Natural and Not-so-natural Disasters! True Stories of Hurricanes, Avalanches and... the Black Death

Ever since the beginning of recorded history, there have been natural and not-so-natural events, many of which have changed the lives of thousands of people. The books on this list recount the results of various disasters and their far-reaching effects.

Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

By Erik Larson

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"In 1900, Galveston would endure a hurricane that to this day remains the nation's deadliest natural disaster. In Galveston alone at least 6,000 people, possibly as many as 10,000, would lose their lives, a number far greater than the combined death toll of the Johnstown Flood and 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. And Isaac Cline would experience his own unbearable loss. Meticulously researched and vividly written, Isaac's Storm is based on Cline's own letters, telegrams, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the hows and whys of great storms. Ultimately, however, it is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets nature's last great uncontrollable force. As such, Isaac's Storm carries a warning for our time."

Also available on audio.

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Disaster! The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906

By Dan Kurzman

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"Just after 5 A.M. on April 18, 1906, an earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale ripped through sleeping San Francisco, toppling buildings, exploding gas mains, and trapping thousands of citizens beneath tons of stone, broken wood, and twisted metal. Herds of cattle stampeded madly through the streets. The air reverberated with the panicked screams of the doomed and dying. And then came the fires: hellish, gasfueled conflagrations so hot that molten glass ran down gutters. A mother crushed the skull of her trapped son with a rock so he wouldn't burn alive. A couple defiantly went ahead with their wedding even as the flames closed in.

"Rats from boats that smuggled prostitute slaves into Chinatown began to spread bubonic plague through the city. With water mains destroyed, firemen could only stand and watch for three terrifying days as the fires consumed the remains left by the earthquake. Adding to the terror were soldiers, some drunk, who shot, bayoneted, or hanged in the street at least five hundred suspected looters and other often innocent victims. As many as ten thousand people died in the catastrophe."

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A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906

By Simon Winchester

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Winchester brings his storytelling abilities, as well as his understanding of geology, to the extraordinary San Francisco Earthquake, exploring not only what happened in northern California in 1906 that leveled a city symbolic of America's relentless western expansion, but what we have learned since about the geological underpinnings that caused the earthquake.

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The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea

By Sebastian Junger

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It was the storm of the century, boasting waves over one hundred feet high--a tempest created by so rare a combination of factors that meteorologists deemed it "the perfect storm."  When it struck in October 1991, there was virtually no warning. "She's comin' on, boys, and she's comin' on strong", radioed Captain Billy Tyne of the Andrea Gail off the coast of Nova Scotia, and soon afterward the boat and its crew of six disappeared without a trace. In a narrative taut with the fury of the elements, Sebastian Junger takes us deep into the heart of the storm, depicting with vivid detail the courage, terror, and awe that surface in such a gale. Also available on audio.

On Film:
The Andrea Gail's struggle with a ferocious Northeastern storm is brought to life in the 2000 movie adaptation of Junger's book, starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Diane Lane.

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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

By Jon Krakauer

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Into Thin Air is the definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Mount Everest. Five climbers died, and another was badly injured in the rogue storm that swept Everest in May of 1996. This book is available on audio and was also adapted into a movie version.

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