Cover Image: Catastrophes and Heroes

Catastrophes and Heroes

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Member Reviews

Very interesting stories about places, people, and events I was not very familiar with. I enjoyed going to the Internet and looking up pictures of each of the events and learning a little more. Sometimes the story got a bit too technical for me, like when he talked about how much water filled a dam, but those sections passed quickly enough that I could continue focusing on the story thread.
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The human race has come so, transportation, medicine, science....our knowledge and skills have grown so much in the last 200 years. But with growth also comes mistakes and failures along the way. This book gathers 8 stories of disasters caused by mistakes, lack of judgement, poor planning or just plain faulty engineering. It isn't all dark and dismal though....the stories also feature heroes who stepped up to help save lives during these man-made disasters. 

Train wrecks. Dams breaking. Hurricane damage. The types of incidents are varied and the book goes in depth about what caused each disaster, the events leading up to the event, and the aftermath. Heroes who risked their lives to save others are also featured. All in all, an informative read and very interesting facts!

This is the first book by Jerry Borrowman that I've read. He has written several other books about historical events. I'm definitely going to read more! 

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Shadow Mountain Publishing. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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So I found this book completely fascinating, in part because I love history, and partly because the eight events described in the book are for the most part unknown tragedies. Despite their lack of notoriety, these events nevertheless changed how the world operates as future generations adjusted for the mistakes that were made, often with devastating human costs. All the information is displayed in logical, easy read format. There is so much in this book that I never knew, not only regarding tragedies that could have been avoided, but also information surrounding regional history and important people who shaped the time and the future. This is a really interesting read for anyone really, but especially for history buffs. Review posted to Goodreads, Litsy, LibraryThing, Amazon, and Facebook.
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I thought this was a well written and interesting narrative of some true stories of man-made disasters and the heroes that stepped up to help save people and animals during those times. I like hearing about the good things amidst the bad as it gives me hope.
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A well written and very well researched book full of interesting facts. I found it a must read for disaster fans.
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If you’ve watched shows such as Engineering Catastrophes on American cable television, chances are you’ll be familiar with the eight events that author Jerry Borrowman includes in his latest book.  The difference is that while the show looks at the actual engineering, here the emphasis is on the human element. 

Each chapter focuses on five aspects of the disaster. First, there’s the general overview; second, the choices made by human minds in the lead up to the disaster; third, the unintended consequences such as the dam’s failure or the bridge’s collapse; next, the heroic efforts made in the aftermath by both those first on the scene and then by others in courts and corporations; and finally, the lessons learned by all concerned. 

What I found most powerful about the book were the witness reports and the names of the deceased. I don’t recall having seen these in the television documentaries. Including names of some of the victims – instead of merely counting the numbers of the deceased – humanizes the disaster. These people saw what happened, they experienced what happened, and that makes the corner-cutting and other cost-saving measures mind-boggling. How can you repeat those actions when you have a report that says you’re to blame for the deaths of named individuals?

This is not an in depth look at the eight disasters featured. Look elsewhere if that’s what you want. What is different about this book is the author’s final thought. While subjective, these pages look at the motivations of all those at fault or to blame. Borrowman puts them into three categories: those who acted out of malice, those motivated by cost-cutting and greed, and the men who were probably a little too confident in their own knowledge and skills.

Notes and a full bibliography are included.

Disclaimer: Although I downloaded an Advance Reader’s Edition of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, the words and opinions below are my own.
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I received an arc of this title from NetGalley for an honest review. This book is about man-made accidents. Lots of interesting stories and I see several of my patrons checking this one out.
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I have to be in the right mood to read non-fiction, so I was a little hesitant to start this book, but I only got a few pages into it before I was hooked. I find history fascinating, especially when it's told in an entertaining way. Don't get me wrong, this book is not light reading material. The subject matter is pretty dark and depressing, honestly, but the author does a really good job of bringing the reader right into the situation.There were a few times when the technical terminology made it so I had a hard time picturing what was happening (mostly with the first bridge story) but overall, it was a quick and easy read.

I found myself heading to my tablet in-between stories to look up pictures and more information about some of the catastrophes, which I think is the perfect sign that it's a good story. I definitely recommend this book to all history buffs, or really, anyone who enjoys well-written non-fiction.
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A fascinating look into history that is little known except to the communities that were most impacted.  Jerry Borrowman has obviously done his research.  The stories are well written, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions from the many, many facts he has provided.  Eight life changing catastrophes and the human element that provides witness to each.  Anyone looking for true life history stories not covered by mainstream literature will truly love this book, as did I.  You will definitely be asking your friends and family....Did you know?
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If you love to read about history then you need to pick up a copy of this book.  You will read about stories that wasn’t in our hush school history books.  I recommend this book for all history buffs.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Shadow Mountain Publishers for my honest review.
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4 out of 5 🌟Detailed and uplifting

Non-fiction books and stories about various true crime and tragedies were always popular. There's something captivating about reading about all the horrible events in history from the safety of our own reading nook. And even if homicides are way too scary for me, I'd love to read about the brave people who made history by saving lives. 'Catastrophes and Heroes' is a work about man-made disasters that could be avoided and about saviors who put their lives in jeopardy for others.

The book focuses on less known events, mostly skipped by the history books. Each story includes sections with an overview of the event (full of testimonies of eyewitnesses), choices, and circumstances that lead to the tragedy, also information about victims, and heroes. Jerry Borrowman made w humongous work researching information for his book. Each story is so in-dept, it felt like being an eyewitness myself. 'Catastrophes and Heroes' show also historical background and the stories behind peoples' decisions.

It's a delightful book for every history geek and catastrophes junkie. It's a profusely detailed in-depth work to show that each tragedy could be avoided only if people were less egoistic, greed and proud. Nevertheless, it also shows bravery and heroism that lives in people and reveals itself during the times of struggle.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and feelings are my own.
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Learn about Jerry Borrowman, his books, speaking engagements and his life here.


This book is best suited for people who enjoy historic architecture and engineering. Anyone who likes suspense, death defying incidents and tragedy will find this book enjoyable.  


Catastrophes & Heroes is a chronological record of eight historic disasters and ends with the authors “Final Thoughts.” Each story is broken down for the reader into subsections such as: The Human Cost of Tragedy, an Overview, Fateful Choices, Victims and First Responder Heroes, and Professional Heroes.

This is a pre-release and therefore had no pictures or diagrams but the author will include period images in the final release. That being said, this copy had a notation in the proper location for each image that will eventually be included. I appreciated this concept as I could easily look online at images that would bring into focus the events described.

The subjects vary from Civil War paddle boat disasters, to train wrecks, to bridge collapses, to hurricanes and to damn failures. Each disaster tells the stories of individuals that were killed, maimed, who survived, the rescuers, the villains and the ramifications. Whether the cause of the disaster was an Act of God, greed, ignorance, or malice Jerry brings the stories to life before your eyes.

Although the stories are intriguing in their own right, I think the after effects are the most interesting. Because of these disasters, we of today are safer. Procedures have been scrutinized, and corrections emplaced to prevent these types of disasters from happening again.


Catastrophes & Heroes is an extensively researched look into a few of the world’s greatest historic disasters. The first-person monologues add to the stories and lets the reader feel as if they are really there viewing the incident in real time. Some personal stories are tragic, some are exhilarating, many are depressing, and while others are joyful.

Even though the book is superbly authored and researched, I found some of the stories more obscure. I would have liked reading about some more widely known disasters and their stories. I did learn a lot about the incidents recorded in this book and definitely found the Civil War paddle boat disaster the most interesting.

The authors “Final Thoughts” are just a rehash of what was previously covered. That section could have easily been left out of the book entirely. On balance, this book is an informative and enjoyable read, but not rememberable.


I would like to thank Jerry Borrowman, NetGalley, and Shadow Mountain for affording me the opportunity to review Catastrophes & Heroes.

Hi there, our records show you are a frequent visitor to Litercurious and I wanted to say a personal thank you for your patronage. Thank you for liking and sharing our posts. Please feel free to reblog any or all of the reviews. I look forward to your valuable input again in the near future.
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Catastrophes and Heroes by Jerry Borrowman is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late March.

Eight events presented chronologically with regards to the environ, key players, what went wrong, response, and how to prevent such a catastrophe in the future. It's fairly episodic and maybe more meant for an article series or a blog than a book.
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Catastrophes and Heroes: True Stories of Man-Made Disasters was an interesting read. I am giving it four stars.
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***Thank you to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.***

4 stars

I found this book to be very enjoyable, considering the subject material.  The story consisted of 8 chapters, each covering different disasters from 1865 – 1963, all which ultimately were found to be man-made.  The only one that I had heard about was the Labor Day hurricane that devastated Florida in 1935.

Each story gave a breakdown of what led to each disaster (greed, malice, engineering misunderstandings of the time period), but also of the heroism of those that stepped in to assist in each case.
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First of all, I have to confess that I probably love this book so much because my under grad degree is in History. The stories the author chose to share really explore the breath and depth of our humanity. If you’re a fan of trains, bridges, dams or have an engineering background you will fall in love with us book. Even though the stories take place in different times and places, there is a common thread that goes through them all. I like to think that each of the stories in this book shows  that the good in people ultimately outweighs the bad.
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This was a fascinating book. I liked how the author broke down each of the events into sections. The only event I've  heard of before was the Tacoma one. Thus it was fascinating to read about other disasters that history doesn't touch on, perhaps because they are man made. Each story is a book into itself but they were told succinctly and thoroughly to understand the cause and effect. I look forward to more of this authors work.
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When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is closed and you are in #COVID19 #socialisolation,  superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. (I have played a zillion games of scrabble, done a zillion crosswords and I AM BORED!!!)

I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

A century of the industrial age saw unprecedented leaps in technology and engineering, from the first flight of an aeroplane to the first flight of humans to the moon. But alongside these awe-inspiring achievements were horrible disasters caused by faulty engineering or careless judgement. "Catastrophes and Heroes" explores eight such disasters and recognizes the unheralded heroes who stepped up to save others in times of great danger.

Included in this collection are the stories of female phone operators who, despite being in the path of destruction after the Los Angeles St. Francis Dam collapsed in 1928, stayed on the job to warn others to evacuate, Ernest Hemingway, who assisted survivors in his own boat after a hurricane destroyed the Florida East Coast Railway in 1935, and Ernest Betts who, though knowing little first aid, saved thirty people after the streamliner train The City of San Francisco crashed in the Nevada mountains in 1939.

Filled with little-known stories and historical insights, this book explores the rich history of the marvels of engineering and technological advances in the span of a century and reveals how the perils, though disastrous, gave rise to heroism and compassion at a time when machines were supposed to do it all. there ever a time to prove that we are all human than a #pandemic ? (I am sure that there will still be some weird form of it out there when this book comes out: that is the "problem" with reading and reviewing a book that comes out in nine months: it's like birthing a baby!) I really enjoyed this book as it told a lot of known disasters and some that I had never heard of before: I like to learn something new every day and this book was a great aid to this.

This book would be a great "IOU this book" kind of Christmas gift: print off the synopses and owe the person the gift when it comes out. It would appeal to many readers young and old: rubbernecking disasters is always a common theme in life so it would be an appropriate gift for many.

As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube  Millionaires/etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🌪️🌪️🌪️🌪️🌪️
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I enjoyed reading about parts of history that I'd never heard about before.  It is sobering to read about unnecessary deaths caused by human greed and poor planning, often at a time when it was not exactly illegal to do the acts that endangered lives.  I'm glad that the heroes are included, too, since their work to save lives at the time and/or in the future ended each chapter on a more cheerful note.
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I received this from for a review.

Clear and concise tellings of disasters that were magnified by natural and man-made events.

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