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The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why | [Amanda Ripley]

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why

Today, nine out of 10 Americans live in places at significant risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, or other disasters. Tomorrow, some of us will have to make split-second choices to save ourselves and our families. How will we react? What will it feel like? Will we be heroes or victims? Will our upbringing, our gender, our personality - anything we've ever learned, thought, or dreamed of - ultimately matter?
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Publisher's Summary

It lurks in the corner of our imagination, almost beyond our ability to see it: the possibility that a tear in the fabric of life could open up without warning, upending a house, a skyscraper, or a civilization.

Today, nine out of 10 Americans live in places at significant risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, or other disasters. Tomorrow, some of us will have to make split-second choices to save ourselves and our families.

How will we react? What will it feel like? Will we be heroes or victims? Will our upbringing, our gender, our personality - anything we've ever learned, thought, or dreamed of - ultimately matter?

Amanda Ripley, an award-winning journalist for Time magazine, set out to discover what lies beyond fear and speculation. Ripley retraces the human response to some of history's epic disasters, from the explosion of the Mont Blanc munitions ship in 1917, to a plane crash in England in 1985 that mystified investigators for years, to the journeys of the 15,000 people who found their way out of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Then, to understand the science behind the stories, Ripley turns to leading brain scientists, trauma psychologists, and other disaster experts, formal and informal, from a Holocaust survivor who studies heroism to a master gunfighter who learned to overcome the effects of extreme fear.

Finally, Ripley steps into the dark corners of her own imagination, having her brain examined by military researchers and experiencing through realistic simulations what it might be like to survive a plane crash into the ocean or to escape a raging fire.

Ripley comes back with precious wisdom about the surprising humanity of crowds, the elegance of the brain's fear circuits, and the stunning inadequacy of many of our evolutionary responses. Most unexpectedly, she discovers the brain's ability to do much, much better, with just a little help.

©2008 Amanda Ripley; (P)2008 Random House, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (239 )
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  •  
    Sara Mobile, AL, USA 10-20-08
    Sara Mobile, AL, USA 10-20-08
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    "fascinating"

    This (audio)book is endlessly fascinating. The author reveals that human behavior in disasters and emergencies often differs greatly than we'd expect. Interesting for a broad audience, and easily understandable.

    24 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 10-29-10
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 10-29-10 Member Since 2002
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    "these days, you can never know enough......"

    First, Kirsten Potter performed a stellar narration. The book goes into some interesting detail about why some survive and others perish in disasters. In the last 30 or so minutes of the book, there is an amazing story about a security guy at MorganStanley who was on-site during the 9/11 terrorist attack. It describes who this guy was, what he did, and how it made such a positive difference in the survival rate on that terrible day.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Duane DPO, AA, United States 12-10-11
    Duane DPO, AA, United States 12-10-11
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    "Essential Listening for Survival"

    I found this book interesting from multiple perspectives.

    As a self-defense instructor (LEO, Martial Arts and Women’s ) I found this to confirm some training methodologies and explain some of my students’ successes. The lesson that Ms. Ripley showed in multiple contexts is that realistic repetition is the key to success in a survival situation. This runs counter to many self defense and martial arts methodologies that teach multiple techniques for differing situations. As a self-defense instructor it reinforced my instinct of teaching the basics in realistic situations until muscle memory is developed.

    As an emergency preparedness professional (part time collateral duty), it has reinforced the need to focus on individual preparedness and the need to conduct a risk assessment of the most probable and dangerous contingencies. The analysis of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, and the D.C. plane crash were very interesting and illuminating on human behavior in crisis situations and provide recommendations for how professional emergency preparedness officials could reduce loss of life. The realization gained from this book is that I was previously too focused on regulatory requirements and not on the bottom line - reducing loss of life. I will use this book as a reference in my Emergency Management course work. As a citizen it has motivated me to be more responsible and prepared for my families survival in natural and manmade disasters.

    As a retired U.S. army infantry officer with five combat tours, it increased my understanding of my PTSD and explained the behavior of other people involved in previous traumatic experiences that I was involved. All of the information that Ms. Ripley presented made sense to a combat infantryman.

    This book is worked well in the audible format. Although this book is essential listening, it is not something that I would use as a reference, although I would listen to it again. I would buy this in hard copy only to gift it to other people. The narrator was not annoying and I was motivated to listen to this book in all of my spare time. Listen or read this book now before you are in a life or death situation!


    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shannon Fairfax, VA, United States 01-22-12
    Shannon Fairfax, VA, United States 01-22-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Loved this book on many levels."
    What made the experience of listening to The Unthinkable the most enjoyable?

    They looked at data, personal experience and MRI's to determine how and why people respond the way they do to trauma and that has value.


    What other book might you compare The Unthinkable to and why?

    Maybe Tipping Point or Freakenomics to make a far fetched corollary.


    What about Kirsten Potter???s performance did you like?

    She sounded vested in sharing the story and was easy to listen to for long stretches.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Your world has just been torn apart by the scariest thing imaginable how will you respond?


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John L Boyer 05-25-12 Member Since 2011
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    "The Mind In Crises"
    Would you listen to The Unthinkable again? Why?

    I would listen to this again. Everybody reacts differently in emergencies.This could save your life.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Are you ready when the sh** hits the fan.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph J. Bennett Delaware, USA 09-03-12
    Joseph J. Bennett Delaware, USA 09-03-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Just okay compared to others"
    What did you like about this audiobook?

    Interesting, average


    How has the book increased your interest in the subject matter?

    Best story of the book on surviving.


    Does the author present information in a way that is interesting and insightful, and if so, how does he achieve this?

    Not applicable


    What did you find wrong about the narrator's performance?

    No


    Do you have any additional comments?

    Other books accomplish much more, would recommend "Deep Survival" or "Survivors Club"

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott La Vista, NE, United States 08-21-12
    Scott La Vista, NE, United States 08-21-12
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    "Very interesting book about human reactions"
    What did you love best about The Unthinkable?

    I loved how the author showed you through several ministories about real people and what I did correctly... at least in that particular incident and what was going on in their brain. The author effectively debunks some myths and has enough detail from anaytomy to psychology to satifsy a reader. FYI the stories are personal and interesting and not overall "touchy feely" which is great for me. She gets you to sympathy with the people in the story without going on and on as many books do.


    What does Kirsten Potter bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    She is very clear to understand and uses enough verbal skill to make it actually seem like a dialog and interpersonal chat.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Honestly too many parts were so good, but I would say how a person survived both Twin Tower attacks; it was utterly fascinating.


    Any additional comments?

    I do not think this book would be good for simply reading so you know what to do. Not saying most people buy it for this, but it is interesting and greatly helps you understand society and individuals when disaster strikes.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Estacada, OR, United States 07-09-14
    Carol Estacada, OR, United States 07-09-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Unexpected survival guide"
    If you could sum up The Unthinkable in three words, what would they be?

    You are your own rescuer.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved the detailed explanations of the different ways people cope with the "survival arc".


    What does Kirsten Potter bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Potter is a great reader. I seek her out and that is how I found this book.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I would not listen to it in one sitting because there is too much to take in. But I have already listened to it twice in the last few months and will listen again soon. I want to learn the lessons well as well as remember many of the people she writes about. I will also seek out books about those people.


    Any additional comments?

    One defect is her insistence on an evolutionary explanation for heroism. It was a real stretch. And she did not mention the "Man in the Water" who passed the rope each time and is unknown except that he was on the other side of the tail section and had leg injuries. Hard to have an evolutionary explanation for that. Of course he is not alive to interview.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    thinblu7 Newark, DE United States 03-03-14
    thinblu7 Newark, DE United States 03-03-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Intriguing"
    What did you love best about The Unthinkable?

    It was an interesting study, albeit inconclusive, on why people react the way they do in emergency situations.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The case studies and personal viewpoints from the disasters were unfortunately far more valuable than, it seems, those who study behavior. As a first responder and one who has seen far more than their fair share of emergencies, I strongly disagree with some of the experts on why people behave the way they do, particularly the "expert opinion" on heroes. They are obviously operating from a circumspect hypothesis, limited to their own personal experiences.


    Which character – as performed by Kirsten Potter – was your favorite?

    All were very well done except for the male voices- I would have preferred if she did not adjust her tone to unsuccessfully emulate a man's voice.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, absolutely.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Artur Edmonton, AB, Canada 04-17-13
    Artur Edmonton, AB, Canada 04-17-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Read this book - it might just save your life."
    If you could sum up The Unthinkable in three words, what would they be?

    Be prepared.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Unthinkable?

    How calm and composed everyone was in the twin towers just before they collapsed. I guess that's New Yorkers for you - nothing phases 'em...even when it should.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 12 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Justine
    loughborough, leicestershire, United Kingdom
    12/17/09
    Overall
    "Engaging"

    This book is very engaging, and quite emotive. The disasters discussed are modern, and the science that accompanies is relevant and well researched.

    There are some things in this book that everyone should be told about, and for that reason I think that you should get this book right now!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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