A Book To Remember
April 10, 2012 8:34 AM   Subscribe

So if you were going to read one book on the Titanic, which one would it be?

With the anniversary coming up I'm curious to know some more about the Titanic, so which would be the best book to read? I've already got a basic familiarity with the story so I'm looking for something in depth (ie I've watched Titanic, the Cameron movie, and I saw A Night To Remember years ago, I've probably seen a couple of documentaries over the years and I'm watching (well the first episode so far) the Titanic television drama series that is currently on ITV) A bit of googling suggests A Night To Remember is the classic book, but it was written a while ago and I was wondering if anything better had been written since. Prefer non-fiction and reasonably easy to obtain in the UK.
posted by fearfulsymmetry to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Martin Jarvis is reading selections from A Night To Remember on Radio 4 extra, or via the iplayer site. So you can get a taste of that for free.
posted by zadcat at 8:52 AM on April 10, 2012

for starters
posted by zadcat at 8:52 AM on April 10, 2012

to make it up to you, this book has the highest number of citations on Google Scholar pertaining to RMS Titanic
posted by cmchap at 8:55 AM on April 10, 2012

A Night to Remember is the canonical accounting of disaster, but it was written about thirty years before the discovery of the wreck so some of its assertions have been debunked. On the other hand, Walter Lord interviewed as many of the living survivors as he could locate and the book benefits from the primacy of the sources.

The Ken Marschall / Don Lynch Book, Titanic: An Illustrated History, is a great read with a more contemporary perspective. The authors live and breathe Titanic, and it shows. Cameron used it extensively to prepare for his movie and shots from the movie are recognizably based on Marschall's paintings.

Unsinkable is basically a rewrite of ANTR (and has taken some flack for it) with minor updates.

Stay away from Pellegrino.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:22 AM on April 10, 2012

Richard Davenport-Hines's Titanic Lives: Migrants and Millionaires, Conmen and Crew has just been published to mark the centenary, and has been very highly praised.
posted by verstegan at 9:25 AM on April 10, 2012

For a different take, I highly recommend the novel Every Man for Himself.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:39 AM on April 10, 2012

How to Get Off a Sinking Ship and Survive in the North Atlantic by ... oh, that's not what you meant.

I'd like to read Titanic: The Ship That Never Sank?, but I'm a sucker for a good conspiracy theory.
posted by iotic at 9:43 AM on April 10, 2012

I loved ANTR. I should reread it this week. I was afraid it would be grim and depressing, but it was not. Very sad and poignant, certainly, in many parts, but also heartwarming in many parts.
posted by jgirl at 9:45 AM on April 10, 2012

I would read Down with the old Canoe, which is not a history of the disaster, but a history of what people have thought of the disaster and how the understanding and interpretation of the disaster has changed over time. I read this book 13 years ago for one of my first university history courses, and I still think of it (and how fascinating it was) every time people talk about the Titanic.
posted by jb at 9:50 AM on April 10, 2012

The two things I remember most from Biel's Down with the old Canoe: class was not the most important division either for survival or the depiction of the disaster - gender was more important. And also that that there were a whole series of African-American folk songs about a black member of the crew of the Titanic (and how awesome he was), even though there were no black crew members. People just wrote one in for the story.
posted by jb at 9:54 AM on April 10, 2012

Ha, I took the question as a last literary meal kind of thing. Then I was equally split between Ansel Adams' autobiography and The Alchemist.
posted by nickrussell at 9:54 AM on April 10, 2012

jb, there was a black passenger on the Titanic – Joseph Laroche, a man from Haiti travelling with his family back from France to Haiti. He did not survive.
posted by zadcat at 10:02 AM on April 10, 2012

Oh sorry – crew member. You are right.
posted by zadcat at 10:03 AM on April 10, 2012

The Titanic: End of a Dream by Wyn Craig Wade was published 20 years ago, but I still vividly remember reading it and being amazed by it.
posted by BrianJ at 11:06 AM on April 10, 2012

I loved Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge - it picked up a number of awards and was nominated for the Booker Prize so I'm not the only one. Its fairly shot and even though I read it a couple of years ago, I remember having to rest my head on the table and breath deeply after finishing the last page - it's unexpectedly powerful & moving.
posted by Wantok at 4:35 PM on April 10, 2012

Lord is a good read, due to his pacing, story-telling ability, and the dramatic nature of the first-hand accounts he based his book on. Lord's Titanic archives are at the National Maritime Museum now: if you're planning a trip to London any time before September, there's currently an exhibition on showcasing the collection.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:15 AM on April 11, 2012

I like "Unsinkable" by Daniel Allen Butler. It gave a lot of information that I didn't know and I'm a bit of a Titanic buff. It also goes in depth why the Californian didn't help.

posted by sybarite09 at 5:36 AM on April 11, 2012

Although from 1992, out of the many Titanic books I own I consider that one by Lynch and Marschall to be the one Titanic book any fan should own, if they only get one book about the ship.

A more recent Titanic book I really enjoyed, though, is 101 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic... But Didn't! by Tim Maltin. He sheds some light over and debunks a lot of the fascinating myths behind the sinking.
posted by Ryogen at 8:29 PM on April 14, 2012

I liked The RMS Titanic Miscellany by John White.
posted by girlmightlive at 2:31 PM on April 15, 2012

Thanks for all these... I won't do faves because it would be a bit unfair
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:01 AM on April 16, 2012

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