- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 7, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 039324279X
- ISBN-13: 978-0393242799
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 183 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens 1st Edition
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An Amazon Best Book of March 2016: In 1980, more than a thousand feet disappeared from the top of Mt. St Helens in a moment of stunning power, decapitating the mountain and leveling miles of old growth forest in a shockwave of boiling ash. 57 lives we lost within minutes, and yet the disaster didn't come without warning: the prior two months saw the volcano awaken in a series of earthquakes, ash plumes, and a massive, growing bulge on the north face looming ominously over Spirit Lake and the valleys below. Why was anyone there at all? Steve Olson's Eruption examines the forces at work--volcanic, economic, political, and historical--to tell a story at both geologic and human scales, documenting in thrilling fashion the demise of an iconic landscape as well as those who witnessed it: who they were, why they were there, and what they experienced when the earth opened and the sky fell. --Jon Foro
“As Steve Olson reminds us in his vividly reported new history . . . what happened on May 18, 1980, in the primordial thickets of the Pacific Northwest, was an enormous, multi-faceted event. . . This engaging book maneuvers deftly along the way toward impact.”
- Mark Damsker, USA Today
“Olson intercuts stories of victims including David Johnston, the volcanologist who was monitoring the explosion, with an account of its impact on science―such as popularizing the use of lidar. With 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide, this is an urgent reminder of the need for advances in the field.”
“In Mr. Olson’s telling, [the survivors’] stories read like urgent fiction….These vignettes lend a human face to an event that has become associated largely with geology.”
- Michael O'Donnell, Wall Street Journal
“In his evocative and convincing new book, author Steve Olson reveals that the eruption―the most powerful natural disaster to ever strike the US―is much more than a horror show.…He has a bigger picture in mind, one of the eruption’s role as a touchstone for an evolving society and natural world.”
- Randy Dotinga, Christian Science Monitor
“Olson brings cinematic structure to descriptions of the events surrounding the eruption of Mount St. Helens….[A] detailed and human-centered look at a terrible disaster.”
- Publisher's Weekly
“A first-class, meticulously crafted piece of reportage that is as exciting as it is informative―and will long stand as a classic of descriptive narrative of the biggest American volcanic eruption of all our lifetimes―or so we all hope!”
- Simon Winchester, author of Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded
“Olson and his truly groundbreaking Eruption join a rarefied pantheon, where readers can come to understand the most dramatic geological event of our time. This book, as welcome as it is amazing in the depth of its background and the strength of its storytelling, will stand as a stirring and stilling accomplishment.”
- Robert Michael Pyle, author of Wintergreen: Rambles in a Ravaged Land and Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide
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~Excitement to read it. I visited the remains of Mt. St. Helens when I was 9. I periodically love volcanoes.
~Frustration. Over 50 of the first 139 pages are backstory on the Weyerhaeuser family/company for the past 100 years, and the very in-depth history of the forest service. Both could have been done in 5 or 10 imo)
~Incredulity. The mountain developed a rapidly (and constantly) growing bulge on its side for weeks leading up to the explosion but very few seemed to recognize the severity or significance of this... Olson put it best in regards to lessons learned at Mt. St. Helens: "No one will ever again blithely and knowingly watch the side of a volcano bulge out like a balloon ready to pop and expect to outrun the ensuing catastrophe." -p232
~Suspense. Olson took the timeline back and forth, both within the almost 2 months of activity leading up to the eruption and the personal stories of some of those affected by the blast.
~Impatience. Olson took the timeline back and forth A LOT in the first half of the book.
~Suspense (again) and mounting dread. He started referring to certain people in the past tense, and as I had not memorized the list of those who died before reading this the deaths and survivals were genuinely surprising to me.
*giggle*"'It was like going to the land of Mordor,' said one logger." -p203
~Validation. Take that, loggers! Clearly leaving the downed trees where they lay would result in faster recovery/renewal of the scorched surroundings! I kind of wanted to shout at the corporate interests in their haste to "not waste" the trees to rot. Not-at-all-shockingly, "The habitats that have recovered fastest are those that were left in disarray." -237
About halfway through I was also kind of overwhelmed with just pure interest in the story and enjoyment of Olson's writing. I felt that wonderful compulsion to keep reading and ignore everything else to see how it all turns out (spoiler alert, the volcano explodes).
Olson does a great job of creating a compelling narrative around this recent historical event and I really liked the book, learned a lot about volcanoes (now I want to be a volcanologist), and came to care for some of the real people highlighted in the personal stories. He blends political maneuvering, history and a natural disaster, personal stories, conservation hot-topics, and individual family histories and creates a genuinely enjoyable read. I have been talking about this book with my friends and family far more than I expected.
Because I can't just be happy, if I had to give one more very minor complaint (which doesn't really count as a complaint, but more a back-handed compliment) it is that it did not contain more stories about the people who were near the mountain, both the survivors and those who died. Olson does such a fantastic job with most of those he does include that I found myself wanting to know more. Along those same lines, I would have loved to have the end of the book provide more information about those who survived and their lives since. I know not everyone will want to share any of that (I can't begin to imagine how traumatic that was), but as a reader I am sorry Eruption did not include at least footnotes on more of the people it focused on in the earlier parts of the books.
Most impressively, he somehow created a text about a volcano that is both informative and accessible --something that I have recently (today) discovered to be VERY rare.
I received an advance copy of this book as part of the Goodreads Giveaways program.
The book, aside from its dramatic re-telling of the events leading up the blast, and its aftermath, is very relevant for today. It provides insight and perspective on land use and the economic issues surrounding the blast.
If you read the Wikipedia entry on Mount St. Helens, it makes it seem as if government did a lot to protect lives. But this book provides an entirely different accounting and is very critical of the state government's response. It illustrates the tensions between big business and government over access restrictions. He explains -- in a very compelling way -- how the death toll could have been substantially higher had it not been for the timing of the volcano blast. Fundamentally, this is a story about hubris.
You can apply to response to the volcano's threat to response the leadership makes today to all kinds of threats. Climate change, in particular, came to mind.
The land use history and the Washington politics around it foreshadows the strident arguments being made out West today.
The history of Weyerhaeuser at the start of the book runs, perhaps, a bit long but it's easy enough to read quickly through it to get the heart of the story. And the heart of the story is a very, very good read.