Dead Wake

By Erik Larson,

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

Book description

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…


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Why read it?

3 authors picked Dead Wake as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Dead Wake is fact that reads like fiction. Not often do I choose a book already knowing how it ends. His artistic rendering of the world in 1915 is alone worth the read. He introduces us to the passengers of the SS Lusitania, who they are, why they are on the ship, and he makes us care.

Larson limns Captains Turner of the Lusitania, and Schweiger of the U-20, the Imperial German submarine. The author carefully choreographs the final voyage of the doomed ship. The sinking is not the end of the story. 

The last third of…

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.  

From Andy's list on man-made disaster and tragedy.

Step on board the fateful Lusitania on its last voyage to Europe from New York City in May of 1915. Set sail with the confident Captain William Thomas Turner, rare book collector Charles Lauriat, actress Rita Jolivet, the affluent Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, and many others from all walks of life. You will also board Walther Schweiger’s U-20 and discover the harsh conditions of living on a submarine. I found Larson’s non-fiction book to be a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at a horrific event often only known by name in history.

From Laci's list on to relive history.

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