“The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – And Why” by Amanda Ripley is a fascinating look at the human response to disasters. This excellent book not only describes some of what happened, but look closely at the “why” people respond the way they do in such situations. As Gavin De Becker, author of “The Gift of Fear” states on the front cover, “‘The Unthinkable’ isn’t merely a book about disaster; it’s a book about survival – maybe yours.”
The book consists of an introduction titled “Life Becomes Like Molten Metal” and then eight chapters divided into three parts.
Part one, Denial, includes the chapters Delay: Procrastinating in Tower 1 and Risk: Gambling in New Orleans. Part two, Deliberation, contains three chapters: Fear: The Body and Mind of a Hostage, Resilience: Staying Cool in Jerusalem, and Groupthink: Role Playing at the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire. Part three, The Decisive Moment, has the final three chapters: Panic: A Stampede on Holy Ground, Paralysis: Playing Dead in French Class, and Heroism: A Suicide Attempt on the Potomac River.
The book concludes with a conclusion titled “Making New Instincts.” Each section of the book consists of not only information on the human condition being addressed, but stories of actual people and what transpired during different disasters. Some of the stories of the heroics displayed during these times are quite moving.
I really enjoyed this book, and appreciate the time and reporting Amanda Ripley put into it. The stories keep your attention and the lessons you can learn from this book just may save your life if you are ever unfortunate enough to be caught in a disaster. The book reinforced some of my habits such as always reading the safety instruction card when I board an airplane, along with looking around and noting the exits, as well as made me think of other habits I can develop to better prepare myself for the worst.
For a fascinating look at disasters and how they effect people, combined with some lessons that may help you if you ever face one, I recommend you read “The Unthinkable” by Amanda Ripley.