Chrissie's Reviews > The Johnstown Flood

The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
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really liked it
bookshelves: audible, history, usa, 2016-read

Please read the GR book description. I will not repeat what is there. It is to the point and absolutely correct concerning the book's content, the author's manner of writing and what future generations should take note of. Look at the last sentence one more time:

It (the flood) also offers a powerful historical lesson for our century and all times: the danger of assuming that because people are in positions of responsibility they are necessarily behaving responsibly.

In my view this sentence could be improved upon. We, as citizens and thinking individuals, must not shirk out own responsibilities; it is up to each and every one of us to ensure that adequate precautions and sound decisions are made. If something goes wrong it is inexcusable to blame others with the excuse “it’s their job" or "they should have taken care of that"! It is our job to see that those in power perform their jobs correctly or have them removed! In addition, when humans take actions affecting forces of nature we must take careful forethought. This is stated in the book and needs to be emphasized.

The book is thorough, but easy to follow. It never becomes dry. Dates and figures are interestingly woven into the telling. McCullough gives the necessary background information so a reader can understand the events accurately, concluding with a balanced analysis of who was at fault. Those who suffered, those who died (the accepted death count is set at over 2209 individuals) are drawn in such a way that one empathizes. One is given enough personal details so one can do this. The danger is that when one reads about a calamity involving many people those who suffer become a mass with whom one cannot identify with. This does not happen here. One gets both the clear facts and one feels compassion.

I particularly liked that McCullough points out the inaccuracies of what has been told before. The calamity has become a legend and erroneous claims have been made.

I can very much recommend listening to the audiobook narrated by Edward Hermann. He simply reads the lines in a clear and factual manner with an excellent speed. No dramatization, which is fine by me. The facts and sequence of events are riveting in themselves. Hermann reads with a tone that shows his own interest. When one listens rather than reads one has no map, but such is easily accessible on internet. Here are two:
1. http://images.google.fr/imgres?imgurl...
2. http://images.google.fr/imgres?imgurl...

Another very good book by McCullough. I have no complaints. I thoroughly enjoy McCullough’s way of writing. He has a whole team of employees helping him with each book. This doesn’t bother me in the least. His name stands on the cover and he is responsible for the final result. I have given it four rather than five stars simply because I prefer biographies more than a book about an event.


John Adams 5 stars
Truman 5 stars
Mornings on Horseback 5 stars
The Wright Brothers 4 stars
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Reading Progress

August 17, 2016 – Shelved
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: own-unlistened
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: audible
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: history
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: usa
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016-read
September 10, 2016 – Started Reading
September 12, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane) I liked this book alot, hope you do too.


Chrissie I am so happy to be reading another McCullough. It is like going back to an old friend. His books are always wonderful. Clear and interesting and they pull you in. HIS history books are the way all history books should be!


B the BookAddict I see this was his first book, Chrissie. He certainly has a great reputation for writing about history.


message 4: by Chrissie (last edited Sep 12, 2016 07:19PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie Bette, yeah, it is, and yes, he certainly does. I have two books I still want to read by him: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris and The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge. I have been hesitant about these two, but I realize now I will most probably enjoy them even if they might not turn out to be favorites.

Roebling is mentioned in this book and plays a center role in the Brooklyn Bridge book. I tend to like books about NYC and anything to do with Paris.

I assume you've read him, right? If you haven't, start with Mornings on Horseback about Teddy Roosevelt's early years.


B the BookAddict No, I haven't but I've seen quite a few reviews about his various books. I should give him a go.


Chrissie Bette, he is excellent. Definitely my favorite biographer.


Shawn I enjoyed this book too. My family is from that area and was affected by the flood. Interestingly enough some of the myths about the flood discussed in the book I thought were true.


message 8: by Chrissie (last edited Sep 14, 2016 09:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie Shawn, horrible that you family was there, but I do think it was excellent that the legends were cleared up in the book! I really do think McCullough is an excellent author.

How close does your family live? A gorgeous area!


Shawn My relatives lived in the Johnstown and South Fork area during all 3 floods and many continue to live in the area now. My mother was born in Johnstown and raised in South Fork and my father is also from this area. The dam also flooded in 1936 and 1977 with devastating effects. I was a child visiting the area in 1977 and my grandparents took me to an overlook where I could see and smell (which was a horrific smell I will never forget) the damage from the flood.


message 10: by Chrissie (last edited Sep 17, 2016 03:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie Wow, your family has a long and complicated history with the area.Thank you for taking the time to tell me.


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