Author: Amanda Ripley
Review by Cortney Crosby
I decided to write my book report on the book The Unthinkable: Who survives when disaster strikes and why. This title caught my attention because it looked like it covered multiple different disasters and the best ways to survive them. When I was looking at the cover of the book deciding on whether or not to read it had a quotes from multiple sources like the New York time that were ranting and raving about how interesting and useful it was.
The author Amanda Ripley is a senior writer for Time magazine. One of the main things that I really enjoyed about Amanda’s book is the research she did for it. She is very knowledgeable about every incident she discussed. I think she came at this book from every angle possible. She not only covered details from victims but also the perpetrators. That alone I feel was a great asset to this book compared to others because I feel like too often we as readers miss out on the opportunity to hear both sides. It was refreshing to see the obvious hard work she put into tracking down and interviewing all of the people she wrote about. She also did a great job at looking at the medical side of how people react to stressful situations and their recovery. I think that the author’s intentions with this book were to get the general public to take a proactive lead in getting educated in what to do in the case of a disaster. She tells a lot of stories in this book from the first hand experience from normal people that got put in extremely unfortunate situations. Amanda did a good job at also not focusing on one type of disaster. She covered a wide array of tragic incidents for example local incidents like September 11th to foreign incidents abroad dating as far back as 1917.
While I think she did a great job at breaking down peoples different reactions to a very wide arrange of disasters there was still something missing for me. The author writes a lot on what other people have told her and what they have experienced. She also writes a lot on what other people find helpful and how they dealt with these horrific events. I think a book like this would benefit from someone who as experienced some sort of disaster. Of course having said that her unique background of being the reporter for many of these types of incidents does give her an interesting individual take on these events.
The author broke the book into three parts. Part one consisted of a section she described as Denial. She also broke it into two sub groups called Delay and Risk. In the Risk section she talked about how people in life threatening situations acted as though it wasn’t that big of a deal. For example she told a story about a lady who was in one of the building during the September 11th attack. She talked about how she knew it was a dangerous situation and yet she and her co-workers on average took 30 to 45 minutes to get from their cubicles to the stairs where they could evacuate. She called the second part of her book Deliberation. Which she broke into three sub categories Fear, Resilience, and Groupthink. In these sections the author did a great job at showing perfect examples of each of these situations. In her fear section is where she had a great insiders story from a hostage situation not only from the victim but the gunman as well. Part three of the book was called the decisive moment, which was broken into three sub categories Panic, Paralysis and Heroism. In the Heroism sections I found it interesting that Evolutionary Psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. has such a strong belief that the average hero would be male, single, childless and young. His reasoning behind this was that heroes are the ones who get all the girls. He also says that with girls they are looking for quality not quantity therefore they wouldn’t be as likely to do heroic acts outside of parenting. Amanda then writes her conclusion to her book, which she calls making new instincts.
Over all I believe that Amanda Ripley goal for this book was her way of trying to light a fire under the average Joe so to speak. So that people are/ will become more educated about what disaster they are really likely to encounter and how to best be prepared for them. I think she did a great job at explaining better ways that we as emergency responders can help educated and train the general public. One of the easiest examples of this that she talked about was instead of just giving direct orders of how to do something she said to explain the whys behind it. I know that I am more likely to follow directions if I know why I am doing them so it makes sense that others would like the same courtesy. Over all I thought it was a very educational book and I would recommend other to read it.
Ripley, Amanda. (2009). The Unthinkable: Who survives when disaster strikes and why. New York: Three Rivers Press. 266 pages.ISBN: 978-0-307-35290-3 Available in the US for 15.00.