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The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why Paperback – June 16, 2009
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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.
—The New York Times
“The thinking person’s manual for getting out alive.”
"Ripley is a voyeur on a mission...Her conviction: We’d all stand a better chance of surviving a disaster if we understood what happens to our little gray cells when things get ugly....Spiced with surprising factoids, this book might save your life one day.”
“The Unthinkable is part study of the science of reaction to extreme fear, part indictment of the US government’s response to the terrorist threat, part call to arms....The end result is a fascinating book....Despite its title and its subject matter, The Unthinkable is an optimistic…
—The Times of London
“Engrossing and lucid...An absorbing study of the psychology and physiology of panic, heroism, and trauma...Facing the truth about the human capacity for risk and disaster turns out to be a lot less scary than staying in the dark.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
"This is a book with a purpose, meant to change things."
—Rob Hardy, The Commercial Dispatch
“Amanda Ripley takes us on a sometimes stunning, sometimes sobering journey through disaster, using great stories and respected science to show why some prevail and others do not. The Unthinkable isn’t merely a book about disaster; it’s a book about survival — maybe yours.”
——Gavin de Becker, author of the New York Times bestseller The Gift of Fear
“With The Unthinkable, Amanda Ripley succeeds in two different ways. First, she covers, with great clarity and accuracy, the science of how the body and mind respond to crisis. In the process, she prescribes certain actions that will increase the chances of surviving a disaster. But it’s the second aspect, the stories, that makes the book so compelling. These tales leave your viscera enflamed because they compel two questions: ‘What would it feel like to go through that?’ and ‘Would I do the right thing and survive?’ This is an irresistible book.”
—Robert M. Sapolsky, John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University
“The Unthinkable is the most magnificent account of a survivor’s mind that I have ever read. It has helped me know and accept some of my reactions during my 72 day ordeal in the Andes. I can now understand how fear motivated me, and how denial also played a part. This book will help those who’ve never faced disaster to understand their own behavior and be prepared should their luck run out one day.”
—Nando Parrado, New York Times bestselling author of Miracle in the Andes
“The Unthinkable reveals why, under the same circumstances, some people caught up in a disaster survive and others do not. Why some are hopelessly immobilized by fear and crippled by panic, and others are filled with strength, endurance, reactions and the other intrinsic stuff of which Homeric heroes are made. How can we ensure which we will be? In her well-crafted prose, Amanda Ripley shows us all how to prepare to meet danger and increase our chances of surviving the unthinkable.”
—Bruce Henderson, New York Times bestselling author of Down to the Sea and True North
“When a disaster occurs we invariably learn the "what" of the event -- how many died, how many survived. Amanda Ripley’s riveting The Unthinkable provides genuine insight into the "why" behind the numbers. This remarkable book will not only change your life, it could very well save it.”
—Gregg Olsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Deep Dark: Disaster and Redemption in America’s Richest Silver Mine
“Ever fantasize about what you would do in a disaster? How would you survive? How would you behave? After interviewing survivors of the World Trade Center attack, Amanda Ripley sifted through amazing tales of survivors from other disasters and mined various sociological, psychological, and neurological studies. Her insights are absolutely fascinating, and they could come in handy one day.”
——Walter Isaacson, author of the New York Times bestsellers Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: A Life, and Vice-Chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority
"Rich in information about the subconscious ways we face danger. In the event that someday you face a sudden life or death situation, reading this book will increase the odds that the outcome will be life."
——David Ropeik, author of Risk!: A Practical Guide for Deciding What’s Really Safe and What’s Really Dangerous in the World Around You
“Reading The Unthinkable will be life-changing. We live in an age of anxiety that has too many of us rocked back on our heels. Once you’ve feasted on the rich insights and wisdom of this remarkable book, you’ll be standing tall again. While our politicians and media have been keen to exploit and fan our worst fears, Amanda Ripley makes clear that individually and collectively we can meet head-on the hazards that periodically befall us. We need not be afraid!”
——Stephen Flynn, Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, and author of The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation
“The Unthinkable is a fascinating, in-depth look at human behavior under extreme pressure. Its gut-wrenching stories span the full spectrum of action under duress, from panic to heroism. Not only is this book fast-paced and engrossing, it’s illuminating.”
——Michael Tougias, author of Fatal Forecast: An Icredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea
“Amanda Ripley has written a smart, poignant account about the dramas of the existential moment in this new century. She is a provocative voice of a new generation of writers and thinkers whose grasp of daily events and global disaster is piquant, engrossing, and syncretic. Above all, she makes sense of life today in an entirely entertaining and accessible way-- all with a brimming dollop of optimism. If you ever wondered, ‘What would I do if the unthinkable happened to me,’ you hold the answer in your hands.”
—Doug Stanton, author of the New York Times bestseller In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors
"A must read. We need books like this to help us understand the world in which we live.”
—Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author The Black Swan and Fooled By Randomness
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
She has often translated the hopefulness in her studies into practical lessons. This is a book with a purpose, meant to change things. Panic might have been present in a small number of cases at the World Trade Center, but Ripley quotes a researcher who found that workers in the towers did the same thing that others in disasters do: "What is regularly observed is a lethargic response. People are often cool during fires, ignoring or delaying their response.Read more ›
I wish that I could give this book six stars; it is not just an outstanding book, but its usefulness in today's times is unparalleled. It is a book about what our brains do during disasters and how we react as unpredictable individuals, which is something that science and technology do not always take into consideration.
It is not dry or dull like some books about "emergency preparedness" or "crisis management" that are more like texts or reference books. No, this is a nonfiction thriller told through fascinating stories of actual disasters in which exactly how our brains react is illustrated. It's a book about behavior, especially the behavior of regular, ordinary people, who are actually the most important people when a disaster strikes (and you'll find out why).
For example, the book doesn't just detail what to do when a tsunami strikes, or when a hurricane warning is issued, but how you will be thinking differently, how you may be confused, what brain-related problems you might have---like paralysis, temporary blindness, an apparent slowing down of time, tunnel vision, etc.
What makes some people resilient and why do they do so much better than others? The author explores this. How do groups react in a crisis? How do we process risk? Have you ever wondered why people don't evacuate when there is a disaster warning? Again, you'll find many of these answers explored here.
The author interviewed survivors of many different types of disasters (e.g., bombings, 9/11, crowd crushes, airplane fires, nightclub fires, and so many more) and THIS is what THEY wanted us to know; there were so many commonalities across the different crisis scenarios, but the survivors had no way of sharing these commonalities and principles with the general public.Read more ›
Although we can not know with certainty until faced with disaster, this book gives clues about how and why we humans react to the "unthinkable": disasters such as plane crashes, fires, tsunamis, and terrorist attacks, as well as smaller-scale crises, such as automobile accidents.
Some disasters are not survivable. This book, though, explores why some people survive while others perish in the same circumstances, and describes the behaviors and choices that cause many to die needlessly.
"The Unthinkable" describes disasters that cumulatively resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives; however, it is not a morbid tale of death, but an inspiring story of humans responding and adapting to situations and saving their own lives or the lives of those around them.
The key lesson to take from this book is the need to be prepared. Those who anticipate possible disaster and know what to do and how to do it are more confident if and when the disaster occurs. We can not prepare for every possible type of danger, but simple things such as learning where the exits are when in an unfamiliar place can mean the difference between surviving or not.
After reading "The Unthinkable," my thinking about what it means to be prepared for disaster has changed. For example, I probably pay more attention to things such as airline safety videos than the average passenger, but on future flights I will spend more time really learning my surroundings, such as counting the rows to the nearest exits.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Has a decent amount of practical advice but the author pegs too much on evolutionary theory, which I think gets in the way of her otherwise helpful message. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Ralph Landon
"The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why", shows that people don’t always react the way you’d expect, but that you can train yourself to improve your... Read morePublished 11 days ago by Chuckur
This book was super interesting. It's striking to think that people don't always act the way that they are expected to in emergency situations, so it's informative to learn how... Read morePublished 14 days ago by Cory Kinne
This is a MUST-READ for all of us. The information that is brought to life is definitely useful for helping anyone to survive any disaster. Read morePublished 27 days ago by England
Very interesting and informative . A must read not just for " Preppers " but for all citizens of the world.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
It is sort of cerebral and a bit dry. It felt academic in nature but if you live in a city it's probably worth reading.Published 1 month ago by Karla
This is an amazing book. I'm not usually into this type of thing but this book is captivating, simple to follow and really helps the "laymen" learn about the importance of... Read morePublished 2 months ago by terilynn railey