Amanda Ripley

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Dispatches from the Unthinkable

30th Jun 2008 posted in General

The Unthinkable has officially launched in the US and the UK, and I’m proud and relieved to report that the reviews have been generous and positive so far. From O Magazine to FOX News to the Times of London, people have been captivated by the storytelling and the science in the book, just like I was while working on it. I have thought for a long time that this was a strangely unexamined part of the human condition, so it’s nice to see that other people agree.

Just as importantly, I’ve gotten a lot of thoughtful notes from survivors of all kinds of disasters who say the book really resonated with their own experiences. If you’re like me, and you have the nerve to sit on the sidelines and write about the trauma of others, you are perpetually grateful for the patience and openness of survivors. I keep a part of my office wall dedicated to their notes.

Meanwhile, members of the military, police officers, firefighters and other emergency types have also been very excited about the book, which is reassuring for two reasons. First, I relied on emergency professionals heavily to write the book, so I am so glad they are happy with the finished product. Secondly, one of the main themes of the book is that regular people matter more than anyone else in a disaster. So it’s good to see that no professional rescuer or government official has felt slighted by this claim so far. Quite the contrary: the experts seem to wholeheartedly wish more civilians knew what they know.

Here are some photos from the book launch party, which was held at the little-known, but totally cool DC Fire & EMS Museum (soon to be open to the public) in Washington, DC. Many thanks to TIME Magazine and the Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency for co-sponsoring the party, and to Walter Gold and the Museum for being such gracious and enthusiastic hosts.

Also, a huge thanks to Chris Usher, an incredibly talented photographer who normally takes pictures at places like the White House and disaster scenes but very kindly came to my little party and made the nice picture above (of me and Time writer Michael Weisskopf).

P.S. I’ve got a book reading coming up at 7 pm on Weds. July 2 at Politics & Prose, a great book store in Washington, DC. Please come say hi if you are around.