The Great Quake: How the biggest earthquake in North America changed our understanding of the planet by Henry Fountain

• R E V I E W •

I’ve read quite a few non-fiction books in my years of reading. Last several years most of them were science related. This is the first non-fiction book I’ve read that is written in a narrative point of view. As it turns out, I freaking love the narrative tone. Most of the time I felt like I was reading fiction, but with data, facts, and life testimonies that reminded me every single page that it was all very real.

The book starts off giving these recounts of life in Alaska as well as various cultural and scientific beliefs of earthquakes prior to March 27, 1964. There is also a lot of Alaskan history, and geography. Then, after you feel acquainted with all of that, you watch horror and destruction rip apart their lives – and what a solid description of this the author provides. I had to stop and take a break; I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it meant to have something so violent teardown everything. I can’t even begin to imagine.

In the end, you come to realize that you just read (and often feel as though you witnessed in a sense) the research that proved plate tectonics.

It was fascinating and tragic all at the same time.

book • details

T I T L E: The Great Quake: How the biggest earthquake in North America changed our understanding of the planet

A U T H O R: Henry Fountain

P U B L I S H • D A T E : August 8, 2017

P U B L I S H E R: Crown Publishing

I S B N:  9781101904060

Non-fiction, Science


In the bestselling tradition of Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm, The Great Quake is a riveting narrative about the biggest earthquake in North American recorded history — the 1964 Alaska earthquake that demolished the city of Valdez and swept away the island village of Chenega — and the geologist who hunted for clues to explain how and why it took place.

At 5:36 p.m. on March 27, 1964, a magnitude 9.2. earthquake – the second most powerful in world history – struck the young state of Alaska. The violent shaking, followed by massive tsunamis, devastated the southern half of the state and killed more than 130 people. A day later, George Plafker, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, arrived to investigate. His fascinating scientific detective work in the months that followed helped confirm the then-controversial theory of plate tectonics.

In a compelling tale about the almost unimaginable brute force of nature, New York Times science journalist Henry Fountain combines history and science to bring the quake and its aftermath to life in vivid detail. With deep, on-the-ground reporting from Alaska, often in the company of George Plafker, Fountain shows how the earthquake left its mark on the land and its people — and on science.

I received a copy via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

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