David McCullough is one of our best modern "popular" history writers. One of McCullough's first books is The Johnstown Flood (1968). This short (for McCullough) history of 286 pages tells how, during terrific storms, an earthen dam above Johnstown, Pennsylvania burst, causing the death of more than 2,000. McCullough is superb both at analyzing why the dam collapse was preventable and in describing the course of the flood itself, including its wake of tragic deaths and amazing stories. This is not a happy read, because the tragedy was both so huge and so preventable (A sorry epilogue of the flood is that none of the several lawsuits was successful). It is, however, so spellbinding and well-told that it begs to be read in one sitting.
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