The Longest Minute by Matthew J. Davenport

The Longest Minute: The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906The Longest Minute: The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906 by Matthew J. Davenport
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This thorough history of the famous quake and fire and the immediate aftermath is well-researched and mostly fascinating reading. The chapters are well-organized, each focused on an unique aspect, sometimes a stretch of time, sometimes on geography (e.g. the waterfront), or the efforts to organize and create viable lines of authority, but they generally flow in chronological order. It was nostalgic reading for me since I grew up in the Bay Area, although I only visited San Francisco a few times as a child. I worked in the city for years as an adult and the similarities and differences, both topological and political, between then and now are striking. I can recommend the book with a warning. It can get repetitive. There are only so many times a story of chimney bricks crashing through the roof or someone watching his business burn down retain interest. It is also dispiriting to read of all the suffering and the racism and corruption of the city leaders, but that’s part of history.

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