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Showing 1-10 of 914 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,306 reviews
on September 24, 2016
I don't need to repeat the story-line here as other reviewers have done so. All I can add is that this book, especially when it gets to the storm itself and its incredible impact, held me spellbound. Larson is brilliant at presenting history as it can be: remarkable stories that are not a long list of "name/place/date" but an exploration of situation, connections, character, emotion, outcomes - fact, not fiction, with sources noted, of course - that draw one in and keep one immersed through to end. After reading a "history" by another author (different subject entirely) I longed for Larson's exploration of same, knowing that I would care more, remember more, and understand the connections that drive events more than the endless drivel of who begat whom, etc.(often only good for source material, it seems). Imagine what Larson's writings on the French Revolution, St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, the Boer War - oh, anything - would be. He takes an event and builds the world around that event - and one leaves his arena with a deeper understanding of the world he explores than few others can or do provide.
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on February 7, 2017
Erik Larsen has been a ranking author on my Kindle for some time now. He typically writes about events which are just beyond the reach of living memory but have not yet been permanently trapped in the sometimes distorting amber of history. To do so, he recounts the experiences of ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances, with particular attention to their persistent belief that this cannot possibly be happening to them. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was just such an event, and Mr. Larsen traces its progress from the viewpoint of those in its path with almost loving care. Isaac Cline was Head of the Texas Section of the new U. S. Weather Bureau, headquartered in Galveston, and Mr. Larsen devotes considerable space at the beginning to the political problems of the Bureau, as well as to the painfully limited technology for prediction it had at its disposal. The contrast to the satellite-based flood of data it processes today is stark. The one criticism I would make of the book as a whole is the scarcity and indistinctness of the maps provided; a common characteristic of the Kindle format. Otherwise, it is a wild read.
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on September 26, 2014
“Galveston became Atlantis.”

If you enjoy non-fiction, you need to read Erik Larson’s books.

If you don’t enjoy non-fiction, you need to read Erik Larson’s books. :)

But for real internet, he is one author who can turn anyone into a non-fiction reader. Not only because he’s an excellent and engaging writer, but he writes about historical episodes that are completely fascinating, like my book club’s recent read: Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History.

Knowing Texas as it is in 2014, it’s pretty mind-boggling to think at one point in history Galveston was battling Houston for first place in, well, anything. It truly put in perspective what a devastating storm can do to alter history.

“If there were a Pulitzer for bleak irony, however, it would go to the News for its Saturday-morning report on one of the most important local stories of the year—the Galveston count of the 1900 U.S. census, which the newspaper had first announced on Friday. The news was excellent: Over the last decade of the nineteenth century, the city’s population had increased by 29.93 percent, the highest growth rate of any southern city counted so far.”

The first half gives a lot of background. From the history of hurricanes to the cities involved, the background and history lay a solid foundation not only of the characters, but how weather forecasting was handled in different parts of the world. I wasn’t expecting that much background, but it gives a more broader understanding of how big this storm was and the rippling effects.

When the book began to dive into that fateful day of the hurricane, I couldn't put the book down. It’s an intense tale to read, but I found I couldn’t pull myself away from the pages.

Dealing with a natural disaster is going to bring gut-wrenching facts (I did have to stop reading for a while after the part about the destruction of an orphanage and the lives lost, i.e. kids), but even with painful truths of the story, Larson is able to deliver without being overwhelming or too descriptive. It’s no easy task, but one he has mastered.

I couldn’t help but wonder why did people stay? If water is filling up and reaching my steps…y’all I’m out! This story (and people’s stubbornness, pride, fear, whatever), is another fascinating aspect of the book. It’s just sad to think that it caused many people their lives.

I think I like In the Garden of Beasts a bit more, but it’s a close one. Both are intriguing stories and written fantastically.

Anyone else a Larson fan? I’m so excited he has a new book coming out soon!! Are you a big non-fiction reader?

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on January 6, 2016
For a book that was written by a meteorologist about a meteorologist, I was nervous that it might be a tad dry. To the contrary, I found the book to be full of intrigue and had no idea all the other plots going on (from international/federal, to cities, to brothers) that all contribute to everything going wrong in every possible way, to be the biggest blunder related to a natural disaster that the United States has ever experienced.

Having grown up just north of Galveston, I was also surprised to read about some of the landmarks and learn little factoids I'd never heard in all my years of living near (visiting) Galveston. Such as the Strand (old main street in the historic district) having wooden cobblestone. Anybody from that area is probably savvy to how quickly wood rots down there, even marine treated wood....and I've never heard of streets like that anywhere, which are 15 feet under modern day streets of Galveston.

Some of the stories are very vivid and can provoke nightmares (as I experienced in my early days reading about first hand accounts on the Titanic). This book would easily make a blockbuster film (Sean Astin had pursued producing it, but seems like it fell on the floor) and has been only made into a documentary on the History channel (if I recall correctly). Drama and Heroics and the awesome power of nature sum up this well written book.
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on August 1, 2015
This book is astonishing.

The truth be known I was not surprised at the total egotistic attitudes of the men who ran the world in 1900.

I was not shocked by the lies to cover up misdeeds that caused thousands to die.

The elitist mind set of men in power at that time is no different than today where white men think their opinions of themselves are more important than doing their jobs properly and without prejudice.

Thinking men or color are inferior intellectually to them and disregarding information because of that bigotry killed thousands of men, women and children who would not have died if egotism was disregarded instead of correct information.

Just proves today that nothing is new under the son.

Anyone who is interested in injustice, storms, weather, history etc., will not be able to put this book down. I loved it.
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on August 3, 2015
A Review by Anthony T. Riggio of “Issac's Storm” by Erik Larson, 8-3-15

I have read most of Larson's books on historical events and have never been disappointed. Issac's Storm brought home to me the destructive power of a hurricane and the fact that we are blessed today by superb forecasting technology and tracking of storms. Living by the Gulf of Mexico, I am always anxious when a storm of any kind, is forecasted by the National weather services, and our local weather people. I have lived through several category 1 storms. I built my house to withstand up to a category 4 storm and possibly a category 5. I would not sit out a storm forecasted at a 2 or higher.

In the case of Issac's storm in 1900, that hit Galveston, Texas, it was estimated to be close to a category 5. at that time the National Weather Service was a budding and infant service dependent on oral relays of information from ships at sea or island in the Caribbean, specifically Cuba and other smaller Islands. Ship to shore telegraph was still too new to be of help leaving word of mouth by the sea captains. once information was obtained about a gathering storm, appropriate warnings were supposed to be communicated to the residents of the probable impact sites.

Unfortunately, politics always comes into play especially with a budding service whose reputation was at risk and its confidence by the public and the need for funding. The National Weather Service had weather reporting stations at storm vulnerable locations throughout the United States and representatives were constantly communicating barometric, temperature and wind calculations to the Weather Service's headquarters in Washington. Because of both politics and funding issues the word "hurricane" was forbidden to be communicated because of the variable shifts in weather fronts.

Forecasting was more of an art than a scientific prediction. The weather chief in Galveston was both and educated weather person as well as being a physician. His name was Issac Cline and he sensed the coming storm but was on delicate territory in expressing the need for greater danger to the residents of Galveston whose topography was only about five feet above sea level and while local politicians talked about a sea wall because of previous storms, the idea was put into a bureaucratic filing drawer.

Erik Larson lays out a compelling story based on his usual and extensive research and puts the reader into the minds of the characters in the book, which were all real people. The reader will feel the growing tensions of the arriving storm and feel the wind, rain and flood of
Galveston. The reader will feel pity for Issac Cline and disgust for his bosses in Washington DC.

Normally because of our up to the minute forecasting and tracking of hurricanes we feel great comfort and have the time and ability to prepare and evacuate if necessary. The number of casualties and deaths as described by Larson are shocking and good and bad of humanity is clearly demonstrated. l

In those days they did not "name" storms and I suppose the author named it Issac's storm because of his responsibility as a employee of the National Weather Bureau and the amount of personal blame that would be open to public criticism. The book was well written and I highly recommend it to those who enjoy history presented, as Larson so skillfully does in each of his works. I do not hesitate to award five stars to this work.
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on June 18, 2015
Erik Larson is a superb author of books that tel the story, even the mysteries, about events in the last 100 years or so. You'll need to get a copy of each book. I think this book could be my favorite among of Larson's embarrassment of riches. The book describes Isaac, a former member of the signal corps as were his colleagues who became forecasters in the newly-mint weather service. The leaders of this service are attempting to prove the importance of weather forecasting in the era of one man-one barometer, wires along railroad routes, and a finger in the air. Forecasting demands experience and thinking and recognizing recurring patterns of wind or current or rain or whatever is available--recognized by an individual--to forecast events like a hurricane. Not what the weather service appreciated. The Galveston hurricane was bearing down on a large, boom-town standing at sea level, but without natural or man-made barriers (dubious value anyway). The government men manifested great arrogance in the face of very little knowledge or insight, eventually saying a minor hurricane would move up the East coast. Moreover, they discounted and ultimately shut down the Cubans who had lots of experience with hurricanes and had men who spent their lives figuring out if a hurricane was coming, timing, severity...The US weather administration had no use for Hispanics, especially when some of the Cuban scientists were Catholic The latter part of the book describes the hurricane and its aftermath on Galveston---including losing its position of superiority over Houston. My conclusion? IF a hurricane approaches, grab the children/family, pets and personable values and go. This is really interesting about hurricanes, arrogance combined with ignorance, and weather prediction not very long ago.
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on August 2, 2016
Isaac’s Storm is a detailed account of a massive hurricane that struck the coast of Texas in September 1900. The storm wreaked havoc across a wide swath of the country but devastated one city in particular. In Larson’s words, “Galveston became Atlantis.”

The deadliest hurricane in history?

The book’s subtitle refers to the unnamed storm as “the Deadliest Hurricane in History,” but that’s far from true. Individual cyclones (simply another name for hurricanes) that have struck the coast of Bengal and Orissa in northeastern India (and now Bangladesh) have killed as many as 100,000 people. Several have felled tens of thousands in modern history. The storm that virtually destroyed Galveston in 1900 caused fewer than 10,000 deaths (probably no more than 8,000). In truth, then, “Isaac’s storm” was the deadliest only in US history. But publishers have a way of dramatizing books’ content with sensational titles. Clearly, they sell more books that way.

Galveston today is a city of fewer than 50,000 inhabitants, but in 1900 it “stood on the verge of greatness. If things continued as they were, Galveston would soon achieve the stature of New Orleans, Baltimore, or San Francisco. . . [T]hey were in a winner-take-all race against Houston, just fifty miles to the north.”

Who was Isaac, and why was it his storm?

The Isaac of the title was Dr. Isaac M. Cline, the chief weatherman in Texas. He was also a physician specializing in the effects of weather on human health. Isaac had risen through the ranks of the Weather Service because he had proved to be one of the most diligent and perceptive forecasters in the bureau. In the years following the Galveston hurricane, Isaac spoke and wrote widely about having saved thousands of lives by warning of the danger before the most destructive waves hit the city. In fact, as Larson makes clear, he did no such thing. However, he had indeed perceived that a storm was coming, and even defied orders from Washington to spread the word. Unfortunately, he had no clue that the storm was a hurricane that would blast through Galveston with sustained winds of 180 miles per hour and gusting to more than 200 miles per hour.

In Isaac’s Storm, Larson skillfully intersperses a sketch of Isaac’s life with a detailed portrait of the hurricane. Originating in Western Africa and making its way across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, the storm had gathered such force that Cuban meteorologists identified it as a hurricane shortly after it arrived in the region. Sadly, the director of the US Weather Service was a racist and obsessed with control, and he had prevented the Cuban forecast from being transmitted because he thought the Cubans inferior. Later, the director went even further, refusing to acknowledge Isaac’s warnings about the coming storm. (In years afterward, the director shamelessly claimed loudly and often that he had actually issued warnings about the devastating storm.)

About the author

Erik Larson is unquestionably one of the most talented and accomplished nonfiction authors at work in the US today. He is probably best known for his runaway bestseller, The Devil in the White City, which won numerous awards, including an Edgar in 2004.
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on April 24, 2015
This is 16 years old book and in my opinion not as good as Larson's bestseller about sinking Lusitania. Larson calls Isaac a 'history little man' and he actually LOOKS like a little man (not because of his size but because of his looks).

I lived nine years in Fort Lauderdale during many hurricane seasons (1996 - 2005). The forecasters were much more careful and they had a valuable tool: satellite images. The satellite images were frequently very impressive but did not help much with prediction of hurricane landfalls but showing real time images, they depicted their images.

Hurricane experts, as the author mentions, still have to deal with probabilities, not certainties. Theory of chaotic events is still very rudimentary.

I have been living now in California since 2005 and I happily forgot many details. There are no hurricanes here, we have only fires and earthquakes, the latter being almost completely unpredictable.

The case of Cuban forecasters in 1900 is quite fascinating. They guessed the path of the 1900 hurricane much better than Americans, just like Columbus who saved his ship hundreds of years ago.

I remember that the State of Florida was ready to order mandatory evacuation prior to a possible landfall of a hurricane - it is still, actually, the only way how to save lives. The site of the landfall and the category of the hurricane (1 to 5, I think) can be predicted only for some 10 - 30 hours in advance. Chaos, in other words...

Recommended to readers who want to read rather horrendous stories that actually took place about 115 years ago. Three stars.
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on August 8, 2015
Erci Larson has an ability to take a part of history and make it completely real and engaging, even though he has clearly spent time researching and wants you to know the details (which some people would fine boring). This 'one is about the devastatiing storm that essentially wipes most of Galveston off the map. The back story is really about how hard people (and one in particular) worked with very little information trying to predict this terrible weather event 1900. Like most meterologists (and there weren't any then), no one wanted to believe him because the weather up to that time was quite nice and the storm came on quickly winds reaching 145 miles per hour. Approximately 8,000 people died in this, the largest natural disaster in US history.

I look forward to any of his books, but particularly recommend "Devil In White City" about the Columbia World Exhibition in Chicago, and the amazing inventions that it spawned. At the same time there was a serial murderer loose in the city and the juxtaposition is very intriguing. I could not put either of these books down. They both read like you are there. Go get both!
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