A Crack in the Edge of the World
Let me tell you what there is to love about this book.
Firstly, Winchester starts off by talking about the Gaia Theory – essentially that everything is related to everything else. He does this because talk of earthquakes has only begun to make sen...more
"There is a tendency common to most of us to take the more modest of our landscapes for granted. We see a wide and fertile plai...more
The 1906 earthquake that most notably affected San Francisco is a fascinating topic, and I like books with a bit of Science in them, but oh my god! could this author be any more of a pain in the ass? I just have to prove it with a couple of examples, but truly sir: Mr. Winchester, I implore you, where are your trustworthy editors? Nowhere, mon frere. Example One in my hypothetical thesis entitled "why Simon Winchester is a pain in the ass": in one paragraph...more
A fair amount of this book covers not the actual aftermath of the earthquake which most people remember as the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 but rather events leading up to it and the nature of American and world geology.
I'm not going to write a spoiler here but I w...more
This book is almost as good as Krakatoa. I learned a lot and couldn't believe how my public school education failed to educate me on history. I did get a little bored on the 9th CD, but the 10th picked up when he recounted his trip to Alaska and then back to Yellowstone. Certainly a must-read... or be...more
So you get on a shuttle bus and head for Newark, and board your new flight, and settl...more
Not content to merely relate “what happened” in San Francisco during and after the earthquake, the book relates the details of world-wide tectonic plate science as it evolved over the centuries, along with earthquake and volcanic eruptions all over t...more
Simon Winchester has one of those voices that can really get up your nose. I find him tedious and slightly patronising and smug. I've tried several of his other works and given up on them. I don't know why but this one worked for me.
I found it engaging and put across in a way that held my interest. I liked they way that he sprinkles factoids here and there and his little digressions I found filled in details in this huge canvas. I liked his systematic approach to the sci...more
I learned more than I ever wanted to about New Geology, seismology, plate tectonics, fault lines, slip-strike lines, seismographs - but what I really wanted was the personal histories,...more
Winchester is a very knowledgeable fellow. The book is framed around his own travels to places like Iceland and then across North America, from Charleston, to New Madrid, and on westward to San Francisco. His goal is to explore tectonic theory and how the San Andreas Fault fits into the larger sche...more
Length? – Three or Four evening read.
Characters? – Many historical characters
Setting? – Globally, focuses mostly on California and how geology influences lives and politics.
Written approximately? – 2006.
Does the story leave questions in the readers mind? – How have those influences changed since the 1906 quake. Has the politics improved, or is the town just as likely to be severely damaged by earthquake and fire today.
Any issues the author (or...more
Winchester's latest work is a lesson in unfulfilled expectations. Though he presents the book as a history of the San Francisco quake, over the first 200 pages Winchester offers an abbreviated version of John McPhee's Annals of the Former World. Where McPhee made clear his intentions to write a comprehensive geological history of the North American continent, critics feel duped by Winchester, or by the publisher's marketing department. Many reviewers are dismayed to see him reusing information f...more
I loved his earlier book, The Professor and the Madman
Generally speaking, I enjoy disaster history (Isaac's Storm, The Children's Blizzard, etc).
But the science bits, explaining plate tetonics and exactly what kind of earthquake hit San Francisco in 1906 too far too long. I ended up skimming quite a bit of it, something I rarely do. His trip across the US, checking out fault lines, also got skimmed.
The stuff about the actual disaster was good--there jus...more
The nonfiction book’s subject is the California earthquake of 1906…and so much more. As usual with nonfiction, I was glad to have my book group at the Naples library, led by my friend Claudia, to discuss after reading. I w...more
Simon Winchester graduated from Oxford University with a degree in geology, and he ABSOLUTELY writes like a British geologist. Sometimes the writing is dense, sometimes he gets off on brilliant tangents (loaded with remarkable trivia; one footnote took a half page), but his devotion to the story of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake is cl...more
Like Bill Bryson, Winchester is both discursive and digressive but not nearly so entertaining. In fact I would call him humorless, even with the inherently risable subject of rocks (I can't even thin...more
Winchester spends much more time in this book explaining plate tectonics, including an over-arching travel thread from one end of the North American Plate (in Iceland) to the other (in California and Alaska). While I really do find plate tectonics fascinating (gotta love that the first supercontinent was named Ur), I found the shifting between the travelogue, the San F...more
Much to the delight of info gluttons, Winchester as always ranges widely from the nominal focus of the book. Any reader looking for an in-depth history of the whys and wherefores of the earthquake and fire will be more than satisfied, as well anyone wondering about the broader sur...more