The Longest Minute

The Longest Minute by Matthew Davenport

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Longest Minute:

Real estate prices aren’t the only reason not to move to San Fran.

Quick synopsis:

The story of the earthquake and fire which destroyed San Francisco in 1906.

Fact for Non-History People:

When it was all said and done, the earthquake and fire destroyed nearly 5 square miles.

Fact for History Nerds:

In 1906, one sixth of the city was built on “fill land” which was nowhere near as stable as the rest of the city.

My Take on The Longest Minute:

San Francisco is synonymous with liberal politics, high real estate prices, and, of course, earthquakes. While many will still talk about the inevitable “Big One” in the future, many know very little about the one which already happened in 1906. Matthew Davenport’s, “The Longest Minute,” seeks to remedy that while fixing some misconceptions along the way. He is successful on all counts. The old adage, “it’s not the fall but the sudden stop that gets you,” can be repurposed for the earthquake of 1906. It would sound something like, “it wasn’t so much the earthquake, but the citywide fire which really messed up San Fran.”

Davenport’s own book follows this narrative as the earthquake itself takes up only a couple early chapters and the majority of the book follows the fire which went everywhere. Davenport adeptly covers massive ground both literally and figuratively as he jumps around the city showing the devastation and loss. Most importantly, he highlights the heroism on display from all walks of life as San Franciscans battle to save their city. Oh, and graft. There was lots of graft.

This is a great disaster book which deftly handles all the elements which make a great story of survival. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a full accounting of the 1906 quake.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press.)


A great disaster book. Read it! Buy it here!

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