Review: The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why
The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why by Amanda Ripley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not only was this a great, well-written read, but it’s full of information you’ll want to keep in the back of your mind at all times. If there was an emergency at your work, how would you respond? What would you do? Can you visualize what might happen? Would you be embarrassed by overreaction if the fire alarm goes off? Would you know what to take with you from your desk?

Ripley covers a wide variety of disasters, scenarios, and topics, from physiological responses to the nature of heroism, those who risk their lives for strangers. Most evocative are the narratives provided by survivors of various disasters: 9/11 survivors, embassy hostage survivors, human stampede survivors, and more.

There’s a tendency for self-aggrandizement in these stores, but author Amanda Ripley never indulges in such things. It’s a very appreciated aspect of her writing.

Most importantly, Ripley doesn’t lead her readers to a feeling of helplessness or fatalism. Throughout the book, her research and writing emphasizes that survival is affected by many factors, and some of the most important factors are mental preparation and readiness.

Having recently moved into the path of a future major earthquake, it’s on the back of my mind that a major disaster may occur in my lifetime. Reading this book helped me come to terms with that and it made me think more about what I will do, should that happen. This is a book that I think should be a must-read for everyone, because there is nowhere in the world that doesn’t have some sort of disaster to contend with, even if it’s something as local as a housefire. As a survivor of a housefire myself (albeit a small one), I give my stamp of approval on her work.

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