The best books about man-made disaster and tragedy

Who am I?

Being a connoisseur of historical nonfiction and a survivor of the 1994 shooting spree and aviation disaster at Fairchild Air Force Base, allowed me to create a unique narrative of the two tragedies. I’ve been naturally curious since childhood and grew even more observant and detail-oriented during my career in law enforcement and criminal investigations. I appreciate books that delve into historical disasters and tragedies giving us the opportunity to learn from other people’s experiences. When I realized none of my favorite authors were writing about the Fairchild tragedies, I took up the challenge myself. Warnings Unheeded is the result of more than seven years of research, it is an incredible story and a timeless lesson from history.

I wrote...

Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild Air Force Base

By Andy Brown,

Book cover of Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild Air Force Base

What is my book about?

On 20 June 1994, a former airman opened fire on the patrons and staff of the Fairchild Air Force Base hospital. The first of his many victims were the doctors who had warned of his descent into homicidal madness. Four days after the shooting spree, a B-52 bomber plunged to the ground during an airshow-practice flight. Some of Fairchild’s most veteran aviators were killed when the massive airplane crashed, including a reckless senior pilot and the young commander who had fought to have him grounded. 

This incredible narrative reveals the signs of impending violence and disaster as seen through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed the tragedies unfold. Written by the man who ended the killing spree, Andy Brown gives a firsthand account of his pistol-versus-rifle gunfight and offers a candid insight into the hidden cost of becoming a "hero."

The books I picked & why

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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

By Erik Larson,

Book cover of Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Why this book?

Dead Wake is a history lesson disguised as a thoroughly engrossing story. Larson skillfully tells the tragic tale of the British ocean liner and the German U-boat that torpedoed her. He paints a vivid picture of the 1915 era and the maritime tragedy that helped push the United States into World War One. I was struck by the many similarities between the sinking of the Lusitania and the 1994 B-52 crash at Fairchild, particularly the multiple warnings that went unheeded and the missteps that preceded the tragedy.  

The Johnstown Flood

By David McCullough,

Book cover of The Johnstown Flood

Why this book?

McCullough is one of my favorite storytelling historians. This narrative is an effortless balance of historical characters, an intriguing story, and immersion in a bygone era. The lessons he uncovers in the dam-burst tragedy that struck Johnstown, Pennsylvania are as relevant today as they were in 1889. A lesson in the danger of complacency in regards to safety.

Delivered from Evil: True Stories of Ordinary People Who Faced Monstrous Mass Killers and Survived

By Ron Franscell,

Book cover of Delivered from Evil: True Stories of Ordinary People Who Faced Monstrous Mass Killers and Survived

Why this book?

Delivered from Evil covers ten incidents of mass murder and serial killing. In each well-written narrative, Franscell tells the story of the crime, the criminal, and the victims. Even the most devoted crime buff will learn something new from Franscell’s thorough research and unique style. I appreciate the attention he gives to the survivor’s stories and their experience with the life-altering effects of trauma.

Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11

By Mitchell Zuckoff,

Book cover of Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11

Why this book?

As with all of Mitchell Zuckoff’s books, Fall and Rise is thoroughly researched, the writing is clear and concise and the story is compelling. As Zuckoff skillfully tells the story of the September 11th terrorist attacks, he introduces the unique perspectives of everyday Americans who were profoundly affected by our national tragedy. 

The Deep Dark: Disaster and Redemption in America's Richest Silver Mine

By Gregg Olsen,

Book cover of The Deep Dark: Disaster and Redemption in America's Richest Silver Mine

Why this book?

My first Gregg Olsen book, Starvation Heights, told the story of a serial-killing “doctor” who operated in the area of my hometown in the early 1900s. The Deep Dark, tells the story of the 1972 northern Idaho silver-mine disaster that occurred not far from my current home. After exhaustive research and interviews with survivors, Olsen thoroughly conveys the lifestyle of a hard-rock miner, working under the constant threat of death thousands of feet underground. Along the way, Olsen lays out the chain of events that led to the worst disaster in Idaho’s history. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in September 11th, Pennsylvania, and maritime?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about September 11th, Pennsylvania, and maritime.

September 11th Explore 45 books about September 11th
Pennsylvania Explore 41 books about Pennsylvania
Maritime Explore 13 books about maritime

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery, Killing For Company, and Lifeboat 12 if you like this list.