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Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  12,753 Ratings  ·  946 Reviews
Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman, examines the legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa, which was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly forty thousand people. The effects of the immense waves were felt as far away as France. Barometers in Bogotá and Washington, D.C., went haywire. Bodie ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2003)
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The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonSalt by Mark KurlanskyStiff by Mary RoachThe Professor and the Madman by Simon WinchesterThe Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
Microhistory: Social Histories of Just One Thing
28th out of 1,160 books — 1,783 voters
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
137th out of 4,001 books — 5,781 voters

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Community Reviews

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Will Byrnes
Feb 18, 2015 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, nature
Reading Simon Winchester books is a bit like reading a web page. You start in one place, but soon succumb to sundry alluring links. On-line, of course, we are all much likelier to then wander off on yet more linked tangents, but thankfully, in his actual, paper and ink book, Winchester keeps bringing us back to the main page. And a large page it is.

One can expect certain things in Simon Winchester books, a wide array of information, from a look at relevant geology, where appropriate, to history
Jun 29, 2011 Silvana rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: those who have lots of reading time
Wow. This has got to be the most out of topic (OOT) book I’ve ever read. It saddens me to only award it two stars. I usually have a soft spot for nonfictions *sigh*

Why on earth did I do that? Some of my friends rated it five stars, after all… Here’s a glimpse of my train of thoughts while reading this book. You’ll see why.


“Yay, finally I get to read this book. A nonfiction about (something major happened in) Indonesia, oh the excitement!...*reading the first pages* Hmm ok, spice trade…
Jason Koivu
Jun 24, 2012 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it
Simon Winchester could turn your decrepit granny's boring old stories into lively, magical tales. He has a way of putting the reader into the past while making them feel as if the historical subjects he writes about are fresh and very much of the present. Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded is no exception. Though this raging volcano's past exploits in the form of catastrophic explosions can only be guessed at for lack of reliable eyewitnesses aside from its late 1800s eruption, Winchester stil ...more
Sep 07, 2008 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, science
Another masterful book by Simon Winchester. I really enjoyed this one – so much so that I’ve bought a copy for my father for Father’s Day.

When I was in Primary School one of my teachers once spoke about Krakatoa. Most of what he said wasn’t true, for instance, he said that the tidal wave went around the world twice. Naturally, the 8 year old me had visions of a huge wall of water drowning the world. Krakatoa was bad, but not quite Biblical.

Winchester is a pure delight to read. He has such a va
Nov 10, 2009 Emily rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2003
Over the weekend I read Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883, a book in which Simon Winchester has the gall to make fun of a geographically mistitled film called "Krakatoa, East of Java," while himself failing to provide an adequate map of the region. There are historical maps, there are maps of where the sound of the explosion could be heard, there are numerous diagrams of fault-lines and continental and oceanic plates, and there is even a black-and-white reproduction of a ...more
Helvry Sinaga
Jun 16, 2011 Helvry Sinaga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, sumatra
Apakah suatu kebanggaan bila sebuah bencana pernah menjadi buah bibir internasional. Belum hilang di benak kita bencana tsunami di Banda Aceh dan sekitarnya yang menelan korban jiwa lebih dari 100.000 jiwa. Oktober 2010 lalu, erupsi Merapi turut menambah catatan bencana terbesar bagi negeri kita ini. Letusan Gunung vulkanik telah lama menjadi langganan bagi wilayah negeri kita. Rekor yang tidak terkalahkan adalah letusan Gunung Toba yang membentuk caldera Danau Toba, serta letusan Gunung Tambora ...more
Nov 27, 2014 Mike rated it really liked it
All gone. Plenty lives lost. That is the story of Krakatoa, only the 5th greatest volcanic explosion in history but probably the loudest. What intrigued me was Winchester’s assertion that this natural disaster was the first world-wide “social media” event. It happened at a time when communication technology enabled the news to be transmitted world-wide in a few hours through undersea telegraph cables. In the Victorian age, science was “sexy” and many amateur science aficionados are fascinated ...more
Deborah Ideiosepius  omnivorous reader
In Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded Simon Winchester again weaves the subtle magic of telling a factual story with the fascination that is too often reserved for thrillers. Krakatoa is a real life thriller, the most long lastingly impressive volcanic eruption in so many ways and all are explored in this book.

First there is the historical element; 1883 when the final eruption occurred is definitely historical, but recent enough that there are a lot of records and eye witness reports to draw f
Apr 17, 2007 JT rated it liked it
Recommends it for: History/Science
Shelves: goodsolidread
Alright, I know I scored this with 3 stars, but that is because it is just LONG and DULL in places.

This book is about the last great Global event right before the modern era of the industrial revolution. You learn so much and gain such an insight into this event that you can't help but feel smarter. Hell, you feel like you've earned your PhD. in Geology or some anthropological earth science by the time you reach the end of this bad mamma-jamma!

If you have a few weeks of your life to waste (pro
Oct 19, 2014 cameron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this several years ago but remember it clearly. It is a terrific book and moves at a fast clip, The kind of book you can't put down. How an author can create such tension and awe when every reader knows what happened, is beyond me.
Wonderful journalism and descriptions which put you in the middle of everything happening to the characters he discusses.
Aug 05, 2013 S. rated it really liked it
Shelves: hookah
when I first saw KRAKATOA some eight or whatever years ago, I flipped through it at the bookstore and thought it unimpressive. hardcovers are what, $25 these days, and if you think about it, that's four or five movies (depending on the theatre/ netflix or blockbuster) or it's a lobster dinner or its a night's stay at a guesthouse in bali or singapore. don't underestimate the power of $25 ! since that time, I've now read 7 full Simon Winchester books and have a copy of one or two more buried ...more
Krakatoa. Krakatoa! Krakatoa.

Simon Winchester does it again. He lured me into purchasing this book because of the subject itself... the monstrous volcanic explosion that became the byword for catastrophe. And once again, Winchester let me down. The man does his homework, he gets the research done, and he has his facts in line.

But. He. Is. Boring.

How can a book about a volcano that obliterated an island and launched a massive killer tsunami be dull? I mean, Charlton Heston should be running thro
Nov 22, 2008 Yael rated it it was amazing
On August 27, 1883, an immense volcano on an island in the Sunda Straits of immense archipelago that was the Dutch East Indies (now called Indonesia) annihilated itself in an explosion that changed the world. Thousands of people in the vicinity of the volcano died right there; many more were made homeless and destitute as a result of it. The shock wave from that titanic explosion manifested as atmospheric pressure waves -- sound waves -- heard thousands of miles away, and the disaster was ...more
Jan 17, 2010 Nicole rated it liked it
I really wanted this book to be better than it was. While it has a lot of factual information about Krakatoa, it tells the tale with a number of sidetracks and blind alleys rather than in a linear fashion. At many points, it's hard to tell whether the author is relating something that happened before, during, or after the explosion.

And, unfortunately, the explosion itself is a very small portion of the book. Winchester dedicates 64 pages to explaining the origins of continental drift theory. Why
Dec 14, 2013 Cara rated it it was ok
Krakatoa is a scientific history of the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, a volcano located on a small island between Java and Sumatra in what is now Indonesia and what was then the Dutch East Indies. Like all Simon Winchester books, this one takes a long, erratic detour over the course of a couple hundred pages before actually reaching the point. That won't hinder your enjoyment of the book as long as you're not in a hurry, but I thought I should mention it.

Winchester studied geology in college, and t
Mar 07, 2009 CD rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Dependable historical story telling can be a dry glass in a desert for many readers. Winchester is a very fine writer, fine to the point of absurdum with descriptions that sometime take him down a path that does not always work on the written page. Having heard him speak and listened to his reading of his works it both pushes my rating of this back to 3 stars and down to 3 stars at the same time.

Nothing is left out it seems from this story, but where detail and richness of information is lacking
Gary ONeill
This is a work of non-fiction about one of the hugest volcanic eruptions that has ever happened since there were humans on the planet. Krakatoa (between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia) erupted in 1883, a massive explosion that could be heard in Mauritius - 3000 kilometers away! The eruption and the resulting tidal wave killed 35000 people and it threw so much volcanic dust into the atmosphere that there were amazing sunsets for three years after the eruption.

I found the book fascinating. The writ
Aug 12, 2010 MisterFweem rated it it was amazing
A lot of the reviews I've read for this book criticize Winchester for being, well, slow. Slow to get to the action, or whatever.

Well, this isn't that kind of book. Though it's written of a Hollywood blockbuster event, this isn't popular fiction. It's a scientist's approach to a worldwide calamity, and as a result of that, Winchester earns the right to be a bit slow and methodical, delving into the significance of Indonesia in the science of evolution and how the science of plate tectonics plays
Informative book on an interesting subject, but way too padded with tangential subjects, like spice trade, Dutch colonialism, tectonic plate science history, Islamic revolution in Indonesia, etc. Understandably, all of these are important to see the big picture of Krakatoa's role in political, cultural, and economic histories of the geographical area, but these digressions are often distracting. The actual meat of the book is lean and spread out thin, which makes it quite easy to put the book ...more
Aug 02, 2015 Betsy rated it it was amazing
This book starts slowly, but really becomes interesting as the rumbles of Krakatoa become more ominous resulting in several eruptions. Eventually, most of the volcano disappears into the sea. Along with the eruptions, the area suffers a massive tsunami which causes a great loss of life. I've always been fascinated by volcanoes such as Krakatoa and Tambora so this was a good read for me. And with the reappearance of another volcanic cone, Anakratoa, presents the possibility of another devastating ...more
Jul 29, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Parts of this book had the potential to be boring, particularly some of geological data, but the material is presented in such an engaging manner as to hold the reader's interest throughout. Hell, I even found the acknowledgements interesting! All you will ever need to know about the eruption of Krakatoa contained in one easy volume!
Feisty Harriet
Aug 24, 2015 Feisty Harriet rated it really liked it
You’ve heard of the island-volcano Krakatoa, right? Exploded in 1883 off the coast of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia? Well, if not, buckle your seat belt because I’m about to get my geek on. Krakatoa was the largest recorded volcanic explosion in history, killing 36,000 people and sending so much ash and pumice into the stratosphere–miles above the surface of the earth–that it blocked out the sun for years causing the earth’s temperature to cool by several degrees (as recorded in polar ice caps ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
This is not just about that famous volcano, Krakatoa, in Indonesia [near Java and Sumatra:]. The book consumed almost 400 pages because it likewise dealt with topics related to the volcano, and volcanoes in general.

There were chapters about spices and the spice trade. Spices are the in thing at that time, and the area where Krakatoa was was where most of the spices were harvested at that time. Naturally, the Europeans competed with each other in this spice trade and somehow it was the Dutch who
Clare O'Beara
What I like about this book is that it's not just volcanism or the history of one location. Like a huge jigsaw puzzle, the tale brings together all the colonisation and advances in science that were happening right then, right there, and connecting the world more swiftly and thoroughly than ever. From the naturalists who were discovering continental drift theory as a way of accounting for different flora and fauna on different islands in one archipelago, to understanding magma chambers under ...more
Feb 02, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it
On August 27, 1883, the volcanic island of Krakatoa, located in the Sundra Straits in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), exploded. The explosion, devastation, tsunamis, and shock waves killed almost 40,000 people and affected the entire world. Shock waves were detected around the world and high sea waves hit the shores of France and the English Channel. Dust that was hurled miles into the atmosphere from the explosion of the volcano kept full sunlight from reaching the earth, causing global ...more
I started reading this and kind of zoned out really fast. This is one of those books -- all too common now -- where the chronicler seems hellbent on going back far into time and detailing various tangentially relevant incident before finally deciding to bring it all home somewhere near the end. I'm sure that descriptions of flora and fauna and the history of trade routes have their place, but not to this extent. Why must every author have to be the "chronicler of record" and weigh their books ...more
Nov 16, 2015 Ariel rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
I really liked this book. Winchester's style was enjoyable and I felt like I learned quite a bit in several areas. I wasn't really sure what to expect from Winchester's work. I haven't read any of his other books and, besides a few biographies, I'm not a huge nonfiction reader. I really wanted to change that this year which was why this was moved up my TBR list and I'm glad it was.

It did feel like there was some heavy repetition in areas. Both in information and in how the author phrased certai
Jun 29, 2011 miaaa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I think about this book?

It was so amazing that I mostly dumbfounded throughout the reading progress. Lots of details -the likes of the history of Batavia, early colonialism, etc- that I think interesting despite my genuine expectation regarding the book was merely about the eruption.

Yet somehow I like the, as a friend said in her review, the OOT parts of this book, for me, quite entertaining. But to be honest not all of them, just a bit.

If somehow Mr. Winchester, you're reading this, you sh
Apr 09, 2012 Kalilah rated it liked it
Interesting and filled with a ton of fun facts, but perhaps 100 pages longer than it needs to be. There are a number of moments when Winchester goes off on a random tangent or includes a detailed footnote about something unexpected and fascinating but for every one of those there are three such instances where the tangents just feel cumbersome and unnecessary. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he was being paid by the world.

In any case, if you have any interest in learning about volcanology
Harry Lane
Oct 15, 2016 Harry Lane rated it really liked it
One of Winchester's better books. Since he has a background in geology, you might expect he is comfortable in writing about volcanoes. In addition to the science, there is a lot of science history, sociology, political history and the spice of anecdotes about prominent and not so prominent people.
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Simon Winchester, OBE, is a British writer, journalist and broadcaster who resides in the United States. Through his career at The Guardian, Winchester covered numerous significant events including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal. As an author, Simon Winchester has written or contributed to over a dozen nonfiction books and authored one novel, and his articles appear in several travel publ ...more
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