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A Crack in the Edge of the World Paperback – Import, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141016345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141016344
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,872,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Winchester studied geology at Oxford and has written for Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian, and National Geographic. Simon Winchester's many books include The Professor and the Madman ; The Map that Changed the World ; Krakatoa; and A Crack in the Edge of the World. Each of these have both been New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. Mr. Winchester was made Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by HM The Queen in 2006. He lives in Massachusetts and in the Western Isles of Scotland.

Customer Reviews

It is only the second book by Simon Winchester that I have read.
D. Krajnovich
Part of the problem, though, in reading through these pages is you never get a clear sense of where Winchester is going with this.
Jason Nelson
"A Crack in the Edge of the World" touches on every aspect of San Francisco and the great earthquake of 1906.
Gilberto Villahermosa

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Patrick D. Goonan on December 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book by Simon Winchester has many good stories and contains as lot of useful information on earthquakes, geology and geography. It also contains a lot of good material that brings the period before, during and after the 1906 earthquake to life. However, this title also has a number of drawbacks that prevents it from being a great book.

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.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on October 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Simon Winchester is a storyteller and he rambles around the tale of the great earthquake of a century ago. This is not the definitive account of the 1906 quake but the account of what Mr. Winchester found to be interesting -- fortunately it is interesting for the reader too.

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).
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91 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on October 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Simon Winchester's love of learning and information is so incredibly infectious that even at his roughest his books do not fail to illuminate and interest. As with KRAKATOA, Winchester in A CRACK AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD takes a momentous geological event--in this case, the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906--and proceed to tell us as many stories leading up to and out of it as he possibly can, covering not merely accounts of the event itself (particularly the disastrous fires that came from it) but also ways of understanding the event within its multiple contexts. He tells us much about the commerical and social history of California as well as of the geology of the San Andreas Fault, Iceland, Missouri, Indonesia... s you can see, at times it _does_ get a little much. Winchester loves to amble through all these events at his own pace, but the result is a book that often reads as if it were hardly edited. His prose leaps about with weak transitions (along the lines of "As we have seen earlier," "And this brings us to Enrico Caruso," "And this is not the first time he shall appear in these pages, as we shall see," etc.) and seems as irruptive and eruptive as the events he chronicles; his intriguing and edifying narrative would have surely benefited from more studied editing and more careful organization. There's a wonderful book buried in here, but as with some of Winchester's earlier books this seems rushed and undigested.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Peter Durfee on January 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I think this guy is one of the better nonfiction writers out there now. His "The Professor and the Madman" and "Krakatoa" and "The Map that Changed the World" are all fantastically entertaining and informative reads. "Crack," however, is his worst outing that I've read . . . It's a sprawling, chatty work that covers vast quantities of information in that peculiar voice that says "I'm really successful and can override my editors now."

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.
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