Winchester, Simon. Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906. Narrated by Simon Winchester. Harper Collins, 2005.
Reason read: San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge opened on May 27th, 1937.
From soup to nuts, Simon Winchester’s Crack in the Edge of the World tells the complete story of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 with humor, intelligence, and clarity. He begins with the humble birth of the city coupled with the scientific explanation for earth’s volatile nature.
Curiously, when talking about other disasters which have wiped out entire regions Winchester mentions Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but only hints at the destruction of a large portion of Manhattan after the attacks of 9/11. And speaking of the attacks on the World Trade Center, I imagine that witnessing the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake was similar to east coast residents watching the events of 9/11 unfold on their smartphones and television sets. If you were not suffering personal tragedy and your barometer for compassion was at an all-time low, you looked upon the destruction with awe and a strange but removed fascination.
My favorite post-disaster response. The post office was the hero of my childhood, keeping me connected to friends and family miles away. San Francisco’s post office employees made and all-out effort to save their building. As a result they were able to resume service two days after the earthquake. The postmaster understood the importance of communicating with loved ones; an early version of “marked safe.”
Edited to add: I had to come back in here to add this! How could I forget that Winchester quoted Natalie Merchant! She wrote about the San Andreas fault on her first solo album, Tigerlily.
Quote to quote, “But generally speaking, so far as their respective quiddities are concerned, great cities always recover” (p 313).
Author fact: I have a total of eight Winchester books on my Challenge list. I have read three of them so far. Crack in the Edge of the World is my favorite at present.
Nancy said: Pearl said Crack in the Edge of the World was one of the best – if not the best – books about the great earthquake.
Book trivia: Winchesters description of German photographer Genthe sparked an interest in his work.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “San Francisco” (p 196).