Five Star review, originally posted here on January 13, 2015.
I mean… WOW.
The story of the Johnstown Flood is, without exaggeration, one of the most interesting stories I have ever heard. I visited Johnstown and the original dam site last summer, and when I asked the park rangers in the museum which book I should read, they unanimously and instantly pointed me towards this one. “It’s pretty much our bible,” one of them said. I understand why.
This is my first McCullough book, and I noticed that some of the negative reviews were from people who had read his other, later work and expected this book to be similar. I can’t speak to this book as a comparison, but I can tell you that it definitely stands on its own. McCullough provides an insane amount of detail about this absolutely insane event, and presents it clearly and in a manner which completely drew me in. This book has drawn me in more than any other book in quite a while- I just didn’t want to put it down. A couple of the other reviewers said it was boring and too long, but I really have no clue what crack they’re smoking. If you want a brief introduction to the event, check Wikipedia. If you want to be completely engrossed, check this book. As for it being boring, I could see that criticism maybe for the first chapter or two, before we reach the flood. But stick it through, because once the water starts flowing, you will be totally swept away by the story (see what I did there?).
Read this book. Read it, read it, read it! Here’s why…
…if ever there was a case of history repeating itself, this is it. I could not believe how many similarities there were between what happened in Johnstown in the 19th century with the flood and what happened in New Orleans in the 21st century with Hurricane Katrina. There are lessons to be learned in our greatest tragedies- lessons that can be carried forward to modern day, but we’ll never know about them unless we bother to learn about them. It blows my mind that a disaster like Johnstown’s flood can be so forgotten in our nation’s memory. We should be thinking about it every single time we take it for granted that a levy or dam will hold, that the corporations controlling dangerous facilities near our homes are looking out for our safety, that someone claims things will be fine just cuz they always have been.