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AMANDA RIPLEY is a senior writer for Time magazine.
Ripley, an award-winning writer on homeland security for Time, offers a compelling look at instinct and disaster response as she explores the psychology of fear and how it can save or destroy us. Surprisingly, she reports, mass panic is rare, and an understanding of the dynamics of crowds can help prevent a stampede, while a well-trained crew can get passengers quickly but calmly off a crashed plane. Using interviews with survivors of hotel fires, hostage situations, plane crashes and, 9/11, Ripley takes readers through the three stages of reaction to calamity: disbelief, deliberation and action. The average person slows down, spending valuable minutes to gather belongings and check in with others. The human tendency to stay in groups can make evacuation take much longer than experts estimate. Official policy based on inaccurate assumptions can also put people in danger; even after 9/11, Ripley says, the requirement for evacuation drills on office buildings is inadequate. Ripley's in-depth look at the psychology of disaster response, alongside survivors' accounts, makes for gripping reading, sure to raise debate as well as our awareness of a life-and-death issue. 8 pages of color photos. (June) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Ripley, a Time reporter who has covered Hurricane Katrina and other catastrophes and whose article "How To Get Out Alive" inspired this book, offers an elementary discussion of disaster and survival, drawing on both survivors' personal accounts and scientific studies that reveal how the human brain functions under duress. She shows how individuals and groups react when such disasters as shipwrecks, fires, terrorist attacks, and tsunamis occur, detailing the traits survivors demonstrate that help them respond effectively. Ripley identifies what she has found to be typical stages of emotional response that occur through the course of a disaster--including denial, delay, risk, fear, panic, paralysis, and heroism--and investigates their effects on individual responses to disaster. She also touches on why disaster, though it strikes developed and undeveloped nations alike, tends to have a higher death toll in underdeveloped nations. Offering tips on how we can boost our odds, her self-help approach to survival will attract readers. Recommended for public libraries.--Candice Kail, Carnegie-Mellon Univ., Pittsburgh Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
"A fascinating and useful new book." --The New York Times "The thinking person's manual for getting out alive." --NPR "Ripley is a voyeur on a mission...Her conviction: We'd all stand a better chance of surviving a disaster if we understood what happens to our little gray cells when things get ugly....Spiced with surprising factoids, this book might save your life one day." --Bloomberg News "The Unthinkable is part study of the science of reaction to extreme fear, part indictment of the US government's response to the terrorist threat, part call to arms....The end result is a fascinating book....Despite its title and its subject matter, The Unthinkable is an optimistic... --The Times of London "Engrossing and lucid...An absorbing study of the psychology and physiology of panic, heroism, and trauma...Facing the truth about the human capacity for risk and disaster turns out to be a lot less scary than staying in the dark." --O, The Oprah Magazine "This is a book with a purpose, meant to change things." --Rob Hardy, The Commercial Dispatch "Amanda Ripley takes us on a sometimes stunning, sometimes sobering journey through disaster, using great stories and respected science to show why some prevail and others do not. The Unthinkable isn't merely a book about disaster; it's a book about survival -- maybe yours." ----Gavin de Becker, author of the New York Times bestseller The Gift of Fear "With The Unthinkable, Amanda Ripley succeeds in two different ways. First, she covers, with great clarity and accuracy, the science of how the body and mind respond to crisis. In the process, she prescribes certain actions that will increase the chances of surviving a disaster. But it's the second aspect, the stories, that makes the book so compelling. These tales leave your viscera enflamed because they compel two questions: 'What would it feel like to go through that?' and 'Would I do the right thing and survive?' This is an irresistible book." --Robert M. Sapolsky, John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University "The Unthinkable is the most magnificent account of a survivor's mind that I have ever read. It has helped me know and accept some of my reactions during my 72 day ordeal in the Andes. I can now understand how fear motivated me, and how denial also played a part. This book will help those who've never faced disaster to understand their own behavior and be prepared should their luck run out one day." --Nando Parrado, New York Times bestselling author of Miracle in the Andes "The Unthinkable reveals why, under the same circumstances, some people caught up in a disaster survive and others do not. Why some are hopelessly immobilized by fear and crippled by panic, and others are filled with strength, endurance, reactions and the other intrinsic stuff of which Homeric heroes are made. How can we ensure which we will be? In her well-crafted prose, Amanda Ripley shows us all how to prepare to meet danger and increase our chances of surviving the unthinkable." --Bruce Henderson, New York Times bestselling author of Down to the Sea and True North "When a disaster occurs we invariably learn the "what" of the event -- how many died, how many survived. Amanda Ripley's riveting The Unthinkable provides genuine insight into the "why" behind the numbers. This remarkable book will not only change your life, it could very well save it." --Gregg Olsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Deep Dark: Disaster and Redemption in America's Richest Silver Mine "Ever fantasize about what you would do in a disaster? How would you survive? How would you behave? After interviewing survivors of the World Trade Center attack, Amanda Ripley sifted through amazing tales of survivors from other disasters and mined various sociological, psychological, and neurological studies. Her insights are absolutely fascinating, and they could come in handy one day." ----Walter Isaacson, author of the New York Times bestsellers Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: A Life, and Vice-Chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority "Rich in information about the subconscious ways we face danger. In the event that someday you face a sudden life or death situation, reading this book will increase the odds that the outcome will be life." ----David Ropeik, author of Risk!: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You "Reading The Unthinkable will be life-changing. We live in an age of anxiety that has too many of us rocked back on our heels. Once you've feasted on the rich insights and wisdom of this remarkable book, you'll be standing tall again. While our politicians and media have been keen to exploit and fan our worst fears, Amanda Ripley makes clear that individually and collectively we can meet head-on the hazards that periodically befall us. We need not be afraid!" ----Stephen Flynn, Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, and author of The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation "The Unthinkable is a fascinating, in-depth look at human behavior under extreme pressure. Its gut-wrenching stories span the full spectrum of action under duress, from panic to heroism. Not only is this book fast-paced and engrossing, it's illuminating." ----Michael Tougias, author of Fatal Forecast: An Icredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea "Amanda Ripley has written a smart, poignant account about the dramas of the existential moment in this new century. She is a provocative voice of a new generation of writers and thinkers whose grasp of daily events and global disaster is piquant, engrossing, and syncretic. Above all, she makes sense of life today in an entirely entertaining and accessible way-- all with a brimming dollop of optimism. If you ever wondered, 'What would I do if the unthinkable happened to me, ' you hold the answer in your hands." --Doug Stanton, author of the New York Times bestseller In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors "A must read. We need books like this to help us understand the world in which we live." --Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author The Black Swan and Fooled By Randomness From the Hardcover edition.