• Isaac's Storm

  • A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
  • By: Erik Larson
  • Narrated by: Richard Davidson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 46 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (798 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

At the dawn of the 20th century, a great confidence suffused America. Isaac Cline was one of the era's new men, a scientist who believed he knew all there was to know about the motion of clouds and the behavior of storms. The idea that a hurricane could damage the city of Galveston, Texas, where he was based, was to him preposterous, "an absurd delusion." It was 1900, a year when America felt bigger and stronger than ever before. Nothing in nature could hobble the gleaming city of Galveston, then a magical place that seemed destined to become the New York of the Gulf. 

That August, a strange, prolonged heat wave gripped the nation and killed scores of people in New York and Chicago. Odd things seemed to happen everywhere: A plague of crickets engulfed Waco. The Bering Glacier began to shrink. Rain fell on Galveston with greater intensity than anyone could remember. Far away, in Africa, immense thunderstorms blossomed over the city of Dakar, and great currents of wind converged. A wave of atmospheric turbulence slipped from the coast of western Africa. Most such waves faded quickly. This one did not. 

In Cuba, America's overconfidence was made all too obvious by the Weather Bureau's obsession with controlling hurricane forecasts, even though Cuba's indigenous weathermen had pioneered hurricane science. As the bureau's forecasters assured the nation that all was calm in the Caribbean, Cuba's own weathermen fretted about ominous signs in the sky. A curious stillness gripped Antigua. Only a few unlucky sea captains discovered that the storm had achieved an intensity no man alive had ever experienced. 

In Galveston, reassured by Cline's belief that no hurricane could seriously damage the city, there was celebration. Children played in the rising water. Hundreds of people gathered at the beach to marvel at the fantastically tall waves and gorgeous pink sky, until the surf began ripping the city's beloved beachfront apart. Within the next few hours Galveston would endure a hurricane that to this day remains the nation's deadliest natural disaster. In Galveston alone at least 6,000 people, possibly as many as 10,000, would lose their lives, a number far greater than the combined death toll of the Johnstown Flood and 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. 

And Isaac Cline would experience his own unbearable loss. 

Meticulously researched and vividly written, Isaac's Storm is based on Cline's own letters, telegrams, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the hows and whys of great storms. Ultimately, however, it is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets nature's last great uncontrollable force. As such, Isaac's Storm carries a warning for our time.

©2011 Erik Larson (P)2020 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"The best storm book I've read, consumed mostly in 24 hours; these pages filled me with dread. Days later, I am still glancing out the window nervously. A well-told story." (Daniel Hays, author of My Old Man and the Sea)

"Isaac's Storm so fully swept me away into another place, another time that I didn't want it to end. I braced myself from the monstrous winds, recoiled in shock at the sight of flailing children floating by, and shook my head at the hubris of our scientists who were so convinced that they had the weather all figured out. Erik Larson's writing is luminous, the story absolutely gripping. If there is one book to read as we enter a new millennium, it's Isaac's Storm, a tale that reminds us that there are forces at work out there well beyond our control, and maybe even well beyond our understanding." (Alex Kotlowitz, author of The Other Side of the River and There Are No Children Here)

"There is electricity in these pages, from the crackling wit and intelligence of the prose to the thrillingly described terrors of natural mayhem and unprecedented destruction. Though brimming with the subtleties of human nature, the nuances of history, and the poetry of landscapes, Isaac's Storm still might best be described as a sheer page turner." (Melissa Faye Greene, author of Praying for Sheetrock and The Temple Bombing

What listeners say about Isaac's Storm

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Two versions on Audible

Same narrator. One is an hour shorter - this one. Am unsure what the difference is other than release date as I am certainly not listening to both to compare. As much as I dislike Audible/Amazon's practice of clawing back royalties from authors when a book is returned, I am returning this copy as I already have the other in my library.

18 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Gripping

Very well written account of an epic natural disaster. It will blow you away. You won’t want to put it down.

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Ego took precedent over the safety of the citizens

As we currently struggle to contain the covid-19 virus, leader's egos threaten our safety just as accurate storm forecasting was frowned upon by the leadership of those days.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A devastating storm and its aftermath

This was an interesting thesis on the men that studied and attempted to predict hurricanes in the early 20th Century. The approach of a storm in the Gulf of Mexico approaching Galveston, TX was tragically mis- forecast causing devastating loss of life and property. With today's modern forecasting tech, including weather satellites the tracts of storms can be more accurately predicted the numbers of those killed has been reduced, but not eliminated.

2 people found this helpful

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Chasing that Dragon

I’ve listened to Devil in the white city three times. It’s an incredible book. Dead Wake, was ok, and this one was just bad.

Isaac’s Storm drags, there’s more weather data than my mom’s texts, and all the characters are 2-D. I didn’t care that any of them drown, except that golden retriever. It’s boring, and it’s about the deadliest US natural disaster so I don’t understand. This book was an absolute struggle to get through, like it was homework. Homework I paid for.

In Larson’s previous work, I could see, smell and walk the Worlds Fair and the murder castle, it made me nostalgic, jealous and completely engrossed. Not so much with this one, maybe it says more about me, loving true crime and fairs more than hurricanes and barometric pressure readings. Or maybe this book is just not as good as the first hit I got and I’m just chasing that dragon.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

A passion for the weather is necessary to enjoy this book

If you are already a follower of the weather, with special interest in hurricanes, you will enjoy this book. Having grown up in this area and living through and responding to multiple hurricanes, I found the details of this event compelling. Don’t expect to be entertained, but if you love history or meteorology you will thoroughly enjoy this book.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointing - I'm staying away from Erik Larson

This is the second Erik Larson book I've read on Audible and honestly, I'm going to stay away from him from now on. The other was "The Devil and the White City" which was about a serial killer in Chicago at the time of the World's Fair. Like this book, it should have been an engrossing read, a book I just couldn't put down. But there's something about the writing style that just makes it very dry to me. And I don't think the narrator helps - the same narrator read the other book as well - there's no excitement, no real feeling. I really didn't enjoy listening to this book and frankly couldn't wait for it to be over so I could move on to something else.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A bit of a miss by one of my favorite authors

The subject matter of the book sounded interesting and Erik Larson can be trusted to make any historical subject interesting, but he is less successful here. It is really a tale of two halves. The first half drags and was much less interesting than the second half which is fast paced and gripping, but suffers from following the first half. In the first half you are introduced to the main players as well a history of the development of weather forecasting which I found boring, but if weather is your thing you may love it. The second half is the hurricane strike, its aftermath and its effects on al the people you meet in the first half.. Unfortunately, by this point you have forgotten who many of the players are which lessens the impact of the hurricane strike. Galveston itself is essentially a major character so that element is interesting, especially if you have been there. The story mainly stays focused on Isaac and his family and there it is at its best.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome Book and narration

I used to have the cd's and listened to it many times on long trips. The story is based on true events which makes it worth listening to again. I hear something I missed before each time. I highly recommend it.

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    4 out of 5 stars

More hurricane history than storm…

More hurricane history than the storm of Galveston but overall….very good. The story is very well woven between the event and the history.

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