I think it's fantastic. Maclean's writing is just breathtakingly beautiful, and I speak glowingly of this book to all my friends.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great book
A powerful and complex book, compelling, clearly written. It covers human drama and tragedy, scientific search and discovery, all with a "you are there" in the great outdoors setting. As good a book as I have read, bar none.

4-0 out of 5 stars For better and worse a poetic expostion
It's hard to classify this book beyond saying that it's a moving non-fiction tale. Maclean uses historical techniques to reconstruct the Mann Gulch fire of August 5, 1949, but his exposition is poetic rather than historical. For example, the author imagines his characters' thoughts and ponders the writing process as well as his wife's death from cancer. Sometimes Maclean's lyrical prose seems just and apt, at other times silly and pretentious. I suppose every reader could put together his own list of good and bad sentences.

As examples of the former let me suggest two from the first paragraph of Chapter One: "In 1949 the Smokejumpers were not far from their origins as parachute jumpers turned stunt performer dropping from the wings of planes at county fairs just for the hell of it plus a few dollars, less hospital expenses.... They were still so young they hadn't learned to count the odds and to sense they might owe the universe a tragedy." (19)

As examples of the latter, I offer two from near the end of the book: "...the compassion felt for themselves by the tragic young is self-pity transformed into some divine bewilderment, one of the few emotions in which the young and the universe are the only characters. Although divine bewilderment addresses its grief to the universe, it only cries out to it." (299)

Generally Maclean, his subject, and his literary style seem most congruent when the humanity of the Mann Gulch tragedy is addressed, less fitting when the author discusses hard science. Perhaps recognizing this weakness, the University of Chicago Press did not create an index for this book.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Heated Investigation
Soaring high above the earth, you are on a mission. Densely crammed into a plane, you are part of a team of adventurous souls. Sitting straddle-legged on the floor with your back to the cockpit, the group forms one body. The roasting heat of the fire below rises, and the air begins to gnaw tirelessly at your soul. In preparation of the jump, you and the others stand, approach the open door, and wait anxiously for the signal. Receiving a tap on the left leg, it is time. Crouching in the tuck position, you fall into the flaming world below.
The task of a smokejumper is intensely frightening. In Young Men and Fire, Norman Maclean shares the tragic experience of thirteen smokejumpers' fight in the Mann Gulch Fire. Searching for truth, in a land of ashy remains, Maclean thoroughly explores the untold stories of one group's disastrous struggle in the forests of Missoula, Montana. Deeply gripping, Young Men and Fire becomes one man's captivating journey through the fires of the land and his aged soul.
Young Men and Fire is a three-part, non-fiction account of one of Montana's deadliest forest fires. Haunted by the unanswered mysteries of the Mann Gulch Fire, Maclean begins to unravel the stories of these thirteen young men who so horribly perished. In sensitive and compelling language, he describes the innocence of these smokejumpers. "As the elite of young men, they felt more surely than most who are young that they were immortal. So if we are to feel with them, we must feel that we are set apart from the rest of the universe and safe from fires, all of which are expected to be put out by ten o'clock the morning after Smokejumpers are dropped on them" (298). In a tender, almost storyteller tone, Maclean molds our visions of these men by conveying their "immortal" outlook on life. The author wants his readers to feel connected to their souls and illustrates images of their lives: the women they loved, the families they parted from, and the goals they were unable to reach. As Maclean develops our understanding of the smokejumpers, both their personal characteristics and the dynamics of their job, he begins to explore why the Mann Gulch tragedy had such a personal impact on his own life.
In every aspect, Maclean's exploration through the Mann Gulch Fire was a religious experience. He describes the smokejumpers' falling as "umbilical, an act of rebirth," as they descend from sky to earth (53). With overwhelming Christian tones, Maclean shares his beliefs that smokejumping is a spiritual task; just as we are delivered from the heavens, the jumpers fall again from the skies above. Continually, the author will refer to his religious analogies of smokejumping. After studying the scientific details surrounding the deaths of the smokejumpers, Maclean shares his own evidence on the meaning of the death. "At the very end beyond thought and beyond fear and beyond even self-compassion and divine bewilderment there remains some firm intention to continue doing forever and ever what we last hoped to do on earth. By this final act they had come about as close as body and spirit can to establishing a unity to themselves with earth, wind, fire and perhaps the sky" (300). I was deeply moved to see that Maclean had such reflections on the passing of life. For here, the reader is able to see that the Mann Gulch tragedy had turned into a search for answers in the hills of Montana as well as in the heart of one elderly man.
Maclean's in depth study of the Mann Gulch Fire, gives readers a breathtakingly real understanding for the complexity and seriousness of smokejumping. I had no previous knowledge of this aspect of firefighting, and found his lessons fascinating. Maclean provides a haunting investigation into the emotions and realities that plague all smokejumpers. His writing is historic, yet simple, and allows many audiences an opportunity to learn the story of such a significant event. Maclean prompts his readers, through his comprehensive writing, to reexamine their notions of the tragedy. He suggests, "you can see tragedy coming from a considerable distance when you are older, but when you are young tragedy dies not pertain to you and certainly never catches up to you (278). Again, Maclean is exposing his views, and the reader begins to see that this book became an exploration of his own mortality.
For fourteen years, Norman Maclean searched for truth. He did not find every answer to the mysteries surrounding the Mann Gulch Fire; however, he discovered something greater. Maclean gave voices to those who could not speak, shared stories that were buried far too long, and found meaning through tragedy. Norman Maclean passed away before his book was published, but the press uncovered his work and concluded that "Young Men and Fire was where, near the end, all the lives he had lived would merge: the lives of a woodsmen, firefighter, scholar, teacher, and storyteller" (xiii). This book is truly an accomplished work of nature, humanity and faith. ... Read more


18. Nights of Ice
by Spike Walker
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312199937
Catlog: Book (1999-03-01)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Sales Rank: 63554
Average Customer Review: 4.22 out of 5 stars
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Frantic and entertaining in a guilty sort of way, Nights of Ice is like Endurance on steroids. The book presents eight true stories of disaster and survival involving commercial fisherman off the coast of Alaska (said to be one of America's most dangerous occupations). Included are tales of subzero temperatures, 100 mph winds, 60-foot-high waves, boats encased in ice and capsized, men trapped underwater, and other horrors. Author Spike Walker, who interviewed many of the survivors in compiling this book, is no stranger to such tales of the high seas; he worked as a commercial fisherman off the Alaska coast and wrote about it in Working on the Edge.

Nights of Ice begins promisingly enough but unfortunately gives way to a sensationalism that cheapens the whole affair: "At that moment, Bruce Hinman's past life flashed before his very eyes. Launched instantaneously through time, he watched the events of his life play out before him...they flashed and froze there in his consciousness, in a kind of nostalgic collage of all that had once mattered in his life." As a result, there are a lot of unintentionally funny moments. Despite its problems, though, Nights of Ice is fun to read, and lovers of true-adventure stories or those interested in the dangers of the Alaskan fishing industry should enjoy it. --Andy Boynton ... Read more

Reviews (9)

3-0 out of 5 stars entertaining subject--marginal writing
I read this on a trip to Alaska, so I got into it's "spirit" on location. The stories are quite entertaining, but when writers make junior-varsity comments and mistakes, it makes me wonder about the veracity of the actual stories:
1) Does everyone see their entire lives flash before their eyes when they are near death?
2) Some guy's one-year old child asks him if he is Santa Claus upon his return from an ordeal at sea. Clearly Spike has never spent time with a one-year old; not only can very few of them speak more than a word or two, but this one is so eloquent and knowledgeable that he thinks the old man is Kris himself!
3) The helicopter pilot makes it to a "small village airport" just before running out of fuel (which means it must have been between 5-10 minutes from the rescue locale since they only had 30 minutes of fuel left before the rescue attempt(hmmmm), but somehow a C-130 can get in and out of there to send them home while the chopper gets an inspection (hmmm hmmmm).
I'll leave it at that...

4-0 out of 5 stars Nights of Ice ... Spike Walker is great read
Having lived my entire life in and around Seattle, In March 2001, I ventured North to Alaska to visit my daughter and her family. While there I picked up "Nights of Ice".

Spike Walker's subject matter is, first of all, relevant to anyone who has lived near the sea. The Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska, as one non-fisherman said, "I can't drink it all and I'm damned sure I can't swim that far."

Life at sea in a boat, rolling and plowing through the next wave, gets into some folks blood. I'm sure it's that way with fishermen and women but the money don't hurt either. In any case its a perilous life.

Nights of Ice takes us along for a ride with people, real people, who have experienced the worst the sea has to offer. Walker's intimate knowledge of workin' the boats has us searching for lights in a "can't see your hand in front of your face" stateroom, attempting, frantically, to pull on the survival suit. We are terrified of the boat goin' down with us still on board. We gasp for air and our heart seems to stop when we hit the 37 degree water. We, along with actual survivors, use every ounce of strength and resource our bodies are able to muster in order to survive.

Nights of Ice and its individual, sometimes heroic, stories are an adventure in itself.

4-0 out of 5 stars This book will make you shiver!
I enjoyed this book alot. All the stories deal with survival at sea in the waters off Alaska. The stories are kind of repetitive but if you like the first one you'll like the rest. The thought of finding one's self in the frigid Alaskan waters will make you pull an extra blanket on while you read. My only real complaint is that I would have liked more details on the fishermen involved (background, etc) so it wouldn't just have been names floating out there in the ocean. Overall, highly recommended adventure reading.

4-0 out of 5 stars An excellent read if you like action.
Great book! Not quite up to the first book, "Working on the Edge", but great. The author spares the reader all the scientific, high-tech bs of the "Perfect Storm", and gets down and dirty.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hard to put down!
I have heard that King Crab fishing was dangerous. Spike Walker lets you know exactly what it is really like. I have a whole new respect for those who bring in our King Crab! This book brought many a tear. ... Read more


19. Mean Season : Florida's Hurricanes of 2004
by Palm Beach Post
list price: $19.95
our price: $13.57
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1563527456
Catlog: Book (2004-12-25)
Publisher: Longstreet Press
Sales Rank: 214073
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Book Description

Expert reporting from the editors of the Palm Beach Post capture these tragic events of nature, that happened during the worst Hurricane season tha Florida has ever seen. ... Read more


20. No Apparent Danger: The True Story of Volcanic Disaster at Galeras and Nevado del Ruiz
by Victoria Bruce
list price: $26.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060199202
Catlog: Book (2001-03)
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Sales Rank: 272409
Average Customer Review: 3.98 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

On January 14, 1993, a team of scientists descended into the crater of Galeras, a restless Andean volcano in southern Colombia, for a day of field research. As the group slowly moved across the rocky moonscape of the caldera near the heart of the volcano, Galeras erupted, its crater exploding in a barrage of burning rocks and glowing shrapnel. Nine men died instantly, their bodies torn apart by the blast.

While others watched helplessly from the rim, Colombian geologist Marta Calvache raced into the rumbling crater, praying to find survivors. This was Calvache's second volcanic disaster in less than a decade. In 1985 Calvache was part of a group of Colombia's brightest young scientists that had been studying activity at Nevado del Ruiz, a volcano three hundred miles north of Galeras. They had warned of the dire consequences of an eruption for months, but their fledgling coalition lacked the resources and muscle to implement a plan of action or sway public opinion. When Nevado del Ruiz erupted suddenly in November 1985, it wiped the city of Armero off the face of the earth and killed more than twenty-three thousand people -- one of the worst natural disasters of the twentieth century.

No Apparent Danger links the characters and events of these two eruptions to tell a riveting story of scientific tragedy and human heroism. In the aftermath of Nevado del Ruiz, volcanologists from all over the world came to Galeras -- some to ensure that such horrors would never be repeated, some to conduct cutting-edge research, and some for personal gain.Seismologists, gas chemists, geologists, and geophysicists hoped to combine their separate areas of expertise to better understand and predict the behavior of monumental forces at work deep within the earth.

And yet, despite such expertise, experience, and training, crucial data were ignored or overlooked, essential safety precautions were bypassed, and fifteen people descended into a death trap at Galeras. Incredibly, expedition leader Stanley Williams was one of five who survived, aided bravely by Marta Calvache and her colleagues. But nine others were not so lucky.

Expertly detailing the turbulent history of Colombia and the geology of its snow-peaked volcanoes, Victoria Bruce weaves together the stories of the heroes, victims, survivors, and bystanders, evoking with great sensitivity what it means to live in the shadow of a volcano, a hair's-breadth away from unthinkable natural calamity, and shows how clashing cultures and scientific arrogance resulted in tragic and unnecessary loss of life. ... Read more

Reviews (51)

5-0 out of 5 stars Review of No Apparent Danger
In 1993 a horrible disaster struck the geology community. On January 14 of that year, 13 volcanologists were on a workshop fieldtrip inside the caldera of Galeras, a volcano in southern Columbia, when it erupted killing 6 of the scientists and 3 local tourists. This tragic event shocked and stunned the geological community.

No Apparent Danger: The True Story of Volcanic Disaster at Galeras and Nevado Del Ruiz written by Victory Bruce has taken a critical look these two volcanic tragedies that struck Columbia.

Victoria writes in a wonderfully easy to read narrative, that grabs your attention from the beginning. She lays out the events of the two volcanic eruptions in the form of a crime scene, where you know the final outcome, but not the events and facts leading up to the crime. She leads the reader through the multitude of facts and eyewitness accounts of these two eruptions to give a clear understanding of what happened, and the mistakes that were made.

The book was inspired by the tragedy at Galeras, but to understand the tragedy there, she takes us back 8 years to the eruption at Nevado del Ruiz that caused a lahar to burry the town of Armero, killing 23,000 people. Here we meet Marta Calvache, a Columbian geologist who plays important roles in both events. Marta and her colleagues are a group of bright, young Columbian scientists who are given the responsibility to interpret the activity at Nevado del Ruiz, a task that they admit is over their heads. The Columbian scientists seek out the best international help they can get to help them interpret the volcano, and do their best to warn the government of the danger the volcano poses. In the end, their dire warnings are ignored, and the most tragic volcanic eruption of the twentieth century occurs.

After Nevado del Ruiz, we jump forward 8 years to follow Marta Calvache and other Columbian scientists to the newly active volcano at Galeras. This time, the Columbians have more knowledge and equipment at their disposal, but tragedy again occurs. Victoria Bruce leads us as a detective would, setting the background of the volcano, its history and the facts about its activity leading up to the mild, but fatal eruption in 1993. She intersperses her narrative with quotes from the scientists who worked on the volcano, as well as those scientists who were in the caldera on the day of the eruption and survived. Her narrative leads the reader through a series of events, piecing together the decisions that led to the tragedy, and how it could have been prevented.

The book holds you captive as you walk with the scientists into the heart of the danger. Victoria gives us access to the scientists to listen to their personal thoughts, misgivings and concerns about the tragedy and the safety of their companions. Her descriptions are so vivid, that at times I felt like ducking as I read about the explosion and the volcanic bombs that flew out of the crater. The book is not only a critical look at the two eruptions, but a detailed study of crisis management and the importance of knowing all the facts.

4-0 out of 5 stars "Into Thin Air" meets "The Johnstown Flood"
"No Apparent Danger" tells the story of two volcanic disasters that took place in Colombia in 1985 and 1993. The first was an epic disaster that killed over 23,000 people and obliterated a small city. The other was the result of sheer human stupidity, yet another example of man thinking he's smarter than nature. Six scientists and three tourists were killed and several others horribly maimed because they were standing pratically on top of an active volcano crater when it had a minor eruption. All of the victims probably would have survived had they taken some basic precautions.

The leader of the group, self-serving, aggrandizing geologist Steve Williams was largely responsible for the laxes that led to the tragedy. And yet after barely surviving his own mule-headiness, he manages to convince the press that he's a hero through his own vulgar audacity.

Cheers to author Victoria Bruce for publishing the truth and defalting Williams' own self serving book about these events. The book's only flaw is that the first tragedy doesn't get quite the coverage it deserves, as if she were in a hurry to skewer the villian of the story and rushed it. Nevertheless, this is still a well written, informative and ultimately depressing account.

5-0 out of 5 stars Well-written, so one can focus on the controversy!
Bruce's book is well-written and describes the geological processes involved in a clear and simple fashion.

At first I wasn't really sure why she had chosen to write about both the Nevado Del Ruiz and Galeras eruptions, but it became clear that she was following the professional development of the Columbian volcanologists and the Columbian governmental response to volcanic disasters. The information provided about the politics and civil unrest concurrent with the volcanic eruptions and the effects on ability of the scientists to recieve funding, equipment and international help is VERY interesting.

It's obvious that the most contraversial part of this account is the role played by Stan Williams as the field trip leader on the fateful excursion into the Galeras caldera. While volcanologists are aware of the potential risks associated with visiting a volcano, I would have wanted to be aware of the occurrence of the tell-tale tornillos. It didn't seem like there was a complete overview of the current state of Galeras prior to the field trips such that each participant could determine their own level of risk-taking. It was also not clear to me that Zapata in fact relayed the information about the tornillo during the morning of the trip to Williams. Did Williams know about the recent tornillo? After all, Zapata was the only one with a radio. As with any tragedy, the events raise more questions than answers.

It seems to me that the tragedy was the result of many different small events that primarily become clear in hinesight. While safety measures used in previous trips likely should have been used during the fated excursion, _none_ of the scientists that went on the trip were completely unaware of the danger involved. Williams is not to _blame_ for the tragedy, but he is certainly _responsible_ for the people on HIS field trip, simply because he was the leader. It can be argued that he should have taken better precautions and that is where Williams's regrets should lie. It's obvious that some of the participants knew Williams's level of concern was not as high as their own and they intelligently chose to wear their own safety gear. (Did the other participants have access to safety gear if they had wanted it?)

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the field trip, Bruce also does a good job of describing (and perhaps becoming somewhat involved in) the politics of science in general. When I started graduate school, I was completely naive about the politics of money, research and publishing - grant writing, intellectual property, etc. Bruce provides a brief but revealing look at how politics also drive science.

Science isn't a clear cut, straightforward pursuit. Bruce certainly portrays this fact quite clearly in her book. I certainly recommend reading this book along with Stan Williams's book as counterpoint.

4-0 out of 5 stars One-sided and questionable research methods
I was on Galeras volcano 10 years ago when it erupted. Like most of the other volcanologists at the Pasto, Colombia meeting to study Galeras I did not go into the crater, but was looking at deposits on the outer flanks when the eruption occurred. Stanley Williams had stressed the danger of going inside, and only those making data collections went with him into the crater.

Victoria Bruce's book is largely an attack on Williams. She is correct in some assertions- Williams is (or was - he is only a shadow of his former self now) a maverick who argued with parts of the volcanological establishment. He also formed many productive working arrangements with scientists from a variety disciplines, especially with students and young volcanologists from Colombia and the other countries he worked in.

I object to Bruce's research methods - she called me twice to ask about the Colombian meeting and the events of the eruption. She never gave any hint that her book would be an attack on Williams and she never asked me critical questions about his leadership. After I read her book I felt that her approach to me as a participant had not been honest.

By necessity Bruce talked to volcanologists only after the eruption, and by that time volcanologists as a profession had realized that their previous somewhat cavelier methods of researching active volcanoes needed to change. But Williams' expedition into Galeras was typical of most of the visits I have made to erupting volcanoes with various trip leaders. Perhaps volcanologists were taking dumb risks, but only a handful of volcanologists had died in eruptions before, and the risks seemed worth taking in light of the heightened learning opportunities.

My concern with Bruce's book is that her criticism of Williams is too harsh; he was blamed for the sins of the profession, and perhaps volcanologists he had disagreed with in the past could see only his weaknesses and not also his strengths. In some ways this was tearing down a scrappy, non-conformist who was a sometimes too successful competitor for grants and scientific acclaim.

Galeras was ten years ago; Bruce's book, and Williams' are a few years old. Everyone moves on, but I'd like the reader of these reviews to consider that Williams might not have been the self-centered egotist depicted in Bruce's book, but a flawed human unfairly treated in a book about a tragedy that surprised all of us on the volcano.

Chuck Wood

4-0 out of 5 stars The volcano eruptions at Nevado del Ruiz and Galeras.
There are two stories in this book. The first is about the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano that resulted in the deaths of 23,000 people. The second is the death of six scientists and three Columbians in the Galeras eruption. The scientists killed were led by Stan Williams, who also substained very serious injuries. The three Columbians were local hikers in the area.
If the focus was on numbers, Bruce should have concentrated her studies on the Nevado del Ruiz eruption that killed so many Columbians because of the mud slides. This was not done, but the focus was on diminishing the egotistical Stan Williams who led six of his companions to death. Both stories are worth a book of their own. ... Read more


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