Written By: Simon Winchester

Narrated By: Simon Winchester

Date: January 2004

Duration: 12 hours 2 minutes


The bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman and The Map That Changed the World examines the enduring and world-changing effects of the catastrophic eruption off the coast of Java of the earth's most dangerous volcano -- Krakatoa.

The legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa -- the name has since become a byword for a cataclysmic disaster -- was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly forty thousand people. Beyond the purely physical horrors of an event that has only very recently been properly understood, the eruption changed the world in more ways than could possibly be imagined. Dust swirled round die planet for years, causing temperatures to plummet and sunsets to turn vivid with lurid and unsettling displays of light. The effects of the immense waves were felt as far away as France. Barometers in Bogotá and Washington, D.C., went haywire. Bodies were washed up in Zanzibar. The sound of the island's destruction was heard in Australia and India and on islands thousands of miles away. Most significant of all -- in view of today's new political climate -- the eruption helped to trigger in Java a wave of murderous anti-Western militancy among fundamentalist Muslims: one of the first outbreaks of Islamic-inspired killings anywhere.

Simon Winchester's long experience in the world wandering as well as his knowledge of history and geology give us an entirely new perspective on this fascinating and iconic event as he brings it telling back to life.


  • Anonymous

    Plot: one volcano's eruption. Book: 400 plus pages. This could be so boring, but it was anything but. History, geology, and biology courses all rolled into one great read.

  • Albert

    This is easily one of the best recorded books we have enjoyed. The prose is excellent and interesting. It is very well narrated. The author is a master story-teller.

  • jean

    This is an absolutely fascinating book. It covers biology, geology, volcanology, geography etc. It covers the history of the Indonesian area along with the history of science in the area. I found the story of the Wallace line interesting. The book also covers the effect of the explosion on European and American art to the discovery of the jet stream to plate tectonics, to how the area became Muslim. One of the best books I have read in a while.

  • Anonymous

    It takes a while to actually get to the eruption. But it is an excellant history of the area. By the time you get to the eruption, it is more of a side note.

  • Jonathan Jones

    not a good book to listen to in the car. it takes the author forever to get to the story at hand. too much history which has nothing to do with the eruption of krakatoa.

  • Anonymous

    Always a pleasure to read/listen to Simon Winchester. Great detail and obvious love of geology adds to a great story.

  • Tim Aho

    This book is packed with info. I found myself doing a lot of rewinding to try to begin to absurb it all. So, if your looking for easy listening then this may not be for you. However, there were several times within the book I found myself transported back to that very scary time. If you like science, history, and trivia this is a must. Great work Mr Winchester

  • Kathy Linn

    This is one of those books best enjoyed in small doses, so plan it for commuting rather than a long trip. Doing it this way I really enjoyed going down all the side roads the author takes and learned a lot about the history of Indonesia, the behavior of volcanoes, and a lot of other subjects...it's a fascinating story, too, in its own right.

  • KD

    I'm a big fan of Simon Winchester's books, and I am fascinated by major events like earthquakes and vocanic eruptions and the like, so you'd think I'd love love love this book. But I don't. I just like it. It's longer than it needs to be. Sometimes it seems like he repeats himself. And even though I do love detail, there is almost too much detail. Plus, and probably most frustrating for me, it seemed like the story wandered....he talked about Krakatoa, then something else, then Krakatoa, then something else, then an earlier event with Krakatoa...I found it distracting. That said, it is a very rich, detailed, and illuminating book about a well-known yet little-known event. The book does a wonderful job of telling you everything about an event you only think you know about.

  • Dalida Jongsma

    I really enjoyed listening to this book, it was well narrated and informative.

  • Anonymous

    I was hoping for a book similar to The Perfect Storm, history with a storyline. However, this book is a meandering collection of interesting facts and tangential trivia. Reading it is like sitting in your Great Uncle's den and listening to him talk on and on about almost anything except the story he said he'd tell you. I was disappointed.

  • DJG

    This great book was loaded with a tremendous amount of detail that I found fascinating and for me also revealed the cause of current events, though I do not think is was the author’s intention. The details leading up to the final explosion were quite exciting and as we look back on the event, we can see how we might have done things differently had we been there. After listening to the book I researched Krakatoa and find that the baby is still growing. Watch for the next boom!

  • Anonymous

    How much can you really write about a volcano? I mean, "It was there; It blew up. The end." This book is mainly a history of the region and the science of volcanology- starting from the exploration and trading in the 16th century (I may have my dates incorrect), natural philosophy, geology/geophysics... Even though the book wasn't exactly ALL ABOUT KRAKATOA, it was well written and interesting enough. It did start to sort of repeat itself and drone on, but it was well read, and I can see that some may find it interesting.

  • Mitch Goodrich

    A real pleasure. In explaining the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, Winchester ranges far and wide to present a holistic view, not only of the physical event itself, but the history of the region and the aftermath. He delves into geography, biology, volcanology, politics, history, economics, and other subjects too numerous to catalogue. The only fault I find is one he shares with many writers of scientific subjects, and that is his tacit assumption that the current state of scientific knowledge is somehow the last word. He uncritically accepts current dogma and fails to consider competing scientific theories. Overall, however, I was very impressed with this book. Although it is ten discs long, he kept my mind engaged. A great book for anyone with wide-ranging interests who likes to see how seemingly unrelated things fit together.

  • Anonymous

    I have only made it through 5 of the 10 discs and I skipped a good portion of at least 2 of them. This book, read by the author, covers the history of everything related to geology, cartography, communications and it seems... the world. I swear that the word Krakatoa wasn't even mentioned on discs 2 and 3 - by that time I was begging to hear anything about a volcano - any volcano.... Simon Winchester seems to enjoy reading his work - almost too much and it can be a very tedious listen especially on long drives. I would not recommend this listen unless it was to someone who truly enjoys dry non-fiction.

  • Peter Andresen

    This is a stunning review of the causes and effects of the eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in what is now Indonesia. I'm interested in the details, which is a good thing because this encyclopedic work is crammed with fascinating information and trivia. If you believe that the world is a global entity, this fascinating document will confirm your beliefs. I would not hesitate to recommend this CD to anyone with a passing interest in science.

  • Anonymous

    Very informative....too informative, in fact. This is the definition of UNabridged. Quite a bit of superfluous information in my opinion. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone looking to be informed in a timely fashion.

  • John Lawrence

    Simon Winchester displays his abilities as a historian in this work. by presenting history as cause and effect, he keeps the reader's interest. i would listen to this again.

  • Don

    Krakatoawas a terrific study of an awesome disaster presented in human and understandable terms. This event was the unstoppable, incomprehensible natural atomic bomb of its day and the obvious comparisons to the horrible December 2004 Asian Tsunami are eerie. It is unfortunate to see just how unprepared that area was and is for something which modern science can now, if properly used, save thousands of lives. The narrator is paricularly dramatic and listenable, a vital factor in making any audiobook a winner.

  • Mary McGuire

    What a treat! This is not a simplistic disaster story about a volcano eruption. Not with Simon Winchester's erudite, stiff upper lip English, God save the Queen, it's only a flesh wound, manner in both the written and the spoken word. We play with geology and evolution before they were declared sciences, we poke our noses in the politics of Dutch colonialism, sail with world traders, swim along with the novel undersea telegraph wires and join a good number of people in their living rooms on the day of the eruption. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to know everything about something.

  • Anonymous

    It was super informative. I'm feeling a little Cliff Claven-ish after so much useless knowledge. If you like science and history this one is for you.

  • Brad Grissom

    Don't get me wrong, I love science and history but this book is just dying to be abridged. Certain parts are interesting but other parts bore you to tears.

  • Karen V

    It's hard to believe that someone who writes as well as Simon Winchester could possibly have such a beautiful reading voice. He does- and this superbly researched, fascinating book is read in an energetic, droll way that makes what could have been an academic work absolutely riveting. Krakatoa's impact on the world is interwoven with the geology of the earth, the history of the Dutch in Indonesia and other things that I didn't think I was interested in until I heard them described. Anyone who enjoyed Winchester's The Professor and the Madman {not yet available here} will love this.


by Simon Winchester

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Krakatoa, Simon Winchester
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