Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Six great books about natural disasters

M. L. Malcolm is a Harvard Law graduate, journalist, recovering attorney, and public speaker who has won several awards for short fiction, including recognition in the Lorian Hemingway International Short Story Competition, and a silver medal from ForeWord magazine for Historical Fiction Book of the Year.

Her new novel is Heart of Lies.

For Flashlight Worthy, she named six great books on natural disasters. One title on the list:
Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America
by John M. Barry

Like most Americans I watched in horror during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as floodwaters destroyed huge sections of New Orleans, creating a scene of disaster and deprivation that we just didn't want to believe could happen in America. But then I read this book, and discovered that Katrina was yet another case of "déjà-vû all over again."

The Great Depression brought on the New Deal, but the flood of 1927 first, quite literally, cleared the way; the lasting impact of this calamity was its effect on the American political landscape. In the same way that the government's response to Hurricane Katrina aroused intense anger that, coupled with a major economic downturn, triggered an enormous change of Who's In Charge and What We Will Allow Them To Do About This Mess We're In, this earlier disaster and the government's inept reaction to it engendered a complete transformation of American society.

Barry does a great job of describing the terrifying events of the flood itself and the mismanagement that exacerbated it, but it's his follow-up of the sociological and political aftermath that sets this work apart from a typical disaster book.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue