Written By: Simon Winchester

Narrated By: Simon Winchester

Date: October 2005

Duration: 12 hours 31 minutes


The international bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa vividly brings to life the 1906San Francisco Earthquake that leveled a city symbolic of America's relentless western expansion. Simon Winchester has also fashioned an enthralling and informative informative look at the tumultuous subterranean world that produces earthquakes, the planet's most sudden and destructive force.

In the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, San Francisco and a string of towns to its north-northwest and the south-southeast were overcome by an enormous shaking that was compounded by the violent shocks of an earthquake, registering 8.25 on the Richter scale. The quake resulted from a rupture in a part of the San Andreas fault, which lies underneath the earth's surface along the northern coast of California. Lasting little more than a minute, the earthquake wrecked 490 blocks, toppled a total of 25,000 buildings, broke open gas mains, cut off electric power lines throughout the Bay area, and effectively destroyed the gold rush capital that had stood there for a half century.

Perhaps more significant than the tremors and rumbling, which affected a swatch of California more than 200 miles long, were the fires that took over the city for three days, leaving chaos and horror in its wake. The human tragedy included the deaths of upwards of 700 people, with more than 250,000 left homeless. It was perhaps the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

Simon Winchester brings his inimitable storytelling abilities -- as well as his unique understanding of geology -- to this extraordinary event, exploring not only what happened in northern California in 1906 but what we have learned since about the geological underpinnings that caused the earthquake in the first place. But his achievement is even greater: he positions the quake's significance along the earth's geological timeline and shows the effect it had on the rest of twentieth-century California and American history.

A Crack in the Edge of the World is the definitive account of the San Francisco earthquake. It is also a fascinating exploration of a legendary event that changed the way we look at the planet on which we live.


  • Elizabeth Buebe

    The book was extremely well written, sparing no information that was pertinent to the topic. I especially appreciated the fact that the reader was the actual author. You could sense his love of the subject.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful.

  • Albert

    This book is Simon Winchester at his best. Like Krakatoa, the research is deep and credible. Mr. Winchester pulls every thread and every one is interesting. As always, the narration is crisp and easy to understand. Although it is long, I was sorry when it ended. The interview with the author at the end was a plus.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • KD

    I enjoyed this book. Yes, it is detailed and talks about the history of geology and theories on earthquakes over time, Chinatown, immigration, the Gold Rush, San Francisco culture, even Pentelcostalism. But in doing so, the author gives the background in why the 1906 earthquake was so devastating. It is informative, well-written, and detailed. If you are a fan of Simon Winchester books, or of history, this book is a treat.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Steve Heller

    A wonderfully well-written and interesting combination of travel writing and science writing. Explains modern geology in a quite accessible manner and the listener is kept continuously engaged by the author's marvelous language.

  • Anonymous

    I really liked the book. I felt I learned a lot from it. However, when listening to this book, one must remember books by Michener - you may have to plow through a lot of background information before geting to the gist of the book. It's well worth it as it all fits into his story.

  • JLC

    While I typically love the author, this book was "all over the place", long, and directionless. He talks about the SF Earthquake, but he also talks about lots of other so many other topics, that I continuously waited for him to get to his point. And, at the end, not sure he had one. His narrative style was engaging, but in search of some editorial succinctness.

  • Kathy

    I found this book a bit "rambling" at times as the author seemed to feel that it was necessary to tell everything he knows about the subject of geology. Do not listen to this if you are expecting it to be solely about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake as that is a very small part of the book. This book is really about what causes earthquakes.

  • Anonymous

    Another great book from Simon Winchester and a good companion book to Krakatoa. What I like about his style is that he sets out the framework of the times, socially, politically, geographically, in addition to providing a great primer on geology and plate tectonics in layman terms. And he does it in a way that keeps the reader listening. Other reviewers have complained that The Earthquake doesn't really appear until well into the book, and that is because so much time is spent setting the scene for what is about to happen. Really enjoyed it.

  • Anonymous

    This book was amazing!! It is not a quick read or a down and dirty account of death and destruction. It is an in-depth analysis of the conditions that ultimately led to the destruction of San Francisco and how and why it rose from the rubble as it did. Just about everything you can think of is included, from the migration of continents around the globe to the amount of rust on the pipes running beneath SF in the early 1900's. Though a bit slow at times, well worth the listen!

  • Anonymous

    I was enthralled by this book. I thought I had a decent understanding of earthquakes and geology, but this book proved me wrong. I was actually disappointed when the author (and reader) finally got down to serious coverage of the SF quake, the story of our world's birth and development had been so fascinating. No, this is not a quick book...if you want something fast and easy look elsewhere. The author/reader is an Oxford-educated Brit (now living in the USA) and his writing and speaking are beautiful and eloquent. If he is a bit long-winded at times, the flow of his language is such a pleasure to hear that I didn't mind. Plus, he brings a different perspective to San Francisco's story. To me the 10 cds were far too short.

  • Lobstentia

    Meticulously researched and highly entertaining story of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. What a treat to hear the author retell his own story with humor and passion. Mr. Winchester is a master at providing layman's analogies to explain even the most complex geological phenomenon. Well worth the listen.

  • Anonymous

    This selection is all you ever wanted to know about the San Francisco earthquake and more. The "more" includes an entire treatise on the geologic history of the United States. You don't even get into the earthquake until about disc five or six. If the author mentions a topic, like "insurance," he then gives you an entire history of the insurance business in America; if he says "Chinatown", the reader is treated to a lecture on that topic...and so on. This selection would have been so much better condensed.....

  • Marc Tumminello

    Very Boring. Over 10 CD and the first 7 don't even talk about the earthquake. Disliked readers voice and accent.

  • Anonymous

    This was a little slow going in parts but stick with it. The description of the events of the actual day of the quake was quite fascinating. Also, his butterfly theory as it relates to today's politics makes you stop and think. It's the geology lessons that are difficult to absorb.

  • DJG

    I found this a very interesting and informative book in the Winchester style. The ground work to mine all the information is amazing and I recommend this book to any one who wants to know the history of the time. There is valuable information about California and the Wild West which helps understand the modern culture of our great Western state

Crack in the Edge of the World

by Simon Winchester

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