The Titanic centennial

It will soon be a hundred years ago, on April 15, 1912, that the largest and most luxurious steamship of its time, the HMS Titanic, collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank with the loss of over 1500 passengers. Due to the approaching anniversary, a slew of recently published nonfiction titles have made their way onto our library shelves which are worth a look if you want to learn more about the event.

The library has dozens of nonfiction titles about the Titanic covering themes like the story of its construction, its doomed maiden voyage, the investigation into the disaster, its famous and not-so-famous passengers, and also how the disaster impacted popular culture and society in general.

One “oldie-but-goodie” suggestion for those who want a visual work about the ship is Robert Ballard’s The Discovery of the Titanic, a gorgeous book that contain photographs from the original expedition that discovered the wreck in 1985. Mr. Ballard has written several subsequent books on the subject but this one is the best if you want to see the ship in its prime since time has taken its toll on the Titanic’s remains.

If you’re more interested in the personal histories of the people who lived through  the event, Lost Voices from the Titanic by Nick Barratt is a good starting point. It provides testimonies not only from the passengers and crew members, but also from those who had to testify in the subsequent inquiries, notably the ship’s creators.

A surprising number of novels, especially those for young adults, have been inspired by James Cameron’s epic blockbuster romance  to use the ship and its doomed first sailing as a setting for their plots, usually featuring young lovers as a central component.


A recent arrival in this sub-genre of historical fiction is The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott, which deals with a young and ambitious seamstress named Tess (stop me if this sounds familiar) who encounters two potential romantic interests, a roguish sailor and a millionaire. Tess manages to survive, but the novel deals more extensively with the aftermath and controversies that surrounded the tragedy (notably the empty lifeboats), and how the survivors carried on with their lives. It is interesting to note that Tess’s mentor in the story, Lucile Duff Gordon, was a real-life fashion giant at the time, who also attracted attention due to the events surrounded by the Titanic’s sinking.

If, on the other hand, you prefer novels with a little more action, you might be delighted to know that Clive Cussler has tried his hand in the genre. Given his obvious love of ships, trains, and airplanes, it’s not so surprising. Raise the Titanic!, as the title implies, is a Cold War spy/adventure novel in which agent Dirk Pitt sets about outracing the Soviets and raising the venerable wreck of the ship to recover a mysterious element key to U.S. global defense. Hey, it’s not THAT much more implausible than the DiCaprio movie!

If you have suggestions for fans of this topic, please let us know.


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