Saturday, March 15, 2014


Last week the National Book Critics Circle prizes were announced and the winner for non-fiction was Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. The author, a doctor, journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, interviewed more than 500 people to write this intense story of a New Orleans hospital during hurricane Katrina. Surrounded by flood waters, without electricity and its sick and elderly patrons tended by a few staff members, this is a tragedy about lack of planning before the disaster struck and bad decisions made by those in charge. A cautionary tale about what not to do in an emergency, the book encourages readers to put themselves in the situation and think about how they would handle it. 

 Five Days at Memorial is on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library, along with other thought-provoking non-fiction works about Katrina. 

One of the most intriguing is Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Abdulrahman Zeitoun is a house painter in New Orleans. A Syrian immigrant, he is living the American dream with a wife, family and good business. Before Katrina comes he sends his family to safety, but stays in the ravaged city. Paddling his canoe down the flooded streets, he tries to rescue and help people. One day he is stopped by the police and jailed because they suspect him of being a terrorist. What follows is a nightmare of a true story.

Historian Douglas Brinkley begins The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by highlighting a local animal shelter that is evacuating its dogs and cats before Katrina hits. It turns out that the animals are in better shape than the local population and the land itself, which endure a one, two, three punch of a hurricane, a storm surge with floods and the lack of foresight and will of those in charge to address the many issues.

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