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."
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The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love 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.  

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dead Wake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era's great transatlantic "Greyhounds" and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover,…

The Johnstown Flood

By David McCullough,

Book cover of The Johnstown Flood

Why did I love 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.

By David McCullough,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Johnstown Flood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The stunning story of one of America’s great disasters, a preventable tragedy of Gilded Age America, brilliantly told by master historian David McCullough.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was a booming coal-and-steel town filled with hardworking families striving for a piece of the nation’s burgeoning industrial prosperity. In the mountains above Johnstown, an old earth dam had been hastily rebuilt to create a lake for an exclusive summer resort patronized by the tycoons of that same industrial prosperity, among them Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Mellon. Despite repeated warnings of possible danger, nothing was…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Ron Franscell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Delivered from Evil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written by bestselling crime author, Ron Franscell, Delivered from Evil is a compelling look at the most notable mass murders told from the harrowing perspective of those who escaped certain death. Using survivor's accounts, many of which have never been told until now, the crime and its aftermath are laid out in chilling detail. * Suzanna Gratia Hupp watches as her parents are gunned down in the Luby's Cafeteria shooting massacre-while 100 feet away is the handgun Suzanna left in her car. * Dianne Alexander is brutally assaulted and left for dead by serial killer Derrick Todd Lee-but survives to…

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

Why did I love 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. 

By Mitchell Zuckoff,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fall and Rise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'The farewell calls from the planes... the mounting terror of air traffic control... the mothers who knew they were witnessing their loved ones perish... From an author who's spent 5 years reconstructing its horror, never has the story been told with such devastating, human force' Daily Mail

This is a 9/11 book like no other. Masterfully weaving together multiple strands of the events in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Fall and Rise is a mesmerising, minute-by-minute account of that terrible day.

In the days and months after 9/11, Mitchell Zuckoff, then…

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

Why did I love 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. 

By Gregg Olsen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Deep Dark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A vividly detailed, heartbreaking tale about a dark, alien place, the people who loved working there and a town that has never been the same. He brings to life the hot, dirty, treasure-hunt environment where danger was a miner's heroin." —Seattle Times

“Investigation at its best.” —Tucson Citizen

On May 2, 1972, 174 miners entered Sunshine Mine in Kellogg, Idaho, on their daily quest for silver. From his office window, safety engineer Bob Launhardt could see the air shafts that fed fresh air into the mine, which was more than a mile below the surface. Sunshine was a fireproof hardrock…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in September 11th, Pennsylvania, and maritime?

9,000+ 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 48 books about September 11th
Pennsylvania Explore 68 books about Pennsylvania
Maritime Explore 19 books about maritime

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Unbroken, 1491, and Tinseltown if you like this list.