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Nowhere in the world is weather as volatile and powerful as it is in North America.  Scorching heat in the Southwest, hurricanes on the Atlantic coast, tornadoes in the Plains, blizzards in the mountains:  Every area of the country has vastly different weather, and vastly different cultures as a result. Braving the Elements is David Laskin's delightful and fascinating hist Nowhere in the world is weather as volatile and powerful as it is in North America.  Scorching heat in the Southwest, hurricanes on the Atlantic coast, tornadoes in the Plains, blizzards in the mountains:  Every area of the country has vastly different weather, and vastly different cultures as a result. Braving the Elements is David Laskin's delightful and fascinating history of how our unique weather has shaped a nation, and how we've tried to cope with it over centuries. Since before Columbus, the peoples of America have struggled to make sense of the capricious and violent nature of America's weather.  Anasazi Indians used the rain dance (and sometimes human sacrifice) to induce rain, while the Puritans in New England blamed the sins of the community for lightening strikes and Nor'easters.  IN modern times we carry on those traditions by blaming the weatherman for ruined weekends.  Despite hi-tech satellites and powerful computers and 24-hour-a-day forecasting from The Weather Channel, we're still at the mercy of the whims of Mother Nature. Laskin recounts the many dramatic moments in American weather history, from the "Little Ice Age" to Ben Franklin's invention of the lightning rod to the Great Blizzard of the 1930's to the worries about global warming.  Packed with fresh insights and wonderful lore and trivia, Braving the Elements is unique and essential reading for anyone who's ever asked, "What's it like outside?" From the Hardcover edition.


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Nowhere in the world is weather as volatile and powerful as it is in North America.  Scorching heat in the Southwest, hurricanes on the Atlantic coast, tornadoes in the Plains, blizzards in the mountains:  Every area of the country has vastly different weather, and vastly different cultures as a result. Braving the Elements is David Laskin's delightful and fascinating hist Nowhere in the world is weather as volatile and powerful as it is in North America.  Scorching heat in the Southwest, hurricanes on the Atlantic coast, tornadoes in the Plains, blizzards in the mountains:  Every area of the country has vastly different weather, and vastly different cultures as a result. Braving the Elements is David Laskin's delightful and fascinating history of how our unique weather has shaped a nation, and how we've tried to cope with it over centuries. Since before Columbus, the peoples of America have struggled to make sense of the capricious and violent nature of America's weather.  Anasazi Indians used the rain dance (and sometimes human sacrifice) to induce rain, while the Puritans in New England blamed the sins of the community for lightening strikes and Nor'easters.  IN modern times we carry on those traditions by blaming the weatherman for ruined weekends.  Despite hi-tech satellites and powerful computers and 24-hour-a-day forecasting from The Weather Channel, we're still at the mercy of the whims of Mother Nature. Laskin recounts the many dramatic moments in American weather history, from the "Little Ice Age" to Ben Franklin's invention of the lightning rod to the Great Blizzard of the 1930's to the worries about global warming.  Packed with fresh insights and wonderful lore and trivia, Braving the Elements is unique and essential reading for anyone who's ever asked, "What's it like outside?" From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for Braving the Elements: The Stormy History of American Weather

  1. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    If you are interested in weather, American history and science, this is the book for you! Laskin does a great job telling the story of different weather events in North American history against the back drop of the technological inventions and improvements that have created the excellent weather forecasting we have today. I know sometimes today's weather forecasting seem to leave a lot to be desired, but compared to what our ancestors had, it is absolutely amazing. Laskin's book is easily read, If you are interested in weather, American history and science, this is the book for you! Laskin does a great job telling the story of different weather events in North American history against the back drop of the technological inventions and improvements that have created the excellent weather forecasting we have today. I know sometimes today's weather forecasting seem to leave a lot to be desired, but compared to what our ancestors had, it is absolutely amazing. Laskin's book is easily read, fast moving and short enough that you will actually be a bit disappointed when you reach the end! A GREAT read!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    I've been reading a LOT about disasters lately - I read about the Hinckley Forest Fire and the Black Blizzards of the Dust Bowl, both a combination of bad business practices and natures terrible fury; the Children's Blizzard, an unforeseen storm (akin to 2013 polar vortex) that left hundreds of frozen bodies scattered on the prairie; the Molasses Flood (not natural but couldnt help myself); America's deadliest avalanche that sent a train full of passenger careening down a ravine; the Perfect Sto I've been reading a LOT about disasters lately - I read about the Hinckley Forest Fire and the Black Blizzards of the Dust Bowl, both a combination of bad business practices and natures terrible fury; the Children's Blizzard, an unforeseen storm (akin to 2013 polar vortex) that left hundreds of frozen bodies scattered on the prairie; the Molasses Flood (not natural but couldnt help myself); America's deadliest avalanche that sent a train full of passenger careening down a ravine; the Perfect Storm, a tragic tale immortalized by book and film; and I'm about to start a book on the Hurricane that killed 6,000 people... and this book, I felt initially, tied in well with the themed read. How did people predict and deal with the weather in days past? The yearly death toll of American's in storms shows us that even today we are powerless, but at least we almost always KNOW when weather is coming, there are storm shelters and basements, the National Guard with boats and helicopters, modern hospitals, we have RESOURCES and the most unappreciated but perhaps the most important resource availbale are our weathermen. In the beginning I thought this book would be more about the Indians reading the signs, such as the early nod in the book to Chief Bowlegs of the Seminole Indians. Chief Bowlegs, in 1926, led his people further inland away from an impending (and unpredicted) hurricane because he read the signs, an unseasonable blooming of saw grass; the migration of rats anad rabbits north and west of the coast; an unusual silence among the birds and abrupt flights northwest; an eerie barking of alligators and movement into deepwater. I am wildly thankful that I live under a roof, with a floor, and four walls, I'm heated and air conditioned and sealed against the outside, but I am also a weather nut- I love noticing the difference in pressures, knowing what a cloud means for my local weather, having a feel for it if you will, and I feel that there is something tragically lost almost that people dont look at the butterflies landing on the leeward side of the tree, or notice the tenuous and worried call of cattle, anymore. I wanted to know more about the smudgy back clouds that farmers in Nebraska looked for in December in the Northwest, the clouds that heralded an imminent blizzard. I wanted to know how did they stay warm? What precautions did they take in the cities where there wasn't limitless firewood? What did people think when they saw a tornado? That's what I thought I'd learn about. Instead it was much more about how psychologically people dealt with the weather, which is to say from the earliest Native Americans, from pagans to Christians, to now, we pray. We pray a lot. We pray for rain, we pray for sun, we pray that the hurricane loses strength, and that the tornado lifts back up off the ground before it gets to us. Because even if we can forecast weather, we cannot stop it. To think that we can stop it is a lie. INsurance calls them Acts of God for a reason, and whether you believe in God or not, Nature is undeniably a force we cannot handle. THats why, for so many of us, its absolutely mesmerizing. The book turned out to be far more about the evolution of weather science, which was fascinating. It talked about the rain dances and water cults of Native Americans, it talked about the Puritan weeks of fasting for the rains that brought the first THanksgiving harvest, and it talked about the slow evoltuion of scientific theories- from Franklin to the Norwegians that theorized fronts. I knew that the modern day NOAA and NWS had a tumultous beginning in the signal corp, but I never realized that the calculations for standard meteorology had been discovered, but the people recognized that they simply didnt have the technology to make the computations fast enough. They knew how to predict the weather, at least far better than they were, they just couldn't yet. I'm born into an age when launching a satellite isnt big news, I can literally check the weather forecast in 2 seconds by turning on my phone, I dont even have to wait for the evening news, and Doppler is a household name. I had no idea that Doppler was an invention as recently as it was. I cant imagine life on the prairie without being able to see the ominous hook echo in Doppler. Ye gods. It was a great read, in the end, and second Laskin read. It lost a star for the clutter that was the end of the book, because it took a turn at examining the evolution of on-tv meteorologists, which, while still on-topic seemed more hastil put together than the scholarly preceeding chapters. It lost another half star because its terribly out of date. It was published in 1996- it very much could have benefited by an addenddum that talked about theh F5 in Joplin or the drowning of New Orleans and how the weather service has desperately tried to make citizens and bureaucrats listen with both success and failure, and the publics responses to it, and the whole section on global warming needs updated as well (although he gets extra points for the at-the-time discussions for and against the theory). Annnnnnd ok, maybe he lost a half star because I really did want more first hand accounts about people's reactions to the weather, and less about how society has evolved to adapt our culture to the weather. It was still interesting, but not quite what I wanted. I dont know if thats fair, but its my rating, so it can be what I want. :) I apologize for any typos- I'm typing on an ipad and trying to go back and edit is killing me. The cursor is so erratic. I'll correct on Monday when I get to a computer. To read my review of my Natural Disaster Themed read which included 10 different disaster books click link: Here!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mercutio

    The book, Braving the Elements, The Stormy History of American Weather is a book by David Laskin detailing the weather events and the growing threat of global warming. Along with the industry of forecasting and meteorological science. He features a variety of subjects such as the disappearance of the Anasazi, a native people of America. The weather in colonial America and the current turmoil in the atmosphere that we call global warming. I would sincerely recommend this book to anyone intereste The book, Braving the Elements, The Stormy History of American Weather is a book by David Laskin detailing the weather events and the growing threat of global warming. Along with the industry of forecasting and meteorological science. He features a variety of subjects such as the disappearance of the Anasazi, a native people of America. The weather in colonial America and the current turmoil in the atmosphere that we call global warming. I would sincerely recommend this book to anyone interested in meteorology,

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laura Boudreau

    This was a really interesting look the the history of weather in our country, from the earliest Native American settlements through the impact of Benjamin Franklin, the dust bowl of the Depression years, and the advent of technology from mid- to late twentieth century, concluding with an introduction to the National Weather Service. Great stuff!

  5. 4 out of 5

    pianogal

    Finally got to this one after having it checked out on and off for about a year. It's a little out of date, having been written 26 years ago, but the middle section is still good. The last chapter on global warming kinda reads like a futuristic flying car. It doesn't work as well as it did initially. Wish there was a little more about the weather itself, but overall not a bad read. Finally got to this one after having it checked out on and off for about a year. It's a little out of date, having been written 26 years ago, but the middle section is still good. The last chapter on global warming kinda reads like a futuristic flying car. It doesn't work as well as it did initially. Wish there was a little more about the weather itself, but overall not a bad read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Braving the Elements opened with the importance of climate to the various peoples of the American southwest, shifted to the settlers’ growing appreciation of how diverse the North American continent was, and then trailed off with the growth of weather forecasting in the United States. It falls into that dreaded “Interesting, but Forgettable” category.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    I really liked this approach to dealing with weather .i had read the Childrens Blizzard and this book met the same standards I was looking to read about .it was a new way of talking about the weather

  8. 5 out of 5

    Denice

  9. 4 out of 5

    David

  10. 4 out of 5

    Neil Strandberg

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mary Whisner

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ann Rubino

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joy+Peace

  14. 5 out of 5

    J.P.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brian DeVries

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mary Shafer

    Seriously, I just cannot say enough about how much I like David Laskin's writing, at least about weather. Haven't read his other stuff yet, but if it's anything like this book or The Children's Blizzard, it must be awesome. Now granted, I am a total weather geek, but his are the kind of books I can start reading in the morning and find myself still glued to in late afternoon, not having ventured off the recliner since I started. I specifically wait to read his books until I have such uninterrupt Seriously, I just cannot say enough about how much I like David Laskin's writing, at least about weather. Haven't read his other stuff yet, but if it's anything like this book or The Children's Blizzard, it must be awesome. Now granted, I am a total weather geek, but his are the kind of books I can start reading in the morning and find myself still glued to in late afternoon, not having ventured off the recliner since I started. I specifically wait to read his books until I have such uninterrupted time available, just so I don't make myself nuts from wanting to go back and read, despite whatever else I should be doing. He writes with the epic research of a journalist, the eye for detail of a novelist, and the sensibilities of another storm nut. So if you've ever wondered how the United States National Weather Service got to where it is today, here's your best book. It ain't always a pretty story -- in fact, some of the history is really quite disturbing -- but it's a great read. Highly recommended.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ron Antonucci

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

  19. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Esmacher

  20. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

  22. 4 out of 5

    Vintage274

  23. 4 out of 5

    Billrogers

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bev

  25. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Horton

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

  27. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

  30. 4 out of 5

    Butters

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