Do you want to read outside your comfort zone in 2020? Take Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge—a list of 24 categories of books that you may not have read before. To keep you motivated, we’ll feature one of the categories each week in the e-newsletter along with suggestions from our collection and beyond. We’re going to feature the categories in order of how they appear on the list, but feel free to tackle the them in any order you like! For the full list from Book Riot, click here.
A gripping new history celebrating the remarkable heroes of the Johnstown Flood–the deadliest flood in U.S. history–from NBC host and legendary weather authority Al Roker. Central Pennsylvania, May 31, 1889: After a deluge of rain–nearly a foot in less than twenty-four hours–swelled the Little Conemaugh River, panicked engineers watched helplessly as swiftly rising waters threatened to breach the South Fork dam, built to create a private lake for a fishing and hunting club that counted among its members Andrew Mellon, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Carnegie. Though the engineers telegraphed neighboring towns on this last morning in May warning of the impending danger, residents–factory workers and their families–remained in their homes, having grown used to false alarms. At 3:10 P.M., the dam gave way, releasing 20 million tons of water. Gathering speed as it flowed southwest, the deluge wiped out nearly everything in its path and picked up debris–trees, houses, animals–before reaching Johnstown, a vibrant steel town fourteen miles downstream. Traveling 40 miles an hour, with swells as high as 60 feet, the deadly floodwaters razed the mill town–home to 20,000 people–in minutes. The Great Flood, as it would come to be called, remains the deadliest in US history, killing more than 2,200 people and causing $17 million in damage. In Ruthless Tide, Al Roker follows an unforgettable cast of characters whose fates converged because of that tragic day, including John Parke, the engineer whose heroic efforts failed to save the dam; the robber barons whose fancy sport fishing resort was responsible for modifications that weakened the dam; and Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, who spent five months in Johnstown leading one of the first organized disaster relief efforts in the United States. Weaving together their stories and those of many ordinary citizens whose lives were forever altered by the event, Ruthless Tide is testament to the power of the human spirit in times of tragedy and also a timely warning about the dangers of greed, inequality, neglected infrastructure, and the ferocious, uncontrollable power of nature.
Haiti After The Earthquake by Paul Farmer
Offers a vivid on-the-ground account of the relief effort in the aftermath of the January, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and explores the social issues that made the country vulnerable in the face of a natural disaster.
A Fire Story by Brian Fies
Early on the morning of Monday, October 9, 2017, wildfires burned through Northern California, resulting in 44 fatalities. In addition, 8,900 structures, including 6,200 homes, were destroyed. One of those homes belonged to author and illustrator Brian Fies and his family. In the days that followed, Fies hastily pulled together a firsthand account of his experience in a twenty-page online comic, entitled A Fire Story, that went viral… Less than a year after the fire, Brian Fies expanded his webcomic into a full-length graphic novel, including environmental insight and the stories of others affected by the disaster.
We Fed an Island by Jose Andres
Based on Andrés’s insider’s take as well as on meetings, messages, and conversations he had while in Puerto Rico, We Fed an Island movingly describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change and tells an extraordinary story of hope in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future.
Dry by Neal Shusterman
A lengthy California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, turning Alyssa’s quiet suburban street into a war zone, and she is forced to make impossible choices if she and her brother are to survive. The drought–or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it–has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers. Until the taps run dry. Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life–and the life of her brother–is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive
The Wildlands by Abby Geni
When a Category 5 tornado ravaged Mercy, Oklahoma, no family in the small town lost more than the McClouds. Their home and farm were instantly demolished, and orphaned siblings Darlene, Jane, and Cora made media headlines. This relentless national attention and the tornado’s aftermath caused great tension with their brother, Tucker, who soon abandoned his sisters and disappeared. On the three-year anniversary of the tornado, a cosmetics factory outside of Mercy is bombed, and the lab animals trapped within are released. Tucker reappears, injured from the blast, and seeks the help of nine-year-old Cora. Caught up in the thrall of her charismatic brother, whom she has desperately missed, Cora agrees to accompany Tucker on a cross-country mission to make war on human civilization. Cora becomes her brother’s unwitting accomplice, taking on a new identity while engaging in acts of escalating violence. Darlene works with Mercy police to find her siblings, leading to an unexpected showdown at a zoo in Southern California.