When natural disasters strike, clusters of books usually follow. That was certainly the case after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in August 2005. While a handful of books ably navigated the immediate effects of the hurricane and its aftermath, it usually takes years to fully digest and comprehend such catastrophes.
Ten years later, the city may have recovered more impressively than expected, but emotions are still raw, and there is plenty of work to be done. In contextualizing the entire story over the course of the past decade, Gary Rivlin’s Katrina is a triumph of reportage and a revealing chronicle of the continuing repercussions of one of this century’s most significant events. And while it’s certainly “a magnificently reported account of life in a broken, waterlogged city [that]...captures the anger, fatigue, and ambiguity of life during the recovery, the centrality of race at every step along the way, and the generosity of many from elsewhere in the country,” as our reviewer wrote, it’s also worth revisiting three of my favorite Katrina books to provide further understanding from a variety of angles:
Fink’s deeply reported portrait of New Orleans’ Memorial Hospital before, during, and after the hurricane is a moving, masterful example of narrative journalism that deservedly won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.
In this “agonizing, in-the-trenches retelling of Hurricane Katrina and her catastrophic consequences,” Horne, perfectly positioned as the metro editor of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune, humanizes every phase of the disaster.
A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld
This graphic treatment shows the unfolding horror through the eyes of seven New Orleans residents, and the combination of text and images is arresting. As our reviewer noted, “Neufeld’s words and images are commensurable and rhythmic, and the vernacular is sharp.”
Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.