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A journey around the United States in search of the truth about the threat of earthquakes leads to spine-tingling discoveries, unnerving experts, and ultimately the kind of preparations that will actually help guide us through disasters. It's a road trip full of surprises.

Earthquakes. You need to worry about them only if you're in San Francisco, right? Wrong. We have been making enormous changes to subterranean America, and Mother Earth, as always, has been making some of her own....

The consequences for our real estate, our civil engineering, and our communities will be huge because they will include earthquakes most of us do not expect and cannot imagine - at least not without listening to Quakeland. Kathryn Miles descends into mines in the Northwest, dissects Mississippi levee engineering studies, uncovers the horrific risks of an earthquake in the Northeast, and interviews the seismologists, structual engineers, and emergency managers around the country who are addressing this ground-shaking threat.

As Miles relates, the era of human-induced earthquakes began in 1962 in Colorado after millions of gallons of chemical-weapon waste was pumped underground in the Rockies. More than 1500 quakes over the following seven years resulted. The Department of Energy plans to dump spent nuclear rods in the same way. Evidence of fracking's seismological impact continues to mount....

Humans as well as fault lines built our "quakeland".

What will happen when Memphis, home of FedEx's 1.5-million-packages-a-day hub, goes offline as a result of an earthquake along the unstable Reelfoot Fault? FEMA has estimated that a modest 7.0 magnitude quake (20 of these happen per year around the world) along the Wasatch Fault under Salt Lake City would put a $33 billion dent in our economy. When the Fukushima reactor melted down, tens of thousands were displaced. If New York's Indian Point nuclear power plant blows, 10 million people will be displaced. How would that evacuation even begin?

Kathryn Miles' tour of our land is as fascinating and frightening as it is irresistibly compelling.

©2017 Kathryn Miles (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“[Miles] peppers her book with quick bits of information about scientists and the work they do in eservice of understanding our planet and its earthquakes.... Her book becomes, in part, a love letter to the tedium and wizardry that is scientific discovery.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“That fear you feel? It's intended...(Quakeland) seeks to rattle us free of the ignorance, uncertainty and short memory that have paralyzed plans for prevention and survival.” (Time Magazine)

"Engrossing, timely, thoroughly researched... Smart, compelling, and fearless in its embrace of science, Quakeland is full of fascinating people imparting big truths. We ignore their knowledge at our peril.” (Booklist)

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Mad Hen
  • Mad Hen
  • 29-08-17

Yawn Fest

What disappointed you about Quakeland?

Lots of hype for very little substance

Would you ever listen to anything by Kathryn Miles again?

Probably not.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Bernadette Dunne?

She was fine

Any additional comments?

Felt like I was sitting in 8th grade, watching a film about earthquakes - the kind of film the teacher puts on when he/she has better things to do and needs to keep the class occupied for an hour or so. No "earth shattering" information here, just a rehash of old facts.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Nephtie F
  • 03-12-18


I was surprised to learn how many rich countries, that have big technology and money, are also unprepared for natural disaster like earthquakes, or they are not well equipped to satisfy the need of the victims. I use to think poor countries are more vulnerable because of lack of resources to survive, but it’s more about...

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  • Timothy
  • 31-10-17

Fascinating information, monotone voice

I did not know much about earthquakes before listening to this book, so I found the new information very interesting. The readers voice and inflection, however, do not make this a necessarily easy listen. There is little to no variation in inflection or speed. I wasn't expecting a dramatic reading, but her cadence of speaking lulled me at times so that I had to rewind and listen again.

The information in the book is compelling, especially since I live in a region that she covers as being earthquake prone. Yet, this book was not alarmist. On the contrary, most of it just brought to my attention what to actually expect in an earthquake and how I can actually prepare for one.

Overall, I would recommend this book. If you are particular with how one reads, though, I recommend you pass up this form of the book.

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  • R. S. Evans
  • 11-10-17

Not enough info about what to do Post-Quake

Buildings have toppled and burning. No Electricity. No phone. Roads are impassable. Professional emergency responders are overwhelmed. You're outside barefoot in your pajamas and afraid to go back in you house. What do you do? What do you do?