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The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History

3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  539 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
Like Winchester's Krakatoa, The Year Without Summer reveals a year of dramatic global change long forgotten by history

In the tradition of Krakatoa, The World Without Us, and Guns, Germs and Steel comes a sweeping history of the year that became known as 18-hundred-and-froze-to-death. 1816 was a remarkable year—mostly for the fact that there was no summer. As a result of a
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published February 19th 2013)
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Apr 28, 2014 Grumpus rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine hearing this quote from the book description in the booming voice of the movie trailer guy, “In the tradition of Krakatoa, The World Without Us, and Guns, Germs and Steel comes a sweeping history of the year that became known as 18-hundred-and-froze-to-death.“ Compelling, right? That’s what I thought.

I knew of this 1816 event and wanted to learn more and eagerly sought out this book which is well researched but contains too much repetitive detail.

One of the authors has a Ph.D. in meteor
Feb 14, 2013 Kerrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable and frustrating book by turns. I loved the descriptions (usually from news stories and diary entries) of how horrible and crappy the spring/summer/fall of 1816 was. In New England it snowed in June, and July and August saw frosts. Other than the freak snow storms, the eastern U.S. had a drought. Europe, on the other hand, was so drenched with constant rain that Swiss farmers were having to cut hay while in boats. Crops failed, and famine and the inevitable unrest and calls for gover ...more
Apr 30, 2014 Al rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's a shame that this work turned out to be such a bore. The topic, the long-term climatological and sociological effects of the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, is such a good one, not only for historical analysis but for learning how humans cope with sudden climate change. But the book itself gets bogged down in extraneous detail removed from the central narrative. A concise sentence never is used when several pages can substitute for topics as remote as the life and loves of Perc ...more
Feb 28, 2017 Arminius rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
1816 The Year Without a Summer” describes the chaos and misery caused by the Volcanic Eruption of the volcano Krakatoa. Krakatoa is an island located in Indonesia between the other islands of Java and Sumatra.
In 1816 Krakatoa erupted with a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 6 which is equivalent to 200 tons of TNT. It is the largest known eruption in history. It had emitted halogens fluorine, chlorine and bromine in the form of hydrogen halides into the atmosphere which collected in the strat

On April 5, 1815, Mount Tambora on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa (which is well to the east of Java) began erupting. This eruption was the largest known in the last 2000 years (page 12) and the most deadly. The eruption was about 100 times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helen's, and about 10 times greater than the 1990 eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines (page 13).

In addition to the disastrous effects on the local inhabitants, the eruption had world-wide effects due to th

I actually couldn't finish this book, though I'm very interested in the year. I got through about a hundred pages, then finally stopped. The whole thing (at least as far as I got) reads like a long list of facts, many of which are almost exactly the same--endlessly repetitive. So many (only marginally different) anecdotes about the weather.

At least to the point that I got, the book seems to be focused more on science, chiefly the weather caused by the eruption, whereas I'm more interested in the
Jul 17, 2016 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This book was somewhat frustrating, but rewarding as well.

Like any current non-fiction book that isn't a tech manual or motivational slogan-fest, "Year Without Summer" strives to be all things to all people. Formula: Discuss an underappreciated thing in natural history or science/technology, (cod! Krakatoa! screws! Galveston!), the social and political ramifications thereof, include earnest plea for environmental understanding - wait, no, actually the authors refrained from hitting us over the h
Rebecca Huston
A fascinating study of the links between meteorology and volcanism. In 1815 Mt. Tambora in Indonesia exploded, sending a massive ash cloud into the stratosphere. By 1816 the cloud had reached the northern hemisphere, dropping temperatures by several degrees. For people in that year it was a time of lingering winter, soggy summers, with crop failures and mass migrations resulting from starvation for many. The authors explore how the cooling weather not just affected food, but also politics, relig ...more
Feb 24, 2013 J.P. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: weather
Many people have heard about the eruption of Krakatoa in 1888 but when Tambora blew its stack in 1816 it was 10 times more powerful and created a cloud of ash that circled the planet and resulted in abnormally cold conditions across the world.

Mostly this book centers on the history of 1816. There’s not a lot about the actual eruption or the weather that resulted shortly afterwards, but the consequences are dealt with in detail from the mundane to the serious. Be it the gloomy days that caused Ma
Apr 15, 2014 Dean rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What do Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, James Madison, James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis XVIII, George III, Sir Robert Peel, and Joseph Smith of Mormon fame all have in common? They were all indirectly affected by Javanese volcanic activity by being alive in 1816, that's what!

Oh my... such a reach. I was disappointed - I had hoped for more.
Feb 20, 2017 J.M. rated it it was ok
I got this thinking it was an in depth look at Tambora's volcanic eruption in 1815, but precious little is even in the book about that event. The writing is engaging, but the subject matter leaves much to be desired.

The bulk of the material consists of EXTENSIVE (and, at times, repetitious and boring) weather reports the following summer on the North American and European continents. No mention is made of how the volcanic ash still in the atmosphere impacted the winter in the southern hemisphere
Donald Luther
'The Year Without Summer' is promoted as being in the vein of 'Krakatoa', which I regard as an outstanding book. If only this book were as good.

While the subject matter is interesting, the authors don't do much with it, and they don't give as broad an examination as might have been useful. Whereas 'Krakatoa' examined the explosion of the volcano itself, that only occurred after a detailed treatment of the society that had grown up in Indonesia, the origins and development and gradual acceptance
Oct 06, 2014 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
1816 is best known as 'The Year Without Summer', the year a volcanic eruption in Indonesia affected weather patterns the world over, resulting in catastrophic droughts, floods, unseasonable snows and frosts. It was the summer that gave birth to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Turner's dramatic paintings of vivid red sunsets. It was also the summer that destroyed harvests and caused untold deaths through famine and privation.

This book is more than just a meteorological history of the world in the
So Hakim
A unique book that juxtaposes 19th century climate change (triggered by Mt. Tambora eruption) with contemporary people's day-to-day life. Powered by newspaper excerpts, letters, and diary entries. The downside is that it becomes a bit repetitive and -- at times -- utterly boring.

There are some 'big name' contemporaries quoted: from Britain's Sir Thomas Raffles and Robert Peel, to Americans James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, up to literary giants Lord Byron and Percy & Mary Shelley. (I haste
Stephanie Lehman
I am a big fan of history, and enjoy reading the genre. As a child, my family had vacationed near Mt. St. Helens in an area obliterated a month later when the mountain exploded. This sparked a life-long interest in reading about geology and volcanic activity. Having read about Pompeii, Krakatoa, the Hawaii Islands, etc., when I saw this account of another volcano's tremendous world impact I was intrigued.

Year Without Summer lost me about mid-way through - it just wasn't interesting or informativ
Mar 02, 2013 Mary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Mary by: Saw a review
Shelves: history
I gave up on this book and don't plan to finish it. Years ago I read an account of the eruption of Krakatoa -- it was marvelous book. It started out describing the falling ash and other signs that something was about to happen and built up to the eruption itself in 1883 and the events that followed, very suspenseful and engrossing even though you knew how it turned out. I loved it.

This book starts out with a lot of meteorologic stuff that isn't very interesting and a little hard to follow if you
Interesting but the title is a bit deceptive as the book primarily covers the effects of the volcanic eruption on eastern Canada and New England and, to a lesser degree, on the mid-Atlantic states plus Ireland, Britain and Europe. The response of government to the failure of crops and resulting famine is interesting. Proponents of free market economics seemed OK with starvation, death and suffering. Government and private aid was prompted primarily by a fear of revolution. The French Revolution ...more
Krystal Hickam
I enjoyed the amount of detail this book provided on the year 1816 and the woe that surrounded it. It was a lengthy and accurate history of New England and Europe and all the misery the people suffered due to a cooling in the atmosphere caused by a volcanic eruption. From farmers not being able to grow crops to lords and ladies having troubles getting away from there fellow countryman. It had some parts of everything that would be featured in a worldwide weather change. You really get the pictur ...more
Jennifer W
Mar 20, 2013 Jennifer W rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting subject matter, but it got very repetitive: "it was the coldest summer in memory..." "the rains continued..." "the crops failed...". I enjoyed the historical context and consequences moreso than the weather impacts, which I had not expected. France was still in tenuous political circumstances after the second expulsion of Napoleon. America had just beaten the British in the War of 1812. England still had their fingers in the continent due to their part in the Napoleonic wars. Ma ...more
Feisty Harriet
Meh. This book is not really about volcanoes, it is about the climate change caused after a massive explosion of Tambora in Indonesia in 1815. There are reasons the only books written about weather minutiae for a single year are's just not that interesting. Only the first two chapters actually talk about the volcano, everything else is the temperatures in Vermont and the drought in Pennsylvania and the horrible rains in Ireland and Switzerland, and yes, that is all interesting, but ...more
Feb 16, 2013 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Absolutely phenomenal! I received this as a GoodReads winner, and when I got the book I though that it would be a history of the Tambora Volcano and it's eruption in 1816. I got that, but also a lot more. This books covers not only the volcano eruption and aftermath, but also the political, economical and in some cases religious issues caused by the eruption. It followed European and American politics and economics as well as giving information on several famous people who lived during this time ...more
David Bales
May 06, 2014 David Bales rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Excellent history on how the massive eruption on the island of Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 drastically effected the planet's weather. The volcanic eruption was the largest in the last 100,000 years and led to snow in June and frost in July in North America, failed crops and food riots in Europe and worldwide temperature fluctuations that baffled observers. These events are set against contemporary events like Napoleon's exile, the presidency of James Madison, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly's novel ...more
Morgan Eckstein
As many people know, I actually have two Bachelor degrees--one in history, the other one in literary studies (aka literature). And both of my degrees are generalist degrees; the University of Colorado at Denver is not set up to specialize one's degree (not that I didn't end up with some areas that were more well-known than others). Therefore, I feel that I am the perfect person to review the book, The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History (William ...more
Do you really want to understand how the citizens of this country and Europe were affected by the 2nd largest climate change impact of the last millennium, our current one being the largest. Mt. Tambora erupted in 1815 and the effects of the aerosols it spread over the globe had wide and varied impact. You could say Mt. Tambora was the unseen mover of people out of New England and into the upper Midwest risking long and tumultuous journeys through rugged hill country of Pennsylvania. Many left w ...more
Becky B
Klingaman & Klingaman take you through one of the most bizarre years - at least weather-wise - of note in modern Western history. Little did Europeans and Americans know that when a volcano erupted in Indonesia it would effect them so far away. Actually, the authors would clarify that those living probably never knew the cause but not for lack of theories, because those were many and some extremely creative. It wasn't until the past 50 years or so scientists started to figure out the correla ...more
Mar 16, 2013 Batgirl13 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This book was not what I was expecting when I picked it up. I expected to hear many details about the eruption of Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 and more about volcanology. I almost stopped reading it after the first chapter, but I am very glad I kept going. Nothing happens in a vacuum (unless you're a physicist). Klingaman did a great job of creating context for this geologic event. It would be a wonderful addition to a college course in volcanolgy because it provides a great overview of all of t ...more
Kelly Barrett
Mar 27, 2013 Kelly Barrett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting more about the scientific explanations of how and why the eruption of Mount Tambora effected the climate when I found this book at the library. Instead, this book focused on the many human stories of how the volcano vast continents of people. I was not so sure about continuing to read this, but I am glad that I did. The mix of more well known events like the publishing of Jane Austin's Emma, the US presidential election, and the return of Napoleon with the stories of common folks ...more
What a horrible 4 years of so to live in! I had heard of the "year without summmer" but did not realize that the Tambora explosion affected the weather all through more than 18 months, and around the world, rather than just the United States. Klingman personalizes the difficulties by following diaries and letters written by Miss Jane Austen, Byron, Ms. Mary Shelley, etc., and with historical events. Now that 20 years of Napoleonic Wars were over, European and British and Irish inhabitants found ...more
Melissa Embry
I actually like this book so much my biggest gripe is, in very many ways, wanting more of it! Father and son team William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman tackle the seldom written about effect of weather on history. The elder Klingaman, William, handles the historical part, providing extensive information from contemporary sources about the extremely strange weather in North America and Europe during the year 1816. Meteorologist son Nicholas explains how scientists determined what people ...more
May 26, 2015 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forgotten history that is important to be aware. This was a very well-researched book, i.e. excerpts from common people, well-known people, politicians, scientists, etc. It must have taken a lot to accumulate all of the observations. However, it did get repetitive. The book could have been just as impactful without the same comments (from different sources) over and over. Further, there were some aimless tangents of early Romantic era poets and their less-than-romantic love lives. One paragraph ...more
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“In fact, scientists have taken advantage of this effect by using the amount of red in contemporary paintings of sunsets to estimate the intensity of volcanic eruptions. Several Greek scientists, led by C. S. Zerefos, digitally measured the amount of red—relative to other primary colors—in more than 550 samples of landscape art by 181 artists from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries to produce estimates of the amount of volcanic ash in the air at various times. Paintings from the years following the Tambora eruption used the most red paint; those after Krakatoa came a close second.” 0 likes
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