Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883

Author of lauded histories of dictionaries (The Professor and the Madman) and geology (The Map That Changed the World), Simon Winchester now tries his hand at disaster porn. The subject isn’t tragic mountaineering, a breaking dam or ship sinking, but Krakatoa, the most notorious volcano eruption in recorded history. When Aug. 27, 1883 dawned the island volcano off Java began erupting. By dusk, 36,000 people were dead and the planet was changed. As a read, Krakatoa is mixed. Winchester’s talent is impressive, but the book’s organization has the reader plowing through as much history of the surrounding islands (in modern Indonesia) as info on the event. What’s more, facts of the event are peppered throughout in such a scattered fashion, he tells you everything but can never satisfy on the jacket’s tease.