Historical Disaster Book Review & Discussion Paper due date: Wednesday, November 10 Discussion dates

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Historical Disaster Book Review & Discussion

Paper due date: Wednesday, November 10
Discussion dates: Wednesday, November 10 and Friday, November 12
Maximum grade: 150

Your assignment is to read one of the books about a historical natural disaster from the attached list of books and write a book review in the style you might expect in the Sunday New York Times, the New Yorker, or another magazine. In addition, we will have a graded discussion of the books on Wednesday and Friday November 10 and 12.

While reading the book, you should pay particular attention to the causes of the disaster, both direct and indirect and the relationship between humans and the environment. This relationship may involve humans trying to control nature, humans misunderstanding their environment, or simply the vulnerability of humans to natural events.
In writing your review, you are not required to do outside research on the book but you are welcome to supplement information about the disaster of interest with material from your textbook or other sources. If you use any outside sources, you must cite them (both within the text of your paper and in a reference list at end of paper.) Plagiarism will result in a zero for the paper and possibly the course.
Your book review should be organized as you see fit, should provide a clear summary of the book, and should address the following issues:

  • The role did humans play in this disaster. Should or could this disaster have been prevented? In what ways did people’s decisions mitigate or exacerbate this disaster?

  • The significance of the geographic/geologic context of the disaster. What about the geography, geology, or general setting caused the disaster to occur there?

  • The historical context of the disaster. How did the historical context affect the severity, mitigation or other aspects of the disaster? What could have been done (given the technology and resources of the time) to prevent or mitigate this disaster?

  • Modern perspective on the disaster. Describe the likelihood of something of this magnitude happening today.

  • Thumbs up or down? What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the book? Would you recommend the book to someone else? Why or why not?

The paper is to be 1000-1500 words (4-6 pages, double-spaced, 1” margins, 11- or 12-point Times Roman font). The paper should have a title but does not need a cover page.

Disaster Book Choices (mark your top 3 choices: 1, 2, 3) Return to me by Monday 8/30
I would like 3-4 people per book. The books can be ordered through Amazon or through Barnes and Noble (college bookstore). I have a Listmania list on Amazon with links to all of the titles. http://www.amazon.com/Geo-106-Natural-Disaster-Books/lm/1N41TZXZ5LHDA/ref=cm_srch_res_rpli_alt_1


  1. Wave of Destruction: The Stories of Four Families and History's Deadliest Tsunami by Erich Krauss, 256 p. Stories from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami


  1. No Apparent Danger/ Victoria Bruce, 239 p. Stories of two Colombian volcanoes- 1980’s mudflows and volcanic explosions.


  1. F5: Devastation, Survival, and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the 20th Century/ M. Levine 336 p.


  1. The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina--the Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist/ Ivor van Heerden and Mike Bryan 336 p.

  2. Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson, 336 p., 1900 Galveston hurricane, deadliest hurricane in US history

  3. Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938/ R. A. Scotti, 304 p.


  1. The Johnstown Flood/ David G. McCullough,304 p.

Sea-level rise

  1. Island in a Storm: A Rising Sea, a Vanishing Coast, and a Nineteenth-Century Disaster that Warns of a Warmer World/ Abby Sallenger, 286 p.

Landslides/Volcanoes/Floods (3 stories)

  1. The control of nature/ John McPhee 272p. (Three stories of disasters and human attempts to control nature in California, Iceland, and Mississippi.)

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