Erik Larson is a regular contributor to national magazines including Time, The Atlantic, and Harper's. Filled with images as powerful as the hurricane it describes, Isaac's Storm immediately swept onto best seller lists across the country.
In 1900, Isaac Monroe Cline was in charge of the Galveston station of the US Weather Bureau. He was a knowledgeable, seasoned weatherman who considered himself a scientist. When he heard the deep thudding of waves on Galveston's beach in the early morning of September 8, however, Cline refused to be alarmed. The city had been hit by bad weather before. But by the time this storm had moved across Galveston, at least 6,000 - probably closer to 10,000 - people were dead, and Cline would never look at hurricanes the same way again.
Based on a wealth of primary sources, Erik Larson's unforgettable work will haunt you long after the final sentence. Narrator Richard M. Davidson infuses each chapter with added intensity.
©1999 Erik Larson (P)2000 Recorded Books
Engineer, sailor, and prolific reader of non-fiction
As I wrote in my review of Erik Larsen's newer book, 'Dead Wake', Author Larsen recounts an historic event by embellishing the recounting with a plethora of detail, which, at times, can seem overwhelming.
In this particular exercise, the story of this historic turn-of-the-century storm at Galveston, Texas, uses a literary ruse of sorts. By wrapping the central narrative around a meteorologist, the author attempts to gather the diverse facts and events into a personal context.
In my opinion, the ruse fails, to a degree, since the meteorologist in question was certainly not a major figure in the events; the star of the book would more rightfully belong to the storm itself, or perhaps more properly, to the naivete of the municipality of Galveston in failing to prepare for what should have been seen as an inevitable event.
In Larsen's usual style, the tale is told with excruciating detail. Ordinarily, good historical nonfiction uses detail to flesh out a narrative, but my own feeling was that it had become excessive, in this book.
Still, for those interested in what the enormous power of a hurricane can do to a coastal community, the tale is a sobering reminder and warning of the consequences of indifference to the extremes of nature.
I've always gone for the unabridged version of books. In part because I feel I'm getting more bang for my buck, but mainly because I love non-fiction and historical books that I can learn something from. So, I want as much as the author will give. I made a critical mistake with this book however. I'd pondered back and forth between the two and almost picked the abridged simply because Edward Herrmann narrated it and I didn't really like Richard Davidson on the sample.
I wish I'd followed my gut; not because of Davidson however. His narration grew on me after a few chapters. It's because there's simply way too much filler rhetoric in this version that detracts from the relevant parts of the story. There were times where I said to myself; "would you get to the point already". That's usually the time where I turn off the iPod and return the book for a credit. However, this book came and went in waves. There were those times of lost interest, but they were immediately followed by something interesting that would cause me to stick with it. The book has some very good information about the storm, the history of the weather service and the science behind how and why these storms originate. This is why I give the story four stars, but the overall only two.
I like to listen to my books more then once, but I don't think I could endure this version again. Therefore I would recommend you obtain the abridged version if you want to learn about this devastating storm.
I'm a huge Erik Larson fan and this book was excellent. I found the narrator's cadence and performance of grandeur very distracting and it made it difficult for me to follow the story. I would recommend perhaps reading (not listening) to this one.
Say something about yourself!
Like most of Larson's books, this one is also a meticulously researched chronicle of the most devastating natural disaster in American history. While the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 builds unobserved over the African deserts and surrounding oceans, Larson focuses on Galveston, Texas and an ambitious employee of an embryonic National Weather Bureau, Isaac Cline.
Larson may be the most efficient author when it comes to digging up historical facts and hear-say accounts of people and events. His ability to blend science and history always makes for a gripping read that holds your interest more than you'd expect from just reading the summary. His addition of geographical descriptions and personal accounts transports you in time. It was easy to picture the beautiful seaside town of Galveston as it was in its prime, poised to take its place as one of America's biggest and most influential port cities: "Ellis Island of the West" and the "Wall Street of the Southwest". The quick development of the city and the attention it was receiving around the world fed the hubris of the citizens that the city was indestructible -- a theory that was fed by faulty science Cline said proved a hurricane could not push the ocean's waves into the city. At the time of the storm, the highest point in Galveston was only 8.7 feet above sea level; the storm surge over 15 feet. The hurricane dashed the island's future as a major financial port, nature disproving the science of the day and leaving no doubt that Galveston was a dangerous place to make major investments in shipping and manufacturing operations -- investors fled as did many survivors unable to live with the memories of such devastation and loss of lives.
At some point, a mountain of facts no matter how interesting become too much, but Larson spreads the information out between profiles of citizens that on the fateful September day try to hunker down and ride out the storm. The Great Galveston Hurricane took approximately 10,000 lives, and proved once again that man is no match for nature.
For a look at moments in history that give you the closest you can get without being there, Larson never disappoints.
I think one of the factors that make me love Erik Larson's books is the human factor that he puts into all of his historical novels. His research is extensive concerning the historical facts, but he always reaches for the individual's experience within the context of what he is writing about. This makes each book something that you can experience right along with the people who were there.
There are so many, but perhaps it would be when Isaac realizes that his idea of safety isn't safe after all.
He is excellent and easy to listen to. Though this is a long book, I never felt bored.
Well, once again, there are so many things that move you in this book, because it is told from the perspective of people who lived through it. Of course, the terrible loss of life that could have been prevented if not for the hubris of the time is very sad.
I am so hooked on Erik Larson's books and that was surprising to me, because I am usually a fiction reader/listener. However, once I start one of his books, I can't pull myself away. I learn so much from him about history I didn't know about and I always look forward to the next one. For instance, I had not realized that in 1900 (and other periods of time) the same conditions that people call "global warming" today have occurred over and over throughout history. It does make one realize that these conditions are not unique to our time period, nor necessarily caused by what advocates of the theory would like to blame them on. That alone gives one a greater perspective to planetary cycles and makes one stop seeking a "culprit" to blame; realizing that these are natural cycles and mankind does not have control of as much as we think we do. Also, his books bring the understanding that even though something occurred long ago, people had the same hopes, fears, dreams and hubris that we do today. He writes in such a way that one feels a sense of connection to our predecessors.
My second book by Erik Larson. I am really fascinated with how he intertwines factual research with descriptions that put you in the moment. I sort of feel like he's angling a bit for a movie contract, but that's a big part of what I enjoy about his storytelling technique.
I'm Irish and proud of it! Father of three beautiful girls, USAF veteran, 25 years in Social Services! Carpe Diem
The history of the weather reporting system at the turn of the century.
The description of the storm and it's reckoning.
The narrator seemed to lose me at various times, often explaining parts of the history at odd times in the book. Didn't seem to flow for me
No, I'm a novice when dealing with the weather so I was interested in seeing how the community responded to this catastrophe.
I understand that the author wants the reader to connect with a person in the story. but to be frank I had to force myself to complete this book. I really wanted to hear about the hurricane. there seemed to be so much fluff in this book that it just made me think that tge author struggled to find material on the storm once the boom got into the storm. I think it was around chapter 24! the book got interesting. the author did a great job describing the storm and the after effects.
I've read Mr Larson other books and enjoyed them. I just couldn't recommend this book.
This book is classic Larson. He has an uncanny ability to take story lines moving in different directions and to weave them into a coherent and interesting whole. This gift is on display here. In my mind, however, the story was a little lacking. It feels like the 1900 Galveston Hurricane was something that always interested him so he decided he would write it for himself.
The story has some interesting meteorological history and provides an uninspiring view of bureaucratic politics. If you are not into the scientific stuff it may seem a little slow at times, but hang in there -- the stories of survival and death during the hurricane are gripping. I immediately googled the storm to see what else I could learn (and to see pictures) after I finished.
I can find the patience to finish this. It simply goes on and on and on. The performance is good...you can only do so much with what you are handed. Not a good purchase for me. Purchase at your own risk.
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