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The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
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it was amazing
bookshelves: history

Could be subtitled Everything You Wanted to Know About the Johnstown Flood but Were Afraid to Ask.

Audiotape read by actor Edward Herrmann.

Here are some of my takeaways:

1. David McCullough deserves all of the praise heaped upon him. He is truly a great nonfiction writer for our time.

2. One of the one-star reviews complained about the boring opening. I'm guessing that person never finished the book. Looking into the details of what happened beforehand is necessary to understand how it happened. Not everyone is cut out to read good nonfiction.

3. People become complacent. They have trouble caring about the future. They are more worried about the moment. Whoever says "Live in the moment" needs to remind people that the future does arrive eventually. I believe we are hardwired through evolution to worry about being attacked at this moment and avoid doing what we have to protect our future. Witness climate change or security.

4. Part of the reason why the dam broke is that no one believed it could really happen to them.

5. Security is important. I have been involved in poor security in Vietnam. I was poorly trained and totally ignorant of what I was doing. Training by knowledgeable people is important. I apply this to the dam itself.

6. Good government is critical. I am totally weary of the government haters, libertarians, conservatives, and so on who think we can live without a good government. Most of the improvements in life came as a result of good government.

7. Let's repair our bridges. What are we waiting for? Are Republicans more interested in tax cuts for the rich?

8. My image of a flood is lots and lots of rain. Pretty soon it's up to my neck, and I scream. Then I see my neighbor in a rowboat with his two cats, two dogs, two birdies, and two children. I swim over to him and he hits me with a paddle. I dog paddle for a few minutes and then drown. In other words, I imagine a Noah style flood. I call this a dam disaster. That's "dam" with no "N".

9. Some train conductors rescued their passengers by leading them out to safety. One conductor fled for his life. Leaders are responsible for those under them. As a teacher, I was always willing to protect my student if anything went wrong. Captains go down with their ships unless they can be the last ones out.

10. Perhaps the greatest blame for the flood rests with a "hunting and fishing" club for "gentlemen." That means rich people. They wanted the dam and cut down trees that allowed a greater runoff. There are consequences for environmental damage.

11. As I speak rising oceans are taking over the Florida everglades. What will it take for us to take steps to attack climate problems.
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Reading Progress

May 18, 2016 – Started Reading
May 18, 2016 – Shelved
May 25, 2016 – Shelved as: history
May 25, 2016 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Joan (new)

Joan Colby I read this a long time ago and liked it--time for a reread, thanks for the reminder.

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