Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—And Why
By Amanda Ripley
Getting to Know Your Disaster Personality
Half of Americans have been affected by a disaster of some kind. In big disasters, regular people are the first and most important rescuers on the scene. But very few of us know what to expect until it is too late.
By combining the stories of survivors with research into how the brain works under extreme duress, THE UNTHINKABLE tries to bring light into civilization’s darkest moments. Why do we freeze in the middle of a fire? How can we override this instinct? Why do our senses of sight and hearing change during a terrorist attack? Why are most heroes men?
In this inspiring mix of narrative, science and participatory journalism, award-winning TIME Magazine contributor Amanda Ripley reveals how human fear circuits and crowd dynamics work, why our instincts sometimes misfire in modern calamities, and how we can do much, much better.
THE UNTHINKABLE was published in 15 countries including the United States, the UK, Brazil, and China. A documentary based on the book, Surviving Disaster with Amanda Ripley, aired on PBS in 2012. THE UNTHINKABLE was selected by Hudson Booksellers as one of the Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2008.
“A fascinating and useful new book.”
-- THE NEW YORK TIMES
“The thinking person’s manual for getting out alive.”
“Ripley is a voyeur on a mission...Her conviction: We’d all stand a better chance of surviving a disaster if we understood what happens to our little gray cells when things get ugly….Spiced with surprising factoids, this book might save your life one day.”
-- BLOOMBERG NEWS
“THE UNTHINKABLE is part study of the science of reaction to extreme fear, part indictment of the US government’s response to the terrorist threat, part call to arms….The end result is a fascinating book....Despite its title and its subject matter, THE UNTHINKABLE is an optimistic…
-- THE TIMES of London
“Engrossing and lucid…An absorbing study of the psychology and physiology of panic, heroism, and trauma...Facing the truth about the human capacity for risk and disaster turns out to be a lot less scary than staying in the dark.”
-- O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE
“Ripley’s in-depth look at the psychology of disaster response, alongside survivors’ accounts, makes for gripping reading, sure to raise debate as well as our awareness of a life-and-death issue.”
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“Reading THE UNTHINKABLE will be life-changing. We live in an age of anxiety that has too many of us rocked back on our heels. Once you’ve feasted on the rich insights and wisdom of this remarkable book, you’ll be standing tall again. While our politicians…
-- Stephen Flynn, author of THE EDGE OF DISASTER
“Amanda Ripley takes us on a sometimes stunning, sometimes sobering journey through disaster, using great stories and respected science to show why some prevail and others do not. THE UNTHINKABLE isn’t merely a book about disaster; it’s a book about survival – maybe yours.”
-- Gavin de Becker, author of THE GIFT OF FEAR
“Ever fantasize about what you would do in a disaster? How would you survive? How would you behave? After interviewing survivors of the World Trade Center attack, Amanda Ripley sifted through amazing tales of survivors from other disasters and mined various sociological, psychological, and neurological…
-- Walter Isaacson, author of EINSTEIN