Books to Get You Thinking

April 15th 2012 marked the centennial anniversary of the Titanic shipwreck - one of the greatest disasters in maritime history. RMS Titanic, England’s biggest luxury cruise liner of its time, set sail on its maiden voyage from Southampton on April 12th 1912 with 2200 people on board heading out to New York. An architectural and technological marvel, the Titanic was furnished with lavish opulence and many of its passengers belonged to the rich and famous. On a clear starry night of April 14th tragedy struck when the Titanic collided into a giant iceberg about 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland.  Within two and a half  hours the ship sank, plunging into the icy cold waters of the North Atlantic, carrying with it  more than 1500 people. The few, who were rescued, lived to tell the story of those terrifying last hours on board the ship.  Despite the passage of time, the fascination with the beautiful ship and its catastrophic end lives on… perhaps it stems from the realization that though mankind’s creativity and imagination has led to giant strides in science, invention and technology, there are times when we are powerless when confronted with the insurmountable forces of Nature. The Mercer County Library presents our readers with a rich collection of books about the Titanic that have been published over time, each unique in its content and perspective, viewing the great oceanic tragedy from many different lenses.

A Night To Remember by Walter Lord
First published in 1955, the book is a classic that was penned by the American writer, Walter Lord recounting in startling detail, the fifth and final night of the Titanic’s maiden voyage to New York. Piecing together meticulously in-depth interviews with the few hundred survivors of the wreck, the author gives a spell binding account of one of the world’s greatest deep sea catastrophes. Through talking with survivors, Ford has been able to capture some “rare glimpses of shipboard life that have an almost haunting quality”. The book carries readers back a hundred years to the passenger list of Titanic’s maiden voyage, the stories behind many of the names on the list, and the poignant vignettes of terror, courage, and heroism that remain etched within the tragedy of the Titanic.

Voyagers of the Titanic : Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds they Came From  by Richard Davenport Hines
Biographer and historian, Richard Davenport Hines’s newly published book  provides  a  fresh, new perspective on the Titanic  by skillfully interweaving his narrative of the tragic night of the shipwreck and the days that followed  with fascinating information about the people whose lives became intertwined with the Titanic: the owners, designers and builders; and the sailors, officers and crew on board the ship that fateful night. Separate chapters focus on the rich and the famous First Class passengers; and the many faces that crowded the second and Third class decks of the majestic Titanic. The author not only provides a riveting account of the fall of the mighty Titanic, but by recounting the personal stories of many of the people related to the Titanic, also opens a window into the social and economic fabric of English society in the early 1900s.

Titanic: First Accounts edited by Tim Maultin
Just in time for the centennial is a book that contains firsthand accounts of the sinking of the Titanic. Tim Maltin who has twenty five years of experience researching the shipwreck, writes a gripping introduction and does a superb job of piecing together the stories and information from numerous sources  into a cohesive  book. Recorded evidence of eyewitnesses who survived the disaster found through letters and interviews given to newspapers, as well as the testimonies given at the extensive public enquiries on the disaster have all been used extensively by the author in this well crafted narrative. Among the passengers of the ship who miraculously survived, and whose extraordinary stories are interwoven throughout the book were thirty four year old Cambridge scholar, Lawrence Beesley, Margaret Brown, a sophisticated, well educated women’s rights activist and author, and Colonel Archibald Gracie, author and military historian of the 1900s.

Titanic: One Newspaper, Seven Days, and the Truth that Shocked the World by Stephen Hines
The world reeled with horror and disbelief as news of the tragedy of the Titanic started trickling in the morning of April 15th 2012. Conflicting reports and accounts made it difficult to comprehend what had actually happened. The London Daily Telegraph, the largest circulating newspapers of its time was given the formidable task of covering and reporting the tragic unfolding drama over the high seas of the North Atlantic with little or no access to either reliable news or survivors.  Providing readers with a page out of history, the author Stephen Hines arranges about 200 articles that appeared in the newspaper in the seven days following the disaster. For the sake of greater clarity, the author includes extensive notes with the newspaper excerpts. The book lets readers witness in real time, the pain and the pathos of a tragic loss that occurred one hundred years ago.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

The Band that Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic by Steve Turner
The author, a journalist and poet with a deep interest in music examines the story of the Titanic from a fresh, new perspective. The focus is on the eight musicians who stood fast behind their instruments and continued playing in the face of certain death, undeterred by the chaos as passengers were placed in lifeboats and lowered into the surrounding waters. Their music provided solace and calm in what was certainly a time of deep despair and anguish, and the fading notes from the hymn, Nearer My God to Thee echoed over the still waters as the ship slowly sank to the bottom of the ocean floor.  Steve Turner presents an engaging portrait of each of these heroic eight musicians through extensive research using documents, letters, anecdotes and photographs from historical archives and from existing relatives. The vintage photographs bring readers closer to the tragedy and the heroism that surrounds the legend of the Titanic.
                                                                                                                                                                                   -Nita Mathur


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