San Francisco is Burning: The Untold Story of the 1906 Earthquake and Fires

Dennis Smith

Not that we need any reminders of disaster, but the centennial of the great San Francisco earthquake is coming up, so expect to hear a great deal about the ruin of an April morning in the city by the bay. As the author of Report from Ground Zero, Dennis Smith has a handle on reporting disasters, and his new book is less concerned with providing a history of the times than with a blow-by-blow account of the events. Concentrating on the people who did their best, Smith is looking for heroes; he loves men in uniform but particularly firemen. Written in short chapters, this is a quick and enjoyable read, with some remarkable photos and a great map. It’s also completely without footnotes, so forget about tracking down his source material. Oh well.