When I was in high school I thought that history was a very dull, dry subject. Memorizing facts out of a textbook was boring to me, and I never felt attached to any of the people or places that we learned about. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I realized history could actually be interesting. Though I normally avoided nonfiction, I picked up The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger when it was published in 1997. Critics lauded it as gripping and ‘unputdownable’ -- and they were right. Junger does a terrific job of bringing the story of how the Andrea Gail was lost at sea during a massive 1991 storm to life.
After that, I discovered that I liked to read about disasters, accidents and engineering mishaps. (I’m sure Freud would have a field day with that). The best disaster books that I’ve read use primary source documents and interviews with survivors to make us readers identify with the folks who survived the calamity. Authors who research and write about disasters also have the advantage of hindsight, and can analyze and explain the complex factors (human or meteorological) that affect the situation.
We can so easily forget how powerful Mother Nature is, and as our memories fade we begin to think it can’t happen to us… and then it does (think Hurricane Sandy, as just one example).
Here are some of my favorite books about disasters.
Mary C. Martin
Branch Manager, Dennis Memorial Branch, Sussex County Library System