A Crack in the Edge of the World

  • by Simon Winchester
  • Narrated by Simon Winchester
  • 12 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The international best-selling author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa vividly brings to life the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake that leveled a city symbolic of America's relentless western expansion. Simon Winchester has also fashioned an enthralling and informative look at the tumultuous subterranean world that produces earthquakes, the planet's most sudden and destructive force. In the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, San Francisco and a string of other towns were overcome by an earthquake registering 8.25 on the Richter scale, resulting from a rupture in the San Andreas fault. Lasting little more than a minute, the earthquake wrecked 490 blocks, toppled a total of 25,000 buildings, broke open gas mains, cut off electric power lines, and effectively destroyed the gold rush capital that had stood there for a half century. Winchester brings his inimitable storytelling abilities, as well as his unique understanding of geology, to this extraordinary event, exploring not only what happened in northern California in 1906 but what we have learned since about the geological underpinnings that caused the earthquake in the first place. A Crack in the Edge of the World is the definitive account of the San Francisco earthquake and a fascinating exploration of a legendary event that changed the way we look at the planet on which we live.

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What the Critics Say



2005 Audie Award Nominee, Nonfiction (Unabridged)
"In this brawny page-turner, best-selling writer Winchester (Krakatoa, The Professor and the Madman) has crafted a magnificent testament to the power of planet Earth and the efforts of humankind to understand her." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

This Book Delivers

An excellent book!

Simon Winchester goes into great detail in the book, as he does in his other books. And, as the description indicates, this covers far more than the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

Winchester ensures that readers of this book understand the context in which the 1906 earthquake occurred by giving extraordinary detail on the history of earthquakes and our understanding of them, the history of San Francisco (up to 1906), and detailed look at the mechanics of the San Andreas Fault.

The Publisher's Summary above clearly shows this is more than just a look at one particular earthquake. The excerpt from Publishers Weekly also describes this as more than just about the 1906 earthquake. Based on those descriptions, and after listening to the book, I have to say that I got everything I expected... and more.

Simon Winchester is the narrator for his book and does an excellent job.
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- Drayton

7 Hours and 45 minutes . . .

That's how long it takes for the author to get to the actual story of the San Francisco earthquake. Yes - that's right almost 8 hours!

I would love to write a review that says - "what a great book", but I honestly can't. I read "Krakatoa" last year, and liked it so well I gave two copies as Christmas presents, however my one complaint about the book was the ratio of background material to the actual story that the book was supposed to be about.

In this book, the problem reaches EPIDEMIC proportions. Probably 1/4 of the book deals with the 1906 earthquake directly. The rest is Simon's travels around the US to other seismically active regions, commentary on the Chinese immigrants in San Francisco, the history of the Pentecostal movement in the US, etc..... If you read reviews on Amazon.com, even those who like the book comment on Winchester's meanderings (often without a clear direction toward a given point).

I don't care how many degrees from Oxford the man has. What this man needs is a good editor - one that will tell him that his endless ramblings will turn off many readers who will put the book down, rather than endure 2/3 of the book until he gets to the point.

When he does get to the point (finally) some of the material is interesting, however, the lack of human interest stories is really a downer.

A major disaster like the San Francisco earthquake can surely justify a book of this length, however Winchester must believe that 3-4 chapters of the book are sufficient.

Sadly, this will be probably be the last Simon Winchester book I read.
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- Tim "Computer Programmer and Worship Leader. Have enjoyed reading since my mom got me hooked on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie prior to my teen years. My brother got me hooked on audio books after I started having a longer commute to work. Love a variety of genres."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-05-2005
  • Publisher: HarperAudio