Have you ever seen a movie or read a book that made you think, “Why haven’t I heard of this before?” That’s how you’ll feel after reading Erik Larson. The journalist-turned-author has a knack for unearthing some of history’s most interesting stories, and he’s responsible for two of OverDrive’s top 10 circulating Adult Nonfiction titles. Don’t miss these captivating eBooks by Erik Larson:


In the Garden of Beasts” tells the story of U.S. Ambassador William Dodd during Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. Considered by most to be tragically unqualified for his position, Dodd moved his family to Berlin, where their experience quickly went from promising to terrifying. Americans were being attacked on the streets, and the Dodds became wary to even speak in their own home, as they feared their butler was a spy. Many of Dodd’s warnings and concerns were ignored, and although he was dubbed a failure at home, many Germans came to view him as a hero who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind in Nazi Germany.


The Ferris wheel and the little ditty that cartoon snake charmers play (you know: “There’s a place in France/ where the naked ladies dance…”) were both created for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, a make-or-break spectacle for America. After the success of the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, organizers of the Chicago event had a tough act to follow, and everything from the city’s poor foundation to its unpredictable weather seemed to ensure failure. Oh, and there was a serial killer taking advantage of the influx of people/victims. Larson follows all these storylines in “The Devil in the White City.”


Thunderstruck” is another example of how well Larson handles multiple plotlines. The book tracks the race to hone wireless communication alongside the tale of a couple on the run, wanted for murder. You don’t find out how the plotlines relate until the later chapters. This one may seem a bit more difficult to read than the others, but trust me: the end is worth it.


Larson’s research skills are on full display in “Isaac’s Storm,” which details the circumstances leading up to the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history. In 1900, Isaac Cline was the director of the weather station in Galveston, Texas, and, at the time, he was hailed as a brave man who helped save many lives during the storm. Larson takes a closer look and finds that Cline’s stubbornness may have actually contributed to the great loss of life. Also, during that time, the U.S. Weather Bureau was trying to establish credibility and refused to share information with Cuba or acknowledge Cuba’s meteorological findings. “Isaac’s Storm” explains the tragic consequences of this insular mindset.


Larson’s books would make for excellent works of fiction, but they’re all based on meticulous research, the result of hours spent poring over of documents, letters, and personal accounts of bygone events. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told friends and family about something I first learned in Larson’s books. Check out an eBook by Erik Larson from a library near you, and you could be sounding like a historical genius in time for the holiday parties!


Beau Livengood is a Training Associate at OverDrive.



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