The most recommended books about Hurricane Katrina

Who picked these books? Meet our 27 experts.

27 authors created a book list connected to Hurricane Katrina, and here are their favorite Hurricane Katrina books.
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Book cover of Undertakings of an Undertaker: True Stories of Being Laid to Rest

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Author Of Grave Undertakings: Mortician by Day, Model by Night

From my list on funeral directors and for funeral directors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have worked as a funeral director for more than 35 years and write regularly about funeral service. Since I wrote my first book, Grave Undertakings, in 2003, there’s been a proliferation of books about funeral service. Funeral directors have many stories to tell, and some of the best are by those who have worked in the trenches and gleaned profound insight into the work that we do. I’m less enamored about the books that are written for sensationalism and excessively hyped. That said, I’m always on the lookout for a good book by a colleague who writes about the work that we do with sincerity and compassion. 

Alexandra's book list on funeral directors and for funeral directors

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca Why did Alexandra love this book?

In his book, funeral director Stanley Swan ponders the question, “Are we destined before birth to be what is planned for us?” In Swan’s case, that just may be so. He shares several childhood experiences that he believes may have foreshadowed his career. In one reminiscence, he recounts how he tenderly cared for the remains of a dead sparrow. In another, Swan describes watching the local undertaker conduct a burial in the small cemetery adjacent to his family’s dairy farm in upstate New York, where Swan often played and explored. Fifteen years later, he enrolled in mortuary school and soon after was serving as a funeral director for his community. In his 40-year career, Swan witnessed the public tragedies that were 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina as well as the deaths of many of the locals he knew as friends. He writes about them all and offers a window into how…

By Stanley Swan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Undertakings of an Undertaker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Could these remains, yet to be identified, be one of the victims of Rochester's Genesee River killer? Did the mourner in the chapel with the casket and the deceased actually think there was an apparition present? Is it legal to bury a man with no pants? Would a man really drive his deceased wife to a mortuary instead of calling the authorities? Those ashes seeping from the fractured urn...imagined or real? The black cat visiting the deceased man's wake...a family friend or fiend? These are just some of the intriguing, unusual and funny stories to be found in Undertakings of…


Book cover of Big Muddy: An Environmental History of the Mississippi and Its Peoples from Hernando de Soto to Hurricane Katrina

Cynthia Kierner Author Of Inventing Disaster: The Culture of Calamity from the Jamestown Colony to the Johnstown Flood

From my list on American disasters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of early America and I teach at George Mason University. What got me interested in disaster history was Superstorm Sandy, which ravaged the Jersey Shore (and New York City) in 2012. Sandy destroyed places I cared about—my childhood rollercoaster plunged into the ocean! As I watched the news obsessively, I saw a pattern that was familiar to me from Katrina and from other recent disasters. Quantitative information—how many lives and dollars lost—and insights from hurricane science came first, followed by human-interest stories, uplifting news of relief and resilience, and (eventually) post-disaster investigations and recriminations. I wanted to understand the roots of this pattern—this "culture of calamity." When did it originate? Where did it come from?

Cynthia's book list on American disasters

Cynthia Kierner Why did Cynthia love this book?

Christopher Morris's chronological scope is break-taking, and not all five hundred years of his story deal directly with the hurricanes and other disasters that have routinely afflicted the Lower Mississippi River region. The Big Muddy describes the interplay between humans and the environment, and especially human efforts to engineer the boundaries between wetlands and dry agricultural acreage (first for rice, and later for cotton). After more than a century of hubris-laden and profit-driven tinkering, the Katrina disaster was more or less inevitable—and very much in keeping with the region's tradition of inequitably sharing both the short-term benefits and long-term costs of environmental disruption.

By Christopher Morris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Big Muddy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Big Muddy, the first long-term environmental history of the Mississippi, Christopher Morris offers a brilliant tour across five centuries as he illuminates the interaction between people and the landscape, from early hunter-gatherer bands to present-day industrial and post-industrial society.

Morris shows that when Hernando de Soto arrived at the lower Mississippi Valley, he found an incredibly vast wetland, forty thousand square miles of some of the richest, wettest land in North America, deposited there by the big muddy river that ran through it. But since then much has changed, for the river and for the surrounding valley. Indeed,…


Book cover of Jesus Out to Sea

Lynn A. Higgins Author Of Bertrand Tavernier

From my list on to read in with the eccentric movie adaptations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a recently retired Professor of French literature and cinema studies at Dartmouth College. Because I love both books and movies, I developed a course on adaptation, which I taught with pleasure for many years. I wanted to give students the opportunity to learn how to analyze literary texts and films, separately and in juxtaposition, and they especially enjoyed discovering how the “same” story works quite differently in different media. In addition to the two volumes on Tavernier, my published books include New Novel, New Wave, New Politics: Fiction and the Representation of History in Postwar France; Parables of Theory: Jean Ricardou’s Metafiction; and Rape and Representation (co-edited with Brenda Silver).

Lynn's book list on to read in with the eccentric movie adaptations

Lynn A. Higgins Why did Lynn love this book?

The book is a collection of short stories by my favorite mystery novel writer. Burke’s series detective, Dave Robicheaux, who is both a Louisiana cop and a moral philosopher, repeatedly strives to overcome his own flaws and set right the cruel catastrophes wrought by human ignorance, stupidity, and cruelty. Jesus Out to Sea is infused with the same narrative and poetic ferocity, but without Robicheaux this time. The collection is set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and probes the human costs of the devastation wrought by nature and exacerbated by administrative corruption and bad faith. 

A surprising and powerful adaptation of one of the stories—“Winter Light”—will be released theatrically in the fall of 2022 with the title God’s Country. It’s the first feature by Julian Higgins, a promising young director (who happens to be my son). The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to enthusiastic reviews and…

By James Lee Burke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jesus Out to Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This powerful new collection of James Lee Burke's short fiction ranges across landscapes that he has made his own, from rural Louisiana and Mississippi to war-torn Vietnam and a New Orleans ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Told with his trademark blend of lyrical prose and hard-eyed realism, they bring a host of extraordinary characters to vivid life: soldiers and prostitutes, nuns and children, musicians and gangsters, all the while movingly exploring 'the near certainty of tragedy to come and the smoldering embers of possibility in the ashes of blighted lives' (BOOKLIST). Whether bittersweet evocations of childhood and a New Orleans that…


Book cover of Sea of Storms: A History of Hurricanes in the Greater Caribbean from Columbus to Katrina

Charles F. Walker Author Of Shaky Colonialism: The 1746 Earthquake-Tsunami in Lima, Peru, and Its Long Aftermath

From my list on natural disasters in Latin America and Caribbean.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing my history of the 1746 earthquake and tsunami that walloped much of Peru taught me that disasters serve as great entryways into society. They not only provide a snapshot (today's selfie) of where people were and what they were doing at a given moment (think Pompei) but also bring to light and even accentuate social and political tensions. I have lived my adult life between Peru and California and have experienced plenty of earthquakes. I continue to teach on "natural" disasters and have begun a project on the 1600 Huaynaputina volcano that affected the global climate. 

Charles' book list on natural disasters in Latin America and Caribbean

Charles F. Walker Why did Charles love this book?

This rollicking history of hurricanes takes us from the sixteenth century (and before actually) to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina. Schwartz is a dogged researcher who has mastered the science of hurricanes and explains them well. He also has a great eye for social history and makes his points by telling anecdotes and stories. He tips his hat to the French master of longue durée history, Fernand Braudel, and Sea of Storms highlights long-term continuities in hurricanes and their destructive paths.

He shows that although the region known as the Caribbean stretches across North, Central, and South America, varying greatly in terms of languages, history, environment, and more, the annual threat of hurricanes brings it together and provides an excellent advantage point for its study.

By Stuart B. Schwartz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sea of Storms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The diverse cultures of the Caribbean have been shaped as much by hurricanes as they have by diplomacy, commerce, or the legacy of colonial rule. In this panoramic work of social history, Stuart Schwartz examines how Caribbean societies have responded to the dangers of hurricanes, and how these destructive storms have influenced the region's history, from the rise of plantations, to slavery and its abolition, to migrations, racial conflict, and war. Taking readers from the voyages of Columbus to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Schwartz looks at the ethical, political, and economic challenges that hurricanes posed to the Caribbean's indigenous…


Book cover of The Tin Roof Blowdown

Mary Maurice Author Of Burtrum Lee

From my list on exciting your imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always enjoyed the intrigue of the mystery and the constant back and forth of the twists and turns offer in a well-written novel. The tremor of my nerves at the base of my neck as I try to figure out the culprit and their intentions, has always enticed my imagination. To, me, those sensations are mind stimulating, and are only born through reading.

Mary's book list on exciting your imagination

Mary Maurice Why did Mary love this book?

The Tin Roof Blowdown shows us New Orleans, and the surrounding areas the days after Katrina raged havoc. Taking into account the lives that have been traumatized as crime and murders increased nine-fold. Detective David Robicheaux of Iberia Parish finds himself in the midst of a murder in an old-time neighborhood, as he tries to figure out if the murder of a local black boy during a robbery was racially motivated or not. The details and stories of this horrific tragedy show the bleakness of the aftermath and that not only did many reach their deaths, but how many who survived died also. No order exists as Robicheaux tries to unravel his latest mystery.


By James Lee Burke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'His most gripping thriller to date.' Mirror

Hurricane Katrina has transformed New Orleans into a violent wasteland. Criminals capitalise on the devastation as survivors wait for help that never comes.

David Robicheaux - his city in ruins -- is tasked with investigating the murder of a pair of looters: is it a simple case of 'stand-your-ground', or something altogether darker? The dead men's accomplice holds the key but he has disappeared to escape the people hunting him.

As Robicheaux uncovers a brutal catalogue of greed, torture and murder, his own family is threatened, and the ravaged city provides the perfect…


Book cover of Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival

Wendy Wahman Author Of Don't Lick the Dog: Making Friends with Dogs

From my list on dog books to tug on your heartstrings.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m passionate about animals. When I was starting out in my 20s, I worked as a vet tech and a dog trainer and fully intended to make a career in animals. But along the way my other love, art, joined the dance. It’s only natural I’ve found ways to combine my two loves, like, illustrating a veterinarian's advice column for Family Dog magazine, and writing, Don’t Lick the Dog, and Nanny Paws, both inspired by my own beloved dogs.

Wendy's book list on dog books to tug on your heartstrings

Wendy Wahman Why did Wendy love this book?

A dog and a cat are left behind when Hurricane Katrina strikes. Rescuers dub them, “The Bobbies” because of their bobbed tails. The two are inseparable, and the dog Bobbie is fiercely protective of the Bobbie cat, who we later learn is totally reliant on him for her survival. The Bobbies are rescued, and we’re reminded how many “helpers,” as Mr. Rogers’ mother would say, there are in the world.

By Kirby Larson, Mary Nethery, Jean Cassels (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Two Bobbies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

from Newbery award winning author Kirby Larson comes a remarkable true story of the devotion, friendship, and survival of two pets left behind in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In the tradition of Owen and Mzee, this beautiful picture book is a testament to the spirit that defined post-Katrina rescue missions.

During Hurricane Katrina, evacuating New Orleans residents were forced to leave their pets behind. Bobbi the dog was initially chained to keep her safe, but after her owners failed to return, she had to break free. For months, Bobbi wandered the city's ravaged streets-dragging her chain behind her-followed by…


Book cover of Orleans

Joshua David Bellin Author Of Ecosystem

From my list on environmental catastrophe.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was eight years old, I read a book titled Dar Tellum: Stranger from a Distant Planet, by James R. Berry. It told the story of a boy who communicates with an alien intelligence to save the Earth from… global warming. That was in 1973, and it was the first time I’d heard about “the greenhouse effect”. Some things haven’t changed since then: I still read (and write) sci-fi, and I still have Dar Tellum on my bookshelf. But our climate is changing, and I’ve chosen four books of science fiction and one of science facts that help us think about the future—and present—of our planet.

Joshua's book list on environmental catastrophe

Joshua David Bellin Why did Joshua love this book?

In the wake of super-hurricanes and the deadly pandemic that follows, New Orleans has been quarantined from the rest of the United States, and those who seek to cross the border wall are killed. Narrator Fen, a member of the clan-based culture that has developed behind the wall, tells the story of her people and her personal quest for freedom in a dialect voice that is both beautifully rendered and brutally honest.

By Sherri L. Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Orleans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

First came the storms.

Then came the Fever.

And the Wall.

  

After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct…but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.  


Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood…


Book cover of None but the Righteous

Rita Chang-Eppig Author Of Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea

From Rita's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Nerd Writing teacher Chaotic neutral Psychologist

Rita's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Rita Chang-Eppig Why did Rita love this book?

There are two scenarios in which I will set a book down after reading only the first page: either the prose is so atrociously bad that I fear neuronal loss if I read any further, or the prose is so incandescent that I fear irreparable damage to my self-confidence as a writer. James’s prose made me consider giving up writing and transitioning to, I don’t know, goat farming.

None but the Righteous follows a boy named Ham, who is possessed by the spirit of the saint whose relic he carries around in a pendant. After Hurricane Katrina, he must try to find his way back to his adoptive home of New Orleans despite complicated feelings about the woman who took him in as a child. 

Part climate fiction and part mystical tract, this book is hypnotically, hauntingly beautiful.

By Chantal James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked None but the Righteous as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lyrical, riveting, and haunting from its opening lines, None But the Righteous is an extraordinary debut that signals the arrival of an unforgettable new voice in contemporary fiction

"[A] profound debut novel . . . James captures the simple kindnesses of a cup of coffee or a shared cellphone as though they were religious acts. Where a more ponderous writer might lapse into a lengthy stream of consciousness, James uses short chapters to weave a story of fractured time and uncharted space into the fabric of life after Katrina . . . This is a book of faith aching to…


Book cover of Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

Cayce Osborne Author Of I Know What You Did

From my list on female sleuths with personality to spare.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love reading complicated women. Messy, difficult, sarcastic, strong, clever, unusual, prickly women—works in progress who don’t always make good decisions and defy expectations. Characters shaped by their circumstances—good or bad—who use their considerable talents to figure their way out of difficult situations. I crave books that make me look anew at familiar genres or subjects. An element of mystery is the secret ingredient that makes me fall hard for a story; add a memorable female lead, and you’ve got the perfect book. It wasn’t long before I switched from reading female-led mysteries to writing them. I haven’t looked back.

Cayce's book list on female sleuths with personality to spare

Cayce Osborne Why did Cayce love this book?

Claire DeWitt is a troubled detective hired to solve a disappearance in post-Katrina New Orleans.

She learned her craft by studying the teachings of an elusive French detective, and was set on her career path after failing to find her missing friend as a teenager. She is haunted by disappearances of all kinds, and through this fascinating main character Gran weaves an atmospheric, compelling mystery.

The first time I read this book a hidden door in my writing brain unlocked—detective novels can be more than the classic setup of a talented sleuth following the clues. They can be messy and enigmatic and unsettling—in fact, Gran convinced me that they should be.

By Sara Gran,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New Orleans, and Vic Willing, Assistant District Attorney for the prosecutors' office, has been missing since Hurricane Katrina hit. Called in from San Francisco is Claire DeWitt, a detective whose expertise and methods derive from some unique sources.

What Claire discovers takes us into the heart of the crime-ravaged, deeply wounded city, where those who can afford it live behind fences and those who can't are slain daily on the streets. And it's there she discovers that the only thing worse than an unsolved case, maybe, is a solved one.

From the acclaimed author of Dope and Come Closer, City…


Book cover of A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

Daniel P. Aldrich Author Of Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery

From my list on the importance of community during disasters.

Why am I passionate about this?

We moved to New Orleans in July 2005. We had six weeks in our first home, filling it with furniture, buying a new car, and taking advantage of my first job. When Hurricane Katrina collapsed the levees holding back the nearby lakes, our home – and those of 80% of the city – filled with water. As I waited for FEMA and insurance to help us, I saw instead it was our friends, friends of friends, and faith-based organizations that helped us get back on our feet. Using our own experiences as a start, I traveled to India and Japan to study how communities around the world survived and thrived during shocks. 

Daniel's book list on the importance of community during disasters

Daniel P. Aldrich Why did Daniel love this book?

We have all seen disaster movies and TV shows with people screaming and running around as the earthquake, tsunami, or Godzilla strikes. But Rebecca Solnit argues instead that normal people don’t panic during disasters – it is the elite, the wealthy, and the decision-makers who lose their minds. For normal people, altruism and mutual aid help all of us get through shocks, whether fire, car accident or COVID19. Her writing is excellent and she uses examples across time and space, ranging from the San Francisco earthquake at the start of the 20th century to the Mexico City earthquake at its end.

By Rebecca Solnit,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Paradise Built in Hell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The freshest, deepest, most optimistic account of human nature I've come across in years."
-Bill McKibben

The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides. A Paradise Built in Hell is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster's grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of…