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5.0 out of 5 starsNot what I thought--but still great.
Reviewed in the United States on May 31, 2020
I only read non-fiction--I particularly like historic disaster books. This one tracks the history of tornadoes from before people knew what they were to more recent outbreaks when people had no doubt. There's lots of character development in Storm Kings regarding the men who came up with their own theories on what caused tornadoes and what each of them thought could end them or keep them from happening altogether. There's plenty of storm- and damage descriptions in between all the science--I found it to be a page-turner. It made this tornadoholic order more books on specific storms mentioned. Loved it.
While some consider this to be rather dry and filled with political intrigue,the book shows that the most virulent weather was more in the arguments of men than in nature, although this book showcased some truly mighty storms that nature concocted and in great detail. Still, they were more of a backdrop for the main events taking place on the human front when Egos are involved. It was not an unknown aberration in any scientific field to have such animosity raise it's ugly head since all scientists have the dream to be the foremost expert in their field,whether or not they have the political connections in which to become so, and real research sometimes takes a back seat to the wrangling that seems to have very little to do with the subject matter at hand and more with jockeying for position as top dog in their field or- even to be simply recognized in their field, in this case, Tornado research. Research did go on however and those who should have been taken more seriously were largely forgotten or cast to the wayside, and it is their inroads to which many owe the advancements made. From humble and tempestuous beginnings, the Weather Service has suffered its share of clashes which have led it to be woefully inept at times when it was most needed, and many were the times it had to turn to the very research of people they had cast aside. While some scientists today are remembered for their storm findings, Such as Dr. Fujita and Benjamin Franklin, Fawbush and Miller, others,such as Redfield, Espy, Hare and J.P. Finley were left to gather historical dust.I like this book, because it portrays each person mentioned as a real human, some doing it for love of knowledge, others to save lives,most dealing with a beauracracy both dangerous in its indifference as well as its ineptitude toward something just being barely understood beyond folklore and myth. There's enough weather on both fronts hidden between the pages, and it's not just the storms!
4.0 out of 5 starsFrom Superstition to Science- What is a Tornado?
Reviewed in the United States on June 16, 2013
This book looks at how severe weather in general and tornadoes in specific were viewed in US History. Tornadoes were and are a rare enough phenomenon that not that many people ever experience one. But, when one does happen, the results are drastic. Ben Franklin was one of the first to try to figure out what a tornado was. Some men who studied the damage left behind, the patterns of destroyed trees and homes, became obsessed with these most destructive of storms, and began the systematic study of them, which lead to the founding of our system of weather forecasters. This process was often a political matter resulting in many arguments and controversy. Occasionally, the author gets into too much detail with the acrimonious relations between these men, and the book drags a bit. However the overall story is very good. Who knew that our current weather radar began with left over salvage radar units from old B-29's? Or why the Weather Bureau avoided sending out warnings? A very informative if uneven read.
5.0 out of 5 starsHighly entertaining and informative
Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2015
When someone asks what you're reading and you respond that it's a history of weather science and that it's really enjoyable, most of them won't believe you, which is their loss. This is an excellent book, well researched and well written. Mr. Sandlin traces the history of meteorology through the lens of America's fascination with storms, from the early colonists who regarded the sky with a kind of general terror, to Ben Franklin's lightning research, to rival meteorologists in the 19th century. There are fascinating accounts of extreme weather, and equally interesting accounts of the attempts to predict, understand, and control the weather, all presented in excellent narrative style. Anyone who is remotely interested in meteorology, or who grew up enjoying watching summer thunderstorms will love this book.
5.0 out of 5 starsIf You're a Meteorology or Science Buff, This is Your Book!
Reviewed in the United States on January 29, 2016
I bought this book because I it was reviewed in Scientific American, and wasn't disappointed.
If you're interested in history, meteorology, electricity, or science, you'll love this book! I especially liked the chapters on the development of tornado forecasting. Did you know that early tornado forecasts weren't even shared with the general public because the government feared a mass panic?
I often reach for this book and reread it--the mark of a good book. And it prompted me to buy another of Lee Sandlin's books, "Wicked River." I'm looking forward to his future books.
I wasn't expecting to like this as much as I did; the caliber of the writing for a rather niche topic like this is surprising. It's more than just a historical cross section of storm science, it's also a character study of some of the early meteorological trailblazers. The book paints science for what it often is -- a messy brouhaha of egos, politics, and data. Instead of an orderly progression from darkness to enlightenment, the process seems more like a bunch of highly educated cats thrown into a bag that is rolled down a hill, and somewhere along the way the truth emerges. Great read.
As a weather buff and someone who grew up in the Midwest and actually saw a tornado (over Lake Michigan) I thought I already knew a lot about tornados. This book was an eye-opener. The historical context of weather science was quite interesting and the stories about actual tornado events were gripping. This is an excellent read. One star is missing because I found the material was, a few times only, somewhat repetitive.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 20, 2014
I loved this book, rarely do you get an interesting book about weather! Yet this is the one, it tracks the story of American Meterologists attempts to track & or predict tornados. You have politics, personalities, vivid descriptive writing and much more. Best read on a stormy night!