Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Titanic craze

When books and magazine articles about the Titanic started showing up a couple of months ago in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the sinking (which was April 15th, if you didn't already know), I have to admit, I got sucked under.  I've been intrigued by the Titanic most of my life, and was only more so after I saw the movie in the theaters in 1997.

So far this spring, I've gotten two magazines on my Nook for the magazine articles, have read the National Geographic "short" in-store on the Nook, and have bought or downloaded quite a few ebooks on the subject, including re-releases of survivor memoirs and period books, short ebooks released especially for the anniversary, and full-length nonfiction books.  (We also saw the movie in 3D in the theaters -- the first time we've seen a 3D movie, and I have to say, it was pretty breathtaking to see the footage of the wreck in 3D!)

Rather than doing separate reviews on everything, since I have a lot of reviews to catch up on as it is, I figured I would do one long post with short blurbs on everything I've read so far.

A Night to Remember, written by Walter Lord in the 1950s, is the classic book on the sinking of the Titanic.  It was, to my understanding, the first compilation of survivors' stories, and the most accurate account of its time (and still is quite accurate, in many cases).  The author interviewed survivors and their relatives, read their accounts, and put everything together into a chronological account.  The only glaring error that I saw was the fact that Lord's account doesn't have the Titanic breaking in half as it sank, but I believe that's a fact that did not come to light until more recently.

Reading Lord's account of the Titanic's sinking is especially interesting if you know the 1997 movie well.  Many of the events during the sinking as it's depicted in the movie come straight out of Lord's book -- although poetic license is sometimes taken to incorporate the characters of Rose and Jack into what actually happened.  (For instance, when they encounter Thomas Andrews the final time, and Rose asks him, "Won't you at least make a try for it?" -- that was actually asked of him by a crew member the last time he was ever seen.)

Lifeboat No. 8 is a short ebook -- only about 70 pages on the Nook -- that focuses on just those passengers who ended up in lifeboat no. 8 that night.  It traces them from their backgrounds, to how they ended up in that boat, to what happened to them once they were in the boat.  The ebook is also billed as being about the love story that was the basis for the movie Titanic -- the real Jack and Rose were Jack, a wireless operator, and Roberta, a maid in first class.  Roberta survives, but runs back for a picture of Jack before making it into a lifeboat.  Jack keeps sending messages for help on the wireless until the last possible moment, and although the other wireless operator survives, he does not.

The ebook also describes what happens in the lifeboat after the ship sinks, how some want to go back for survivors and the rest overrule them.  Although this little book focuses on the one boat, instead of the stories of the entire ship as Walter Lord's book does, it's still well researched and well written.

This is only 40 pages -- notice that it is called "National Geographic Shorts" -- but there are some great pictures and details packed into those 40 pages.  I read it via the read in-store feature on my Nook Tablet during a few separate visits to Barnes & Noble, and although I don't think I would have paid $3.99 for it, it was a nice little ebook on the subject.

I also read the April issue of National Geographic, which had a couple of articles on the Titanic.  It had some fantastic pictures, plus some really good (and new!) information about the crash site and how the ship sank.  I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy if you are interested in the subject.

Finally, the one that started the rebirth of my Titanic craze this spring was the March issue of the Smithsonian, which had a couple of articles on the Titanic as well.  One was based on a new book by Tim Maltin, on how mirages may have contributed to both the collision with the iceberg, and the failure of the Californian (which was only 10 miles away, within sight of the sinking ship) to come to the Titanic's aid.

That brings us up-to-date on my current reading about the Titanic, though I do have several other books on my reading list that hopefully I will get to soon!

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