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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson


Isaac’s Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson
Abridged, 5 hr. 11 min.
Random House Audio
Edward Herrmann (Narrator)
September 15, 2005

Genre: Non-fiction

Source: Downloaded from Audible – Personal Collection

“September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history--and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devastating personal tragedy.

Using Cline's own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac's Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature.”

I picked up this book because I wanted to know more about an event that was just barely referenced in a novel that I had recently read. I am drawn to non-fiction books about disasters – not only for the dramatic factor, but because the best and worst of humanity comes out during these times and it is interesting to read and think about. This book focused on 3 aspects – the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 (of course), the life of Isaac Cline (a weatherman for the National Weather Service in Galveston), and the evolution of the National Weather Service.

Even if you do not typically enjoy non-fiction, I would encourage you to consider Isaac’s Storm. It reads like a novel – full of excitement and drama and great characters. The narrative is interspersed with traditional reading portions – such as when the author discusses how a hurricane forms. Overall, the book is an exciting read – you really feel the storm.

It is really crazy to think about how little they knew about hurricanes back then compared to what we know now about them. They were so unprepared for the storm – despite the various warnings. It was another instance of false security (like the Titanic) that a major storm wouldn’t hit them.



I could tell within the first couple of sentences from this narrator that I was going to love this production. I also knew that I recognized the voice. Herrmann had narrated The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which I listened to a few months ago, and loved his narration of that book. I would probably be able to listen to him read the dictionary and find it vastly interesting! He made the storm even more exciting that it would have naturally been and it was such a passionate reading. I can’t wait to read some of the other books that he has narrated.

Author Erik Larson also has written Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, and Thunderstruck among others. You can visit Larson’s website or blog for additional information about the book.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I saw a documentary on this catastrophe a couple of years ago. It was a fascinating but a terrible event. I do remember that Cline was mentioned in the film.

    Indeed it seems all but forgotten outside of Galveston these days.

    The book sounds great.

    1. It is incredible to me how the worst natural disaster in US history has been more forgotten than remembered. It is over 100 years old, but a major storm none the less. I have a BookTV video I'm posting today where a meteorologist talks about the weather pattern of that storm, which was interesting to actually see.

  2. I hadn't heard of this one, but I think I want to read it! I read Devil in the White City twice, and I have this strange thing about hurricanes and tornadoes, so I'm pretty sure I will like this one.

    1. Ooh Devil in the White City must be good if you have read it twice! It's on my list. Isaac's Storm was very good.


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