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Braving the Elements: The Stormy History of American Weather Hardcover – January 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (January 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385469551
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385469555
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #606,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Journalist David Laskin writes, "The history of weather is both a history of nature and a history of human desire. A history that is made and erased every day." And the history of American weather is particularly problematic: "Our weather and climate have been strange since the beginning of our history. Our perceptions have always been skewed by expectation, our memories distorted by self-interest." From a European perspective, North American weather is never usual: it is too hot, too cold, too violent, and, for most of the continent, much too dry. But Americans' minds never quite catch up with the weather where they actually live: "When we move, weather is the last thing we leave behind and the first thing we find when we arrive. Weather, in a sense, is home." Laskin's great insight is that the weather is never what we expect, because we always misremember the past. And in America in particular, this unexpected weather is always a sign of something: God's vengeance, human tampering, the progress or the regress of civilization. Laskin covers American weather from the warm spell that lured the Norse to Greenland, through the little ice age and the dust bowl, up to the greenhouse anxieties of the turn of the millennium. "We are constantly making and revising the history of weather, but weather itself is ahistorical. Infinite, fathomless, incalculable, it just keeps happening, regardless, every day." --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Laskin (A Common Life) contends that weather is a "human fabrication": the condition of the heavens becomes what we call "weather" only "after it has touched us and we have touched it." Thanks to the science of dendrochronology, it is possible to determine what American weather was like in prehistory, but the subject becomes more absorbing with the advent of the Puritans. They were devout believers in what the author terms theological meteorology, which placed the praise or blame for the vagaries of our climate on God's doorstep. Current practitioners of this applied science, aided by radar, satellites and computers, are able to bring a little order out of the chaos that is the enduring characteristic of weather. And with the development of global warming theories, more emphasis is now placed on terrestrial rather than celestial solutions to weather problems. From Native American rain dances through the establishing of the U.S. Weather Bureau in 1891 to changing styles of TV weatherpersons, Laskin engagingly covers it all.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

David Laskin was born in New York in 1953 and educated at Harvard College and New College, Oxford. For the past twenty-five years, Laskin has written books and articles on a wide range of subjects including history, weather, travel, gardens and the natural world. His most recent book, The Children's Blizzard, won the Washington State Book Award and the Midwest Booksellers' Choice Award for Nonfiction. Laskin's other titles include Braving the Elements: The Stormy History of American Weather, Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals, A Common Life: Four Generations of American Literary Friendship and Influence, and Artists in their Gardens (co-authored with Valerie Easton). A frequent contributor to The New York Times Travel Section, Laskin also writes for the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, and Seattle Metropolitan. He and his wife Kate O'Neill, the parents of three grown daughters, live in Seattle with their two sweet old dogs.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Severin Olson on November 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In 'Braving the Elements', Laskin gives us a brief history of American weather and how we have survived, forcast, and endured it. The first part of the book looks at Native American and colonial weather, explaining how our perceptions of the elements were being shaped even then. A fascinating chapter looks at the West and the Great Plains, describing the tornadoes, blizzards and dust storms common to the region.
The book's second half covers the National Weather Service and present-day meteorology, showing how technology has changed the art of weather forcasting. We see the daily weather report through the eyes of the weather men themselves.
Laskin is a great writer whose book will appeal to weather buffs and others alike. I only wish he had spent more time covering specific storms in our history and how they have shaped communities.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 11, 1996
Format: Hardcover
There have been many books on weather and climate that havepassed through my hands over the last twenty five years.This is one of the more memorable ones. When my brother comes over for a visit I'll go to the bookshelf, pull thisvolume down and read page after page to him. Why? Well, quite simply David Laskin condensed the American climateinto a slender volume that reads like a good novel. Merging modern meteorological understanding and historical research he brings alive the shock European settlers feltwhen they experienced the frigid North American winters andblistering summers. He introduces the reader to theologicalmeteorology, nationalist meteorology, and plain old badmeteorology, all in a style designed to excite and educate the reader."BRAVING TH
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 6, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Every other day we get some weather disaster on cnn then forget it. This book gives the larger picture, over time: the patterns and changes, as well as a fascinating history of how weather was viewed and recorded. You'll find lots more here than you would think.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. Humiston on June 8, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Truly interesting tour of North American weather from the earliest days of human habitation of our continent. Nothing changes except change and in experiencing weather this is especially true. It has all happened before and will happen again. Hot,cold,wet,dry,windy still, sunny, cloudy etc. This book gives you a new perspective on the latest discussion about our weather.
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2 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tad Martinsenson from Texas on September 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
It troubles me to no end that books that are to be taken as scholarly would stoop to using FAKE photographs....in this case none other than the famously fake tornado on the cover....to sell the books. I wish I knew if a) the author, being well-versed in the topic he has written about, KNOWS the photo is fake and is trying to hype his product or; b) he is ignorant of such? I am not sure which is worse? Until consumers cite their disgust with such ploys we are doomed to not knowing what is real and what is FAKE even in so-called non-fiction or "scientific" text. The publisher should be ashamed.
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