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The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,750 Ratings  ·  246 Reviews
In the span of five violent hours on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed major Gulf Coast cities and flattened 150 miles of coastline. Yet those wind-torn hours represented only the first stage of the relentless triple tragedy that Katrina brought to the entire Gulf Coast, from Louisiana to Mississippi to Alabama.

First came the hurricane, one of the three stronges
Hardcover, 716 pages
Published May 9th 2006 by William Morrow & Company (first published May 1st 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 23, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: students of high school civics
I think parts of this book should be assigned to social studies students, because it so clearly shows the significance of electing competent and talented officials to the offices of government. Rarely have the costs of having the wrong people in power been so starkly illustrated: as I think we all agree, Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster, but its horrific aftermath in New Orleans was the result of mindblowing incompetence at nearly every level of government, from the city right up through ...more
Jun 21, 2010 Schuyler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I had a vague understanding of what went down in New Orleans after Katrina hit, but after finishing this powerhouse history lesson by Brinkley, I realize I didn't know shit. I mean, what the fuck. Every other page filled me with disbelief. I can't even begin to establish all of the factors that led to all the destruction, mismanagement, neglect, and chaos. Factors such as the lac
Aaron Million
Very disturbing look at the immediate aftermath (the first week) of the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (with occasionally brief sidebars to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi). Time and again the incredible ineptitude, incompetence, pettiness, lack of concern for others, and preoccupation with looking good themselves defined the government officials whose jobs were to make sure that New Orleanians were taken care of to the best extent possible. Nobody who had responsibility (other ...more
Feb 02, 2009 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apparently the only people able to get their heads out of their asses were the United States Coast Guard, the 'Cajun Navy', and Lt. Gen. Russel Honore. Here's a chilling quote from a reporter and former swift boat pilot who helped out:

"The water didn't remind me of Vietnam," he said. "The dying did. Knowing people were dying and hearing stories and talking to people who were in the process of dying, who were going to die as soon as we hung up. That reminded me a lot of Vietnam. When the people c
Jun 03, 2011 Sheila rated it did not like it
I cannot finish this book, there are so many inaccuracies that I can't even get past the first 100 pages. I was utterly disgusted by the inaccuracies. This was written by a "History" professor who obviously doesn't know the history of New Orleans or its surrounding areas. In one section of the book he talks about how the levees were blown in 1927 at Caernarvon, Louisiana, then a few pages later says that the levee was blown in the Lower 9th Ward. There is STILL a crater where the levee was blown ...more
Mar 09, 2013 Laurene rated it it was amazing
The book was a very hard read for me, I was born and raised in Metairie, Louisiana, which is a suburb of New Orleans. I worked at Southern Baptist Hospital, known as Memorial Medical Center, for over seven years. I worked for Charity Hospital -- University Hospital -- right after nursing school. I have very fond memories of these places. My husband and I moved away from the area in 1997 due to his work. I know people who were affected by Katrina and their lives will never be the same. I wanted a ...more
Joyce Hahnenkratt
Feb 15, 2014 Joyce Hahnenkratt rated it really liked it
Fascinating read. Hard to believe the USA let down so many of their citizens when we can come to the aid of so many countries in the world.
Wish there had been a map of the areas effected as I am not familiar with the regions. Getting out my atlas and checking the footnotes was tedious. Great historical I may have to reread Issac's Storm again.
Feb 16, 2009 Chris rated it it was amazing
Hugely impressive reporting. Best book on Katrina I've read so far.
Mar 01, 2014 Aileen rated it really liked it
Here are two thoughts I had as I read this book:

1) Why didn't Ray Nagin go to jail over his gross mismanagement of evacuation procedures in NOLA before and during the Katrina crisis? Instead, he holed up in the Hyatt, 24 stories above the greatest urban disaster this country has ever had, worrying about the political impact of every decision he could possibly make, and worrying that if he called for a mandatory evacuation that he would get sued by the hotel and tourism industry for lost revenue.
Jeffrey Trotter
Nov 17, 2008 Jeffrey Trotter rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in domestic policy
This work from noted historian Douglas Brinkley is a tome at 736 pages, but is an absolute must read for anyone wanting a full understanding of the events during and surrounding Hurrican Katrina in the Gulf Coast Region.

Brinley, a New Orleanian himself, is able to humanize the story with numerous stories from those residents who endured the storm and its aftermath while at the same time laying out the logistics of the storm and governmental response through a myriad of interviews with weather ex
Frank Stein
Feb 09, 2010 Frank Stein rated it it was ok
So disappointing.

I wanted to read just one good book on Katrina, which after all was the greatest disaster to befall an American city in almost a hundred years. Seems important to know about, so I looked around. This book got the most praise, the most awards, and the most blurbs, so I gave it a chance.

Besides being light on facts and heavy on judgmental analysis, the main problem with the book is that Brinkley seems eerily compelled to relate the life story of every single one of the hundreds o
Kathleen Hagen
The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans,and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, by Douglas Brinkley. A.
Produced by Recorded Books, downloaded from

This is an extremely long book (24 cassettes) that documents the entire week between the time Katrina was expected and warnings to leave New Orleans began to be heard, not from the mayor or the governor or the federal government though. We go through the hurricane, and then overwhelming flooding afterward, the horrendous conditions that p
May 02, 2015 Michelle rated it really liked it
A must-read for all Americans. This is a shameful chapter in our country's history, and it simply cannot be repeated. It could have been prevented, and never should've happened to begin with.

While it's nearly impossible to weather a natural disaster unscathed, the brunt of this colossal catastrophe could have been avoided if the politicians (from the Bush Administration to NOLA Mayor Nagin, and many of the police officers as well) had just been doing their job and looking out for their citizens.
having read several really good books on natural disasters and their social and political consequences, this book is one of the best. Although it sometimes seems less organized than it might, it is almost impossible to put down.

We all know the outcome of Katrina and New Orleans. Even so, there is a lot to be learned here about the response (or lack of same) to the next disaster and the dangers of a disinterested, disengaged bureaucracy (and President) mixing with local politics and ineptitude.
Bookmarks Magazine

Professor of history and director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University, Douglas Brinkley, whose previous efforts include The Boys of Pointe du Hoc and The Majic Bus, brings an historical and personal perspective to bear on one of the first books to detail the Katrina disaster. Some critics point out factual errors and editorial lapses that detract from the author's valuable story, and Diane Jennings writes that Brinkley's book "will be among the earliest, but not among the best, books ab

I can't recall ever reading a more horrifying book. Brinkley provides us with a very disturbing look at what society could become when all civil authority and services completely breakdown. NOLA became an absolute dystopian hell during and after Katrina. Brinkley describes in excruciating detail the incompetence of the local government, FEMA, and national leaders, the collapse of the NOPD (which came to stand for NO Police Department), the mistakes make by the state government, and the failure o ...more
Steve Smits
Jun 13, 2015 Steve Smits rated it liked it
Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating storms in American history. Narrowly missing being a Category 5 hurricane and just skirting New Orleans to the east Katrina brought utter destruction to the Gulf Coast. The brunt of the storm's force hit the Mississippi coast where the physical effects of winds and storm surge wiped out coastal communities. The delta parishes of Southeast Louisiana were flooded. The relatively recent loss of wetlands and marshes created significantly more damage ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 05, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Brinkley writes what must be the definitive history of the hurricane by pouring a torrent of well-craft words to tell the story of the surreal man-made disaster that followed. I was spurred to read more about Katrina by Rising Tide, John Barry's history of the 1927 Mississippi flood, where his tales of unsteady levees, technical and political infighting, and racism before and after the deluge foretold with frightening prescience so much of what was to come.

While not the visceral shock that bran
Jun 25, 2014 Nicole rated it really liked it
This book was fantastic...and I'm the last person who thought I would be saying that! I had to read this for one of my classes (which focuses on economic, social, and ecological impacts of hurricanes) and thought that it was going to be the hardest thing ever to read....surprisingly I couldn't put it down!

The author is a journalist and tells the story of Katrina and NOLA through stories of people: people who stepped up to the plate and sacrificed their lives to save others; people who cracked un
Feb 21, 2011 Anne-Marie rated it really liked it
Having gone through Katrina as a resident of the Gulf Coast (I live in Mobile, AL and had the chimney blown off my roof during the storm) I still find it hard to fathom all of the chaos and bureaucratic bullshit that went on in New Orleans and along the Coast. The bad thing is that if another Katrina hit this summer, I'm not sure anything would be radically different. Maybe this book shed enough light on what happened that it wouldn't be as colossal a screw up. Well researched and detailed book!
Steve D
Sep 30, 2009 Steve D rated it it was amazing
If you can stomach it, I say do it. Absolutely incredible account of Katrina that focuses on aspects of the aftermath up and down the Gulf Coast. Extensively researched with insane interviews and personal accounts. I cannot say enough about the quality of this undertaking. I would have given this book as a gift to everyone I know but the topic is dicey and reading it will definitely bring you tears.
Jan 16, 2016 SouthWestZippy rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
Not a easy book to read for two reasons, the subject and the length of the book. The individuals stories are fascinating, scary and heartbreaking. He tells both Heroes and cowards stories. I would have liked less Political firestorm but because it was such a essential part of the subject I could over look parts of it. Many problems were exposed in the chain of commands. I can't fully explain why I did not like the book overall but here are a couple reasons. I found it frustrating to swim through ...more
Oct 25, 2013 SweetPea rated it really liked it
Lots of insights on what happened during Katrina that wasn't covered on the news. A sad time that should have never been as bad as it was. Some of the writing was overwrought and at certain points some of the stories being told to personalize the event became repetitive and therefore lost some of their power to move.
Aug 30, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coming first-hand from a resident of New Orleans during the seven day span of Hurricane Katrina, the author of this book created a very vivid picture in my memory of what it was like to have been living there during that storm! I loved this book, despite it's longevity.
Linda Nichols
Nov 25, 2015 Linda Nichols rated it it was amazing
Brings back all the vicarious anguish we went through during Katrina, while describing the horrors on the ground and in the water. Few "leaders" come off well in this catastrophe. The NOPD appears to have been rotten to the core; New Orleans' finest were looting along with the others, and stealing Cadillacs from the Sewell dealership. Death and destruction, sorrow and pain, indifference and just plain hostility abound. If you want to get mad all over again at those in authority, those who were s ...more
Jessica Leight
Sep 03, 2015 Jessica Leight rated it liked it
There is no question that this is a thorough, detailed and compelling account of the disaster wreaked by Katrina across the coast. That being said, it certainly shows the signs of being hastily written and published. Brinkley repeatedly reiterates "information" that is no more than rumors: the stories of the crimes and deaths in the Superdome and the Convention Center are the most notable examples, but there are others. The narrative is also a bit disjointed. I didn't mind the many personal stor ...more
Jan 10, 2014 Patty rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Everything you ever wanted to know about Hurricane Katrina in one chunky book. Explains how New Orleans came to be and why it ended up being below sea level. Tells of the inept politicians in charge of preparing for the storm. You know, I was such a snob back then when I just thought, why don't the residents just leave? 90% of the population was in poverty with below $15,000 per year income and no car nor means to get a ride leaving the area. The government sent no busses to transport citizens o ...more
Donna Burtwistle-Popplewell
Jul 07, 2014 Donna Burtwistle-Popplewell rated it really liked it
This expose into the horrendous and cataclysmic event of Hurricane Katrina was riveting, terrifying, disgusting and inspirational. Douglas Brinkley has compiled impressive details that outline the onset of the hurricane to its bitter aftermath. In the end, it is hard to fathom that a nation of such supposed wealth and compassion could completely turn away from the realities of the impending devastation. The lack of leadership, supplies, support and money from government and societal institutions ...more
Andrea Gebler
Jun 05, 2016 Andrea Gebler rated it really liked it
Excellent coverage and many different views of the events surrounding Katrina. The government response was definitely more tragic than portrayed on the news. The only unnecessary comment made was that regarding President Bush not being able to be found right after the attacks of 9/11. Anyone who's watched or read documentaries knows he was in Florida, got on a plane, was airborne with little communications (which has since been changed and is stronger), eventually landed at an Air Force base in ...more
Jul 09, 2015 Michelle rated it it was amazing
This is a long book, but it's packed full of humanity and devastation and stories from all dimensions of this tragedy that will keep you reading until the end. I purchased this book on my very first visit to New Orleans, several years after Katrina, and began reading it during my trip. I'm so glad I did - although I would have fallen in love with the city and its people either way, this book was such a punch to the gut that I left a piece of my heart there. Probably the definitive account of the ...more
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Douglas Brinkley is a professor of history at Rice University and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. The Chicago Tribune has dubbed him “America’s new past master.” His most recent books are The Quiet World, The Wilderness Warrior, and The Great Deluge. Six of his books have been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. He lives in Texas with his wife and three children.
More about Douglas G. Brinkley...

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“Unlike the Marines, who are given macho monikers like “jarheads,” the Coast Guard had long been denigrated in military circles as fey “puddle jumpers.” But just as 9/11 brought a newfound respect to firemen, Katrina did the same for the reputation of the Coast Guard. At the peak of rescue operations they had 62 aircraft, 30 cutters, and 111 small boats stepping up in rescue and recovery operations. They did it all one person at a time.” 1 likes
“History will remember the Superdome debacle—caused by the dearth of evacuation buses—as “Nagin’s Folly,” mayoral incompetence of the first order.” 0 likes
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