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Favorite Disaster Books

E. A. Lovitt "starmoth"
The list author says: "No matter how much or vehemently we may deny it, we have always been fascinated by natural and man-made fatalities and disasters. The unpredictablity of natural disasters serve to drive us out of our normally complacent view of life, and sometimes force us to change our own lives, hopefully for the better. These are my favorite books on this topic."
F5:  Devastation, Survival, and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the 20th Century
F5: Devastation, Survival, and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the 20th Century
"Riveting, atmospheric narrative of the 1974 tornado outbreak, one of the worst in U.S. history.  Here's what it is like to actually be swept up into the deadly embrace of an F4 or F5 tornado."
Island in a Storm: A Rising Sea, a Vanishing Coast, and a Nineteenth-Century Disaster that Warns of a Warmer World
Island in a Storm: A Rising Sea, a Vanishing Coast, and a Nineteenth-Century Disaster that Warns of a Warmer World
"The sense of impending doom was so vivid that I had to stop reading this book before bedtime because it wouldn’t let me sleep.  The details of the survivors’ narratives are disturbing and unforgettable, including a father who tears his drowning daughter’s arms from around his neck so that he can live."
Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938
Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938
"According to the author, no one could have been prepared for the 1938 hurricane's speed and ferocity. Sweeping northward from Cape Hatteras, building tremendous momentum as it advanced, the storm raced over six hundred miles in only twelve hours.  Another good book about the 'Long Island Express.'"
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded
"Simon Winchester writes about the 1883 explosion from every conceivable angle."
Category 5: The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane
Category 5: The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane
"The author really comes into stride when he draws from eye-witness accounts to describe the horrors that survivors had to endure, both during and after the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane in the Floriday Keys."
Wave of Destruction: The Stories of Four Families and History's Deadliest Tsunami
Wave of Destruction: The Stories of Four Families and History's Deadliest Tsunami
"A compelling account of four families in a Thai village devastated by the tsunami of December 26, 2004.  This is what it was like to actually live through the tsunami."
Category 5: The Story of Camille, Lessons Unlearned from America's Most Violent Hurricane
Category 5: The Story of Camille, Lessons Unlearned from America's Most Violent Hurricane
"This book captures both the science and the human anguish generated by this major hurricane.  The authors track some of the survivors into the new Millennium, where the storm is still affecting their lives and their sleep."
Roar of the Heavens
Roar of the Heavens
"Intense mixture of survivors' stories and riveting meteorological description.  The account of the devastating floods in the rural mountains of Virginia is especially powerful."
The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 (Great Historic Disasters)
The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 (Great Historic Disasters)
"This book covers the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004 at both a macro and micro level, and succeeds in all respects.  I was impressed with how much information the author was able to pack into a 127-page book meant for pre-teens, and still maintain a lucid and interesting narrative thread."
A Weekend in September
A Weekend in September
"Galveston Hurricane story now in its Seventh Printing"
The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
"History professor writes eye-witness account of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation of the Gulf Coast."
Isaac's Storm : A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
Isaac's Storm : A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
"the hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas a little over 100 years ago"
Natural Disasters and How We Cope with Them
Natural Disasters and How We Cope with Them
"Published in 2006, this large book contains the worst disasters of the new millennium as well as historical natural disasters.  The biggest and best disaster book with the most color photographs."
The great international disaster book
The great international disaster book
"A good smorgasbord to get you started.  Excellent bibliography."
1 Dead in Attic
1 Dead in Attic
"Survivor accounts of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans."
A Wind to Shake the World: The Story of the 1938 Hurricane
A Wind to Shake the World: The Story of the 1938 Hurricane
"A deadly hurricane called 'The Long Island Express' told by an ex-reporter who experienced it.  Vivid, dramatic survivor accounts."
The Earth Shook Sky Burned: A Photographic Record of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
The Earth Shook Sky Burned: A Photographic Record of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
"An engrossing account of the 1906 'Frisco Earthquake.  Good photos"
Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World
Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World
"Every science from dendrochronology to the study of glacial ice cores is cited by the author to support his contention that a massive eruption of Krakatoa caused the darkening of the sun and the ensuing climatic catastrophes of the sixth-century A.D.  A fascinating history."
The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance
The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance
"humanity's losing war against its deadliest enemies"
Rats, Lice, and History
Rats, Lice, and History
"grumpily discursive, masterfully written, and ultimately profound biography of typhus fever"
Volcanoes
Volcanoes
"Some say the Earth will end in fire"
Virus X: Tracking the New Killer Plagues
Virus X: Tracking the New Killer Plagues
"Newly emerging viruses, and the possibility of our extinction.  Scary!"
The Greatest Disaster Stories Ever Told: Seventeen Harrowing Tales
The Greatest Disaster Stories Ever Told: Seventeen Harrowing Tales
"not a good book for those of us who like to read about catastrophes from a comfortable psychological distance."
Ghosts of Vesuvius: A New Look at the Last Days of Pompeii, How Towers Fall, and Other Strange Connections
Ghosts of Vesuvius: A New Look at the Last Days of Pompeii, How Towers Fall, and Other Strange Connections
"This book is about large-scale human tragedies, including the eruption of Thera and its annihilation of Minoan civilization, the eruption of Vesuvius and the burial of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the sinking of the Titanic, and the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 09/11/2001."
La Catastrophe: Mount Pelée and the Destruction of Saint-Pierre, Martinique (Montagne Pelee and the Destruction of the Saint-Pierre, Mart)
La Catastrophe: Mount Pelée and the Destruction of Saint-Pierre, Martinique (Montagne Pelee and the Destruction of the Saint-Pierre, Mart)
"The volcano Mount Pelee, on the Caribbean island of Martinique did not behave according to scientific expectations. Almost 27,000 people died on the morning of May 8, 1902 because, according to this book's author, no one had ever heard of a nuee ardente (pyroclastic flow) until after the destruction of Saint-Pierre."
Apocalypse
Apocalypse
"Professor McGuire was one of our earliest scientific prophets of world-wide disaster.  This book was published in 1999, and in it he concentrates on four catastrophes that could change our lives (or eliminate them, altogether) in the near future.  He discusses the science and history behind each scenario, then uses his imagination to tell a story about a future occurrence:"
Dreadful Visitations: Confronting Natural Catastrophe in the Age of Enlightenment
Dreadful Visitations: Confronting Natural Catastrophe in the Age of Enlightenment
"Throughout history, varying responses to catastrophe have revealed much about a society's cultural and philosophical character.  These essays concern the philosophers of the Enlightenment such as Voltaire and his reaction to the Great Lisbon Earthquake."
Perils of a Restless Planet: Scientific Perspectives on Natural Disasters
Perils of a Restless Planet: Scientific Perspectives on Natural Disasters
"There's lots of physics (and some biology, archeology, and sociology) in 'Perils' but it is all very clear and palatable. In fact, this book would make a good overview of science for high school students. It's got stories of volcanoes, plagues, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, asteroids, and poisonous lakes to hold the students' interest."
Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America
Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America
"The river that weaves through the story is of course, the Mississippi, and the author begins in the mid-1800s up through the great flood of 1927, and a few years beyond.  He has some astounding history to tell us."
No One Had a Tongue to Speak: The Untold Story of One of History's Deadliest Floods
No One Had a Tongue to Speak: The Untold Story of One of History's Deadliest Floods
"Estimates of the number of dead from the 1979 Machhu dam break range from 1500 to 15000 people, but the focus of this book is quite rightly on the survivors. This devastating account of the 1979 dam collapse in Gujarat dwells within the context of the social history of 20th century India."
The Johnstown Flood
The Johnstown Flood
"David McCullough firmly embeds his devastating account of the Johnstown Flood in the social history of late 19th century America. He does a very good job in building up to the book's compelling climax, and when the dam above Johnstown finally gives way, you will already be on the edge of your reading chair."
Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America's Deadliest Rock Concert
Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America's Deadliest Rock Concert
"This is a horrifying, riveting true-crime book about The Station nightclub fire that will make you mad and sad, all the while teaching you how our legal system deals with crimes of stupidity, negligence and greed."
Waking the Giant: How a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes
Waking the Giant: How a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes
"The ultimate disaster book.  The author does not rehash arguments for and against the reality of climate change.  He assumes anthropogenic climate change is a fact and moves on to detail our vulnerability to the geological manifestations caused by the rapid warming of our planet.  Very scary."
In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made
In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made
"Of all the books I've read recently, "In the Wake of the Plague" had the most power to place me in the middle of the action--in this case, in fourteenth-century England.  In a sense, the experience was like watching a vivid, rather depressing movie where all of the main characters died of the plague."
Devastation! The World's Worst Natural Disasters
Devastation! The World's Worst Natural Disasters
"This is a chaotically organized book, but easy and fun to read.  You might at least want to find it in the oversized books section of your library and browse through the photographs."
Mt. St. Helens: The Volcano Explodes!
Mt. St. Helens: The Volcano Explodes!
"This book was published in 1980, the same year Mount St. Helens erupted with such catastrophic force.  Geology Professor Leonard Palmer flew into the devastated area the following day and kept a journal of what he discovered."
Storm (Planet Earth)
Storm (Planet Earth)
"Not only is this 1982 Time-Life ‘Planet Earth’ book a good, concise history of weather forecasting, it also contains descriptions, photographs and diagrams of some of the most fearsome hurricanes, typhoons, blizzards, and tornadoes to have plagued the 20th Century. This is still one of the best introductions to meteorology I have read."
Freaky Facts about Natural Disasters
Freaky Facts about Natural Disasters
"This YA (Grades 8 - 12) book covers tornadoes, blizzards, floods, thunderstorms, droughts, and hurricanes.  Each chapter starts out with an 'imagine this' which puts the reader into the scene.  It is well worth reading, if you ignore some of dumbed-down language and the plethora of exclamation points."
The Orphan Tsunami of 1700: Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America
The Orphan Tsunami of 1700: Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America
"A fascinating glimpse of the research that has been done on an earthquake that struck the Northwest coast of America in 1700.  This isn't an extended narrative, but a collection of photographs, diagrams and (mainly Japanese) reports on the earthquake and resulting tsunami."
FAMOUS DISASTERS (National Enquirer)
FAMOUS DISASTERS (National Enquirer)
"This Pocket book is fun to read but the authors, who originally published these stories in the 'National Enquirer' don't always quote their sources, so it is difficult to know whether to believe some of the material, especially when it involves flying saucers, ESP, or people with supernormal hearing, who can predict earthquakes and volcanoes."