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A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 (2005)

por Simon Winchester

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2,297666,916 (3.68)120
A crack in the edge of the world is the definitive account of the San Francisco earthquake and a fascinating exploration of a legendary event that changed the way we look at the planet on which we live.
  1. 60
    Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 por Simon Winchester (oregonobsessionz)
  2. 00
    Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles por Simon Winchester (John_Vaughan)
  3. 00
    When the Mississippi Ran Backwards : Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes por Jay Feldman (geophile)
    geophile: Those interested in the history and events surrounding either of these great earthquakes may be interested in learning about the other. While the San Francisco earthquake is well known, fewer people know about the New Madrid earthquake.
  4. 00
    The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906 por Philip L. Fradkin (geophile)
    geophile: Readers who enjoy one of these books may like a different viewpoint of the same event by another author.
  5. 00
    The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet por Henry Fountain (geophile)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 66 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Like all of Winchester's works at times erudite, at times travelogue, at times geology lesson, at times history, at times chatty. A very good account not just of the San Francisco earthquake and fire, but plate tectonics in general, the North American plate in depth, and the San Andreas and related faults in particular. Another excellent book that left me the smarter for reading it. ( )
  tuckerresearch | May 2, 2024 |
as with all winchester's books, full of interesting facts and asides from multiple disciplines. marred a bit by his imperialist tendencies and sometimes unsympathetic or carping nature. Yet I read everything he writes, as he certainly can write ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
I'm a big Simon Winchester fan, but admit I didn't find this outing as engaging as some of his others. Yes, there's a ton of engrossing info here about the Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, but you'll have to wade through some extraneous material to get to it. I'm a professional geologist, and even I found his chapters on the geology of California to be tedious! Apparently he's got a passion for geology and is unaware that, at least here in the U.S., the concept of plate tectonics is introduced in the 4th grade, rendering much of his hand-holding tedious. There are also several over-long sections devoted to his personal travels, interests, theories, and opinions.

But this being a Simon Winchester book, this is also filled to bursting with fascinating detail, all of it extensively researched and entertainingly retold. Winchester's tangents - the settlement of California, the integration of Chinese immigrants in San Francisco, the emergence of insurance agencies, the roots of Pentecostalism, etc. - are often as intriguing as his central narrative. Most folks will go into this with some prior knowledge of the earthquake and its consequences, but I guarantee they'll emerge with a much deeper appreciation of the historical, cultural, and geologic implications of this seminal event.

My recommendation: definitely worth a read, but give yourself permission to skim the long chapters on plate tectonics and cut Winchester some slack for the parts that come off as self-indulgent or opinionated, because the payoff is worth the price. ( )
1 vote Dorritt | Oct 4, 2023 |
From soup to nuts, Simon Winchester's Crack in the Edge of the World tells the complete story of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 with humor, intelligence, and clarity. He begins with the humble birth of the city coupled with the scientific explanation for earth's volatile nature.
Curiously, when talking about other disasters which have wiped out entire regions Winchester mentions Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but only hints at the destruction of a large portion of Manhattan after the attacks of 9/11. And speaking of the attacks on the World Trade Center, I imagine that witnessing the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake was similar to east coast residents watching the events of 9/11 unfold on their smartphones and television sets. If you were not suffering personal tragedy and your barometer for compassion was at an all-time low, you looked upon the destruction with awe and a strange but removed fascination.
My favorite post-disaster response. The post office was the hero of my childhood, keeping me connected to friends and family miles away. San Francisco's post office employees made and all-out effort to save their building. As a result they were able to resume service two days after the earthquake. The postmaster understood the importance of communicating with loved ones; an early version of "marked safe." ( )
  SeriousGrace | May 27, 2023 |
Dramatic, well-told story of San Francisco's 1906 earthquake/fire - its geological backstory and the ensuing societal fallout. Having lived in San Francisco during the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, this story of the more powerful quake triggers terror at the awesome power of the earth and the plates that float just beneath the surface. I was a bit put off by all the geologic background, but the story and its myriad roots and detail are quite engaging, held my interest. I especially enjoyed the sections where Winchester inserts his own personal take on the journey that the investigation into the quake inspired. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jul 30, 2022 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 66 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Geology is not, at first glance, the most inviting of subjects, but in this book Simon Winchester makes it engagingly, captivatingly readable.
adicionada por jlelliott | editarThe Independent, David Phelan (Oct 23, 2005)
Without slighting the human suffering of the victims of earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters, and with full attention to the irreducible particularity of their pain, Winchester places their tragedies in an almost cosmic context. The earth is not a stable structure, he teaches us, but a living system.
adicionada por jlelliott | editarThe Boston Globe, David Nasaw (Oct 9, 2005)
Me, I hated it. I wanted to drop-kick this book across the backyard. If Doris Kearns Goodwin or David McCullough can lay claim to being the Miles Davis of popular history, Winchester is becoming the Kenny G.
Part tectonic textbook, part intimate travelogue, A Crack in the Edge of the World searches for the irrepressible primeval forces responsible for these periodic upheavals by examining the scars left along the temperamental North American plate, which stretches from Iceland in the east to the coast of California. Tugging the reader along from Greenland to Newfoundland, from New Madrid, Missouri, to Meers, Oklahoma, Winchester reconstructs a sequence of cataclysms as he closes in on the fateful events of that April morning.
adicionada por jlelliott | editarThe Guardian, Kelley Grovier (Oct 2, 2005)
This legendary natural disaster and urban catastrophe -- with its rough parallels to today's events -- is the subject of Simon Winchester's "A Crack in the Edge of the World." Unfortunately, Mr. Winchester explores the events of 1906 only after he has taken the reader for a long road trip of geologically significant American towns and 200 rambling and tedious pages on the history of "earlier American geology" and geologists.
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Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve.

Robinson Jeffers, 'Carmel Point', 1954
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With this book I both welcome into this world my first grandchild,


and offer an admiring farewell to

Iris Chang

whose nobility, passion and courage should serve as a model for all, writers and newborn alike
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Some time ago, when I was half-idly browsing my way around the internet, I stumbled across the home page of an obscure small town in western Ohio with the arresting name of Wapakoneta.
So far as the ancients of China are concerned, 1906 was a year of the Fire Horse - a time of grave unpredictability that comes along every six decades, and a time when all manner of strange events have the mind to occur.
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Then he decided he should be taking pictures - except that he swiftly realized he had no camera. So he went to his dealer, a man name Kahn on Montgomery Street, and asked to borrow one. Kahn was only too well aware of the fires licking hungrily toward him, so told Genthe to take anything he wanted - anyway, it would all be molten scrap in a few hours at best. And so Genthe took a 3A Kodak Special, hurried off up the hills that looked down on the city-center destruction, and began to work. Later he wrote of the one picture taken from the upper end of Sacramento Street, close to where his house would soon be consumed by fire. He was peculiarly fond of it: There is particularly the one scene that I recorded the first morning of the first day of the fire (on Sacramento Street, looking toward the Bay) which shows, in a pictorially effective composition, the results of the earthquake, the beginning of the fire and the attitude of the people. On the right is a house, the front of which had collapsed onto the street. The occupants are sitting on chairs calmly watching the approach of the fire. Groups of people are standing in the street, motionless, gazing at the clouds of smoke. It is hard to believe that such a scene actually occurred in the way the photograph represents it. Several people upon seeing it have exclaimed, "Oh, is that a still from a Cecil DeMille picture?" To which the answer has been" "No, the director of this scene was the Lord himself."
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