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A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 Paperback – Bargain Price, October 10, 2006
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Though the epicenter of this marvelously constructed book is San Francisco, Winchester covers much more than just the disaster. He discusses how this particular quake led to greater scientific study of quakes in an attempt to understand the movements of the earth. Trained at Oxford University as a geologist, Winchester is well qualified to discuss the subject, and he clearly explains plate tectonics theory (first introduced in 1968) and the creation of the San Andreas Fault, along with the geologic exploration of the American West in the late 19th century and the evolution of technology used to measure and predict earthquakes. He also covers the social and political shifts caused by the disaster, such as the way that Pentecostalists viewed the quake as "a message of divine approval" and used it to recruit new members into the church, and the rise in the local Chinese population. With many records destroyed in the fire, there was no way to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants, and thus many more Chinese were granted citizenship than would have otherwise been. Filled with eyewitness accounts, vivid descriptions, crisp prose, and many delightful meanderings, A Crack in the Edge of the World is a thoroughly absorbing tale. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Some of the issues for me were:
-- The title doesn't quite match the contents. The book is less focused than the title suggests.
-- I think more time should have been spent on deciding what to keep and what to cut. There is a lot of unnecessary detail and I wonder if the author forgot about the audience he had in mind as well as the main subject.
-- Sometimes the book is too rambling and the digressions are not interesting to many audiences, although extremely interesting to some. Should there have really been two even better books created from this material?
I'm not saying this book isn't worth reading. However, it's important to know what you are getting. If you want a concise and specific book on the SF earthquake alone, this is NOT it! If you want to know more about earthquakes in general and also understand more about the SF earthquake of 1906 then this might be great for you. In short, it is a more technical treatment than the title suggests and although it has a lot of good stories, they are not gathered into a cohesive well-organized whole.
The book is a wonderful geology book for the non-science reader as Mr. Winchester lays out why the quake occurred where it occurred (see the maps within) with vignettes with the fallout from the quake. He also makes clear that the next San Francisco earthquake is just down the road and we are no more prepared for that one either. The book cover itself is innovative and almost worth the price of the book. For the reader desiring a more traditional history of the 1906 quake, see Dan Kurzman's "Disaster: The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906" (2001).
The bad: There are really glaring factual errors (Alaska is a bit bigger than 600,000 acres). There are doubled-up currency markers like "$60 million dollars." These annoy the editor in me; someone should have caught them, and that nobody did underlines the lack of editorial care that has gone into the work as a whole. He intersperses his own road-trip memoirs far too liberally among the episodes detailing the 1906 earthquake that shook San Francisco to the ground.
The good: That said, the information he brings together is fascinating stuff. As a history of San Francisco (or of early California, really) this book, faults and all, is well worth the read. It was a wild city--the most important on the West Coast, until the aftermath of the quake sent business and population south to Los Angeles--and Winchester's work paints vivid pictures of the people and development trends that made it what it was.
I recommend this book, but I recommend that you read some of his other works too, to see what he's really capable of.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting, well-written, but rather boring in a very slow start, according to my eighth grade granddaughter.Published 5 days ago by KPNPHDMD
Quintessential Winchester. Excellent research and presentation. Would have gone for 5, but it had a bit too much of author's liberal take on America sprinkled throughout.Published 13 days ago by Fred Fairclough Jr.
Very little of this book is about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Author Simon Winchester talks about the California gold rush, plate tectonics and his trip across the United... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Steve G
Personally, I didn't think this is one of Winchester's best books. However, he is such a good writer and the material is interesting enough that I think it deserves four stars... Read morePublished 2 months ago by R Helen
I am a Simon Winchester junkie. I love his informative writing style. The story here almost gets lost in all the data. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Karen Johnson
Excellent!!! Geology explained so that the non-technical person can appreciate this important science.Published 6 months ago by Harold Olinger
Brilliant, brilliant writing by a fellow geologist about a complicated problem, made perfectly clear. Wonderful analysis, including history and human insughts.Published 6 months ago by One Happy Retiree
Everything you would ever want to know about the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake including "sister" disasters (Vesuvius erupted just one day earlier than the SF... Read morePublished 6 months ago by DanC