A Crack In The Edge Of The World by Simon Winchester tells the story of the great 1906 earthquake that devastated the city of San Francisco. Seismology and geology are not really areas that I have looked into at all, and they would hardly rank neat the top of my interests, but, as with his earlier book Krakatoa, Winchester's account makes compelling reading.
The reader is taken on a fascinating journey looking at various different aspects of the 1906 event. Plate tectonics, the geological make-up of the North American continent, the settlement and development of the US west coast, and, in particular the village of Yerba Buena that would become San Francisco are all covered. Winchester also gives an outline of the San Francisco of the turn of the twentieth century and the kind of people living there, as well as providing us with references to numerous accounts of the events of April 18th.
The prose is both witty and informative, peppered with interesting trivia and wonderful language ~ how often do you come across delightful words such as 'gallimaufry' and 'bloviate'? A great study in geology and social history, I strongly recommend this book.