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The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us and What We Can Do about Them
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The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us and What We Can Do about Them

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,122 ratings  ·  199 reviews
By a veteran seismologist of the U.S. Geological Survey, a lively and revealing history of the world's most disruptive natural disasters, their impact on our culture, and new ways of thinking about the ones to come

Natural disasters emerge from the same forces that give our planet life. Earthquakes have provided us with natural springs. Volcanoes have given us fertile soil.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 17th 2018 by Doubleday Books
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 ·  1,122 ratings  ·  199 reviews

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Ross Blocher
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Lucy Jones covers a lot of ground in her quick and delightful The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them). It's one of those rare books in which the author is not only a lead authority on the topic at hand, but also a gifted explainer and storyteller. The Big Ones weaves the history of natural disasters, heroic individuals who helped survivors or pursued prevention, the physical forces involved, the science and pseudoscience of prediction, the psycholog ...more
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend this book to everyone, regardless of where you live and the disasters that might be most probable. Dr. Lucy Jones, the well-known seismologist, has written a very important argument for planning ahead to handle the natural disasters that are bound to affect us. By exploring the responses to disasters throughout history, she demonstrates how critical it is to be prepared and to think of the communities we are a part of and respond in the most effective and compassionate way pos ...more
Ellen Gail
Natural hazards are inevitable; the disaster is not.

3.5 stars. Review to come.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very informative book. We don't receive this sort of information in public schools as youngsters, but should be more exposed more to what our planet really is. Reminds us of just how NOT in control we are. Takes a book such as this to bring home the facts, which we may gloss over in our daily lives. Highly recommended reading for all.
Paul Holden
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, research
A brilliant book. Reminds me why Geography was my favourite subject at school. Fascinating and scary it will make you angry and sad. Very interesting and entertaining though.
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, nature
I super love natural disasters. I am, in fact, a supernatural disaster geek. (This stems from a life time of never actually having been in one.) So I saw this book on Edelweiss, and instantly clicked the "request it" button, and I'm very glad I did.

It's great! It's a summation of some of the world's biggest natural disasters, but also how societies dealt with - and are still dealing with - them. It delves not only into who we are as humans, but at how we can look at past disasters to help shape
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting read. And just reveals how much more of American history we aren't told in school. It really is a failure on every level of society that we "lose interest" so to speak after natural disasters. Because some of the worst damage and effects are felt long after the storm or after the ground has stopped shaking.
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Listened to the audio. It is not often that a non-fiction book holds my attention long enough to read the whole thing, but I devoured this one. Extremely interesting, accessible, and thought-provoking.
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I expected a book on disasters to be depressing and scary, but this really wasn't. The writer has a clear, engaging voice and comes from a fairly positive view of disasters happen, what matters is how we prepare and react. I also learned some really interesting history I didn't know!
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
A nonfiction book about natural disasters, written by a seismologist who has worked with a Los Angeles committee to spearhead efforts at earthquake prevention and recovery.

She surveys all types of natural disasters, not just earthquakes, and examples throughout history. Her descriptions of the mechanisms of each (volcanoes, hurricanes, etc.) were very helpful to the layperson (me) in understanding the mechanics. Particularly with hurricanes: I'd read before but forgotten the details about how th
Aug 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
I really enjoyed the portions of this book that focused on the actual science, but I absolutely loathed her constant stream of liberal psychology. I flipped back and forth between being completely fascinated and incredibly annoyed. The book goes through a number of the biggest natural disasters in history and discusses what led up to the event, what happened during, and what happened in the aftermath. The rest of my review is just going to be a rant.

Jones spends a good portion of the book making
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Undoubtedly, The Voice of New England had the deeds of his fellow humans in mind, rather than so-called Acts of God, when he penned the above rumination in rhyme about a possible apocalypse. Nevertheless, his thought provoking short ve
Dee Eisel
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been doing a lot of true crime and not enough other stuff lately, with the exception of the Ehrman book. Let’s switch it up with some general disaster books!

“Big Ones” is fantastic. Dr. Jones is one of the most respected scientists in the field of seismology. This book doesn’t limit itself to talking about earthquakes, though. Its focus is in lessons we can learn from past disasters which ended up being literal civilization-altering events. From the Lisbon earthquake and tsunami to Vesuvius
David Webber
This book is neither a good history of the disasters it covers nor (mostly) a good discussion of the science behind them. She selected some intriguing events to discuss, but if you are looking for a good history of these disasters, then skip this. There are some bright points, especially in the earthquake science portions, where Ms. Jones is an expert. And I'm sure Ms. Jones is a talented scientist, but the narrative was all over the place. From her chastising of societies for their views on God ...more
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent primer on major natural disaster events and the human response from Pompeii to present day. Dr. Jones' new book or something very like it should be required reading in high schools, to help combat all-too-common ignorance and/or fear regarding natural disaster events. There are many other books on these events out there, but few are so readably approachable and succinctly comprehensive. Was there more science, and psychology, and policy she could have included? Absolutely, but that wou ...more
This book provides a superficial look at a few of the world's biggest natural disasters and how these disasters effected societies. Jones explores how the disaster victims and relevant governments dealt with the catastrophe and what they are doing to mitigate the adverse effects of any subsequent natural disasters. This is a history book with minimal, superficial science. The book is informative with an easy going writing style, however, I was hoping for more specific information on the disaster ...more
Earth is not a peaceful place; even it were stripped of all life, it would still teem with energy, from vast tectonic plates below, to the rolling seas and fantastic lightening storms above. Much of that energy is put to use by human ingenuity, but sometimes it lashes out in displays that destroy hundreds or thousands of lives and undermine what we've built. The Big One reviews some of the greatest recorded disasters to strike human civilization, mixing science and history, and closes with some ...more
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was looking for something to read on the Boxing Day tsunami and I came up on this book. Then corona shut the libraries and I almost forgot I had ordered this. I think the title is quite intriguing, as is the synopsis on the back cover. Sadly, the stuff between the covers doesn't come up to par with the expectations created by the said covers. Granted, the book gets better towards the end which is a plus. I would have organized the book differently: first by the type of catastrophe and the orga ...more
Sugarpuss O'Shea
This is a very interesting book. Reading it within a week of Hurricane Florence, it's even more insightful...... The book focus mainly on earthquakes, tsunamis, & volcanos, because this is where Dr Jones' background lies. Whatever the disaster, the results are all the same -- Property is destroyed, lives are upended, never to be the same again...... It was also interesting to see how other cultures explained away these disasters by whatever god they angered. While there are still some places whe ...more
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2020
Lucy Jones gives us a low-down on the most catastrophic natural disasters - the Big Ones - that have destroyed and transformed human societies in the last few centuries, and the specter of whose repetition haunt us every moment. Jones writes with the confidence of an expert and the clarity of someone who knows that her audience is anything but. I learnt a lot about the science behind various kinds of natural disasters. I learnt even more about how people and communities have responded to natural ...more
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My favorite kind of book- a mix of science and history. Lucy Jones, who I've seen in clips of interviews on NOVA documentaries over the years, has written a book that is completely readable for the lay person. She describes a series of natural disasters, ranging from volcanic eruptions, to earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods. Not only does she cover the science and history behind these disasters, but she also describes the cultural and social impacts. How each community dealt with the disaster is ...more
Sophy H
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: outdoor-nature
A fascinating yet scary account of how natural disasters shape our physical, psychological, cultural, political and economic lives.

Each chapter deals with a different event in history; the most memorable for me being the Boxing Day tsunami in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina and the utter failure for the African American population of New Orleans, and the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Dr Jones interestingly addresses the "human" aspect of disaster, including blame culture, the spread of false news a
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend this informative and motivational book.
Too many great quotes to try and capture here.. but here's two anyway: "The future is largely unknowable. We can see patterns and assess likelihoods, but time travels only in one direction. We cannon know which of the earth's many cities will experience their Big One in our lifetimes. But we can say with confidence that it WILL happen somewhere." & "Natural disasters strike us down together, and it is together that we will get back on our
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I need to stop reading scary bureaucratic books.

All things equal, this book offers a very nice balance of information and description about the natural disasters affecting all of us, and discussion about the silver lines, and what we can do to prepare and rebuild.

Each chapter details a natural disaster from history, and then describes how scientists predicted (or not), and reacted to the damage (for better or for worse).
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Felt like must reading for all, being prepared for disasters unimaginable doesn't cross my mind often, yes I think of earthquakes as a native Californian, but this expert exposed me to worst case scenario that reverberate deep! Let's not forget flooding, how had I never heard about this mammoth flood turning the central valley into a lake in the 1800s! Touching on the largest disasters around the globe it teaches you man's vulnerabilities and how best to be aware for future catastrophes.
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting historical review of some of the biggest natural disasters that changed societies at the time. Dr Jones discussed the natural and human causes for disasters and compared similar events throughout history. From volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis to nuclear disasters and floods, causes, effects and possibilities for mitigating future tragedies were laid out. Its a keeper and I will undoubtably study it again. Highly recommended!!
Melissa Symanczyk
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Covering Pompeii right up to the present day, Jones presents a brief summary of some of the world's most significant disasters, and then investigates how humans reacted to those events. I learned about several disasters I'd never heard about, learned a lot about how people rise to the occasion (or not), and how these events lead to change in policies and planning and preparation. Dr. Jones has a wealth of personal experience to draw on, and her writing is engaging and informative without ever ge ...more
Mary Ann
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent account of histories largest natural disasters and how we can prepare ourselves for “the big ones” in our future. Written by a senior seismologist who is now a science advisor for risk reduction.
Brenda H
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
This kind of book fascinates me. It’s interesting how the science of understanding natural disasters has greatly improved yet we still cannot predict them accurately. The resilience of populations living near these hot zones is also amazing. Interesting read.
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone needs to read this book. You might think it’s just about earthquakes, but it is not. Earthquakes, of course, are part of the story, but the book overall is about our world. Disasters of immense scale have always been, and always will be, part of life on Earth. However, Dr. Lucy Jones explores three elements: how we prepare, how we respond and how we recover. The three are inextricably linked and understanding this system for any Big One is the key to community resilience.
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