A sweeping, absorbing history of nature's power.

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A FURIOUS SKY

THE FIVE-HUNDRED-YEAR HISTORY OF AMERICA'S HURRICANES

How hurricanes have indelibly shaped America's land and society.

Drawing on abundant sources, including material from the National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service, and Hurricane Research Division, and with an academic background in environmental policy, Dolin, who has a doctorate in environmental policy, offers an authoritative and lively history of hurricanes, beginning with 15th-century storms and ending with major hurricanes of 2017 and a brief account of Hurricane Dorian of last year. Besides chronicling the tense period leading up to landfall, the violent impact, the immediate responses, and the long-term recoveries, the author offers a fascinating history of weather forecasting, which was revolutionized by the telegraph in the mid-19th century. The Smithsonian Institution became the first repository of meteorological information when telegraph operators were instructed to send a message each morning describing the weather: cloudy, fair, or rainy. Soon, they added readings from meteorological instruments, making their forecasts more useful. In 1870, the U.S. Army Signal Corps took over weather forecasting, creating maps that could “predict the progression of weather over time.” But accuracy eluded forecasters until airplanes, satellites, radar, and computers came into play—and even then, controversy sometimes erupted about the intensity and course of a storm. Dolin traces many major events: “a storm surge of biblical proportions” in Galveston, Texas, in 1900; the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926; the Labor Day Hurricane that swept through the Florida Keys in 1935; the “sudden, jarring, widespread, and devastating” Great Hurricane of 1938; Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Katrina in 2005, and Sandy, which besieged New York City in 2012. Efforts to control hurricanes, such as seeding clouds with dry ice or silver iodide, failed. Other proposals, such as towing icebergs from the Arctic to cool the ocean and diminish a storm’s energy, were “outlandish and totally impractical.” Dolin underscores the threat of global warming to worsen hurricanes and urges society to act quickly and boldly “to counter this threat in any way we can.”

A sweeping, absorbing history of nature's power. (118 illustrations)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63149-527-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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