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Dead Wake - Erik Larson

Dead Wake

By Erik Larson

  • Release Date: 2015-03-10
  • Genre: History
Score: 4.5
From 1,502 Ratings


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania

“Both terrifying and enthralling.”—Entertainment Weekly
Thrilling, dramatic and powerful.—NPR
Thoroughly engrossing.—George R.R. Martin

On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. 

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. 

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.

Finalist for the Washington State Book Award • One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Miami Herald, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, LibraryReads, Indigo


  • Another great book by Erik Larson

    By Queueman
    I’ve read at least five books by Erik Larson. For the most part I have found them quite interesting. This is among his best.
  • Good history on Lusitana

    By nonicknameabailable
    Enjoyed the details.
  • A Real Page Turner

    By Paulippoi
    It’s as excellent as you’d expect a Larsen book to be.
  • Fascinating!

    By Red Five $.
    A Brilliantly written account of a History Making Event! Larson has a genuine talent for bringing History to Life!
  • Amazing

    By Myrna M Rogers
    I loved hearing the details of what was n the hearts and mind of the people in the story. I also loved hearing the outcome of some of the survivors and others after the war.
  • Much-Anticipated, but Disappointed

    By Sweenedog
    Bound up in personal details without much substantive geopolitical detail, other than some conspiracy theories, about the part the story played in America’s intervention in WW1. Proved to be a decent read until the end, when I realized that the last third of the book was dedicated to epilogue, appendices, and marketing material for Larson.
  • Long Winded

    By greenstart
    Basically I love historical books and delve into them with passion. I loved Devil in the White City, full of interesting details about a city I truly love. Dead Wake was so full of non essential people and their names, I could not keep track. So much minutiae that my brain glazed over. I was so ready to see the boat sink and put an end to the over winded dialogue. Sorry Erik, you are a great writer, but this book could have been at least a third shorter.
  • Spellbinding

    By uber must not need money
    This doesn’t read as some dusty essay. You can tell the author did exhaustive research and really brings the people to life retelling this tragedy. I read the entire book in 2 days and it was hard to put down
  • Dead Wake

    By JoeorCB
    Loved the book! Never wanted to put it down.
  • Well told and I learned a lot

    By Conlippert
    Great writing and although everyone knows the ending the book keeps your interest. Personal stories from the survivors and perpetrators included.