A Crack in the Edge of the World

A Crack in the Edge of the World

America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906

Book - 2005
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The international bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa vividly brings to life the 1906San Francisco Earthquake that leveled a city symbolic of America's relentless western expansion. Simon Winchester has also fashioned an enthralling and informative informative look at the tumultuous subterranean world that produces earthquakes, the planet's most sudden and destructive force.

In the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, San Francisco and a string of towns to its north-northwest and the south-southeast were overcome by an enormous shaking that was compounded by the violent shocks of an earthquake, registering 8.25 on the Richter scale. The quake resulted from a rupture in a part of the San Andreas fault, which lies underneath the earth's surface along the northern coast of California. Lasting little more than a minute, the earthquake wrecked 490 blocks, toppled a total of 25,000 buildings, broke open gas mains, cut off electric power lines throughout the Bay area, and effectively destroyed the gold rush capital that had stood there for a half century.

Perhaps more significant than the tremors and rumbling, which affected a swatch of California more than 200 miles long, were the fires that took over the city for three days, leaving chaos and horror in its wake. The human tragedy included the deaths of upwards of 700 people, with more than 250,000 left homeless. It was perhaps the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

Simon Winchester brings his inimitable storytelling abilities -- as well as his unique understanding of geology -- to this extraordinary event, exploring not only what happened in northern California in 1906 but what we have learned since about the geological underpinnings that caused the earthquake in the first place. But his achievement is even greater: he positions the quake's significance along the earth's geological timeline and shows the effect it had on the rest of twentieth-century California and American history.

A Crack in the Edge of the World is the definitive account of the San Francisco earthquake. It is also a fascinating exploration of a legendary event that changed the way we look at the planet on which we live.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins, c2005
ISBN: 9780060571993
0060571993
Characteristics: xiv, 462 p. : ill., maps

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z
zipread
Jun 03, 2017

There is no mistaking the fact that Winchester is knowledgeable and engaging author with a sizeable repertoire of books to his credit: most of them about topics few authors would dare to tackle: Atlantic, Pacific. One would not be surprised to see him take on the Cosmos as a topic. (Done by someone else you say?
"Crack" shows the author to be not merely an accomplished writer of prose; in fact often enough Winchester's prose verges on poetry and lyricism. Who could have guessed that dull old Geology could become such a musical subject?
When it comes to the crack at the edge of the world, when it comes to California and the San Andreas Fault; when it comes to Plate Tectonics and the theory of Continental Drift one must, however, ask, is there anything new here? To a large measure: no. It would not surprise me to learn that this theory is now taught in Kindergarten with Plasticine and construction paper.
So, it the book still worth reading? By all means. It's about the details. Its about the personalities, the geologists, the scientists. What you learned in school was bare bones. This book is about the flesh. Dig in.
This book features an extensive bibliography.

t
terrycrook
Feb 25, 2017

Excellent coverage of major earthquakes, particularly American ones, and especially the1906 San Francisco 'Quake & Fire.

Although it saw a lot of popularity when it was published, to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the earthquake, the book is worth taking a look at now. Parts are technical, but still a good read if you're interested in the topic.

s
stewstealth
Oct 01, 2013

The author takes a seemingly dry topic of plate tectonics and manages to weave an interesting narrative. Very typical of this author's works. Worth reading.

a5a22406 Feb 12, 2013

Excellent book. It's not only about the great San Fran earthquake but earthquakes in general. The author really digs deep into what is happening, tectonically speaking, right now in SW California. Fascinating!

d
doroschelch
Aug 13, 2012

Yet another meticulously researched and brilliantly written report of a natural disaster that, like "Krakatoa", covers all aspects of and connections with the event.

debwalker Mar 12, 2011

Nervous on the West coast.

c
c_anderson
Nov 03, 2010

I got bogged down a bit in the first 1/3 of the book, which was fairly detailed geological history (which is not a bad thing, and Simon Winchester writes about complex scientific matters as clearly as can be hoped for), but I was much more interested in the social history in this book. Very detailed, very enjoyable. Some outstanding footnotes.

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